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Take a Swipe at Event-Tech Costs

As the cost of AV and event technologies continues to rise, planners need to get smarter about what the really need and how to get it at a fair price.

While audiovisual, production, and event technology have long been budgetary sore points, they’re even more expensive these days.

About 75 percent of respondents to a recent Meeting Professionals International survey said they were seeing increases in AV costs—and about 25 percent of them said the increases were more than 10 percent.

Here are 22 ideas to consider—some basic, some unconventional— that could bring down your event technology and production costs.

Creative AV/Event-Tech Cost Cuts
• “I have my [in-house] network engineer review my internet order. He’s able to save me thousands off my bill,” said one planner in response to a recent MeetingsNet survey on cost-saving ideas.

• Innovate with lighting instead of relying on elaborate stage sets to create the mood.

• Consider your needs before purchasing an event-management software platform. The major platforms offer everything from marketing and event apps to registration and attendee metrics. However, if all you need is a registration service, it may make sense to purchase it a la carte or work with a third party to do that for you.

• Talk it out with your AV vendor. A good partner might have some innovative ideas around equipment, right-sizing the crew, and scheduling that can save you money. Also, ask for different options at various price points. Creating your list of your “must haves” and “nice to haves” is a good place to start

• Question whether you really need to go hybrid. As in-person events come back, many planners are finding that the cost of streaming the sessions, much less planning a parallel digital program alongside the in-person meeting, can be prohibitive. Maggie Kearney, meeting & publications manager, International College of Surgeons–U.S. Section, said her leadership felt like a hybrid option was a must-have—and it probably was for the first post-Covid meeting. However, “over the two years of providing a streaming connection we have lost over $20,000, mostly due to costs related to equipment and provider expenses.” And then she learned that some hospital systems won’t let their staff attend a continuing medical education event in person if there is a virtual option.

“For our next annual meeting, we’re planning a fully live, in-person event,” she said. “Hopefully, this will draw more people back and make it easier to fulfill room blocks and F&B minimums. I personally think the atmosphere of our meeting will be improved. While ours is primarily a CME/business meeting, it has always had a strong sense of ‘family reunion’ to it. It’s pretty tough to serve that particular element remotely.”

Tried-and-True AV/Event-Tech Cost Cuts
• Don’t just send a list of equipment you think you’ll need based on what you used for a similar event. Tech changes quickly, and speakers may not need as much as you think. Ask all presenters to specify what they need, and why. Then ask your AV provider to figure out what’s truly needed.

• Make sure you understand the AV contract. Ask your provider to go through it line by line so you know exactly what you’re getting—and can avoid add-on charges for late additions.

Want more? Find cost savings tips for F&B, ground transportation, and venues, here.

• If you haven’t already, replacing your printed on-site guides and marketing campaigns with a digital alternative can save on printing, paper, and postage. It will also reduce your carbon footprint. “Going digital with print materials is a pretty painless expense to cut,” says Kearney.

• Balance whether the cost savings of having presenters bring their own laptops is greater than the cost of labor fees to switch systems.

• Skip the projection. Send the presentation slides to attendees before the meeting so they can read along without needing the speaker’s PowerPoint display, suggests Brian Cole, CEO of edgefactory, an event- production firm. Be prepared to have printouts on hand for those who somehow missed that the session would be BYOP (bring your own presentation).

• BYOP yourself—in this case meaning “bring your own projector” (and laptops, mics, flipcharts, markers, etc.) if the venue allows it, suggests Cole. It’s also a good idea to bring your own extension cords and surge protectors, which can be pricey to rent.

• Schedule sessions that use the same room sets in one room to avoid room-reset charges.

• Change the format of some sessions from lecture to small-group interactions. As one person noted on the MeetingsNet survey, “These types of sessions always receive positive marks. Much more participatory with all voices having the chance to be heard!” And from a cost perspective, these sessions can be done without an AV setup.

• If your meeting is AV-heavy, consider using a conference center, which typically include AV in the overall venue-rental price.

• Ask about the groups meeting in the venue before you. Could they leave equipment in place, allowing your event to save on set-up charges?

• Ask for reduced labor charges for tear-down. It generally takes less time and effort than set-up but is often priced the same.

• Use hand-held mics (or podium mics if you speaker doesn’t need to move around) rather than more expensive lavaliers.

• Get quotes from multiple AV vendors. Don’t just accept that you must use the in-house AV vendor; ask if the venue’s in-house vendor contract is on an exclusive or preferred basis. Hotels generally receive a commission from an in-house provider, so they often push groups to use that option. However, an outside vendor may be able to provide a better deal for the same level of service. “I’ve seen shows reduce their AV costs by $100,000 when the in-house provider learned there were outside providers bidding on the job,” says Cole.

• Labor is one of the biggest costs in AV/production, so anything you can do to reduce labor hours is useful, says Cole. While some shops are union, creating limitations on what you can do—even leaving the AV set up in the room overnight for the next day—can create significant savings.

• Can someone on staff run the PowerPoint rather than having to hire a graphics operator? “It’s cheaper, even with hotel and airfare, to fly in your own person than to hire an AV tech to sit in that ballroom 12 hours a day,” Cole says.

• Review how many power drops you really need. A lot of today’s tech is not as power-intensive as it used to be, so you might not need as much power as you may think. When it doubt, ask, Cole says.

• If available, use digital signage instead of printing signs. This saves on printing, production, and shipping, and also is friendlier for the environment.

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