Steve Wildmann is president of Rental and Staging Network (RSN) and president and owner of Advanced Staging Productions in Pennsylvania. With more than 30 years of experience in the event technology business, he leads RSN, a top-tier network of audiovisual production companies throughout North America.
Why Event Planners Should Keep Their Freedom of Choice with AV
Audiovisual is a critical—albeit often overlooked—component of successful events. Depending on what the planner needs, an event’s AV may appear invisible or it can take the spotlight. Either way, every event needs some kind of AV.
AV providers come in as many shapes and sizes as there are kinds of events. There are large and small companies and in-house and independent providers. Event planners should evaluate these options as carefully as a venue and caterer.
Each event you hold should fit into your organization’s long-term strategy and mirror the brand’s image. A good AV company will take the next step and ensure your event will build your brand, achieve company leadership’s goals and align with audience expectations.
If you want your event’s AV done your way, you need to be proactive. Before you sign the venue contract, you need to maintain your freedom of choice between the in-house AV company and an independent provider.
Freedom of AV choice starts with the RFP and contract
Once you sign the venue contract, you’ve lost your negotiation power. At that point, you’re stuck with the in-house AV or a variety of additional fees if you opt to bring in your own AV partner.
Start off early with the RFP, which should include the freedom to bring in outside providers. Provide the venue with terms that maintain your freedom of choice with no additional fees. All fees are negotiable during the contract stage.
Sample language to protect your freedom of choice
Here is a sample clause you could use in the RFP:
Due to the unique nature of our meeting program format, [Your company] has a partnership with an AV provider that is familiar with our needs. We will plan to utilize their services for much of our audiovisual meeting requirements. They in-turn may rent equipment and/or labor from the in-house provider to augment their needs while on-site. When replying to this RFP, please address our requirement to exclude any fees or charges or requirements to [Your company] or our AV partner. It is incumbent upon the facility to remove clauses from any proposals prior to submission to [Your company]. [Your Company] expects the facility to openly bring up and address these items for a detailed discussion and acceptance prior to including any of them within our final agreement.
Here is sample language you can use in the contract during venue negotiations:
Audiovisual Services Provider
[Your company] reserves the option to use our own AV provider for all of our audiovisual needs with no additional charges, fees or penalty of any type to [Your company] or our AV partner. Examples of these include but are not limited to:
- Requirements for supervisory labor to move-in/ out of the facility
- Fees to prepare rooms for use
- Charges for podiums, basic power, staging, heating, air conditioning or lights within the meeting room
- Flat daily outside vendor fees
- Requirements to use floor or wall coverings when not practiced by the house AV company
- New labor/union contracts (if there were none at the submission of the proposal or when signing the contract)
- Wi-Fi rates that are higher than if you used the in-house AV company. Your choice of AV provider should not impact the cost of your Wi-Fi service.
Your independent AV partner can also assist with the contract language, provide sample terms and negotiating advice.
Independent AV is often a better value for your investment
If preserving your freedom of choice seems difficult and going with the in-house option looks more convenient, there’s a reason for that. It’s in the venue’s interest for you to use the in-house company.
In-house AV vendors pay venues commissions for “preferred vendor” status. Ultimately, you as the event planner pay these commissions as in-house vendors set prices to cover the costs. Outsourced AV partners don’t have the burden of paying the facility, so they have greater flexibility to provide solutions with the most impact.
Whether or not you use an independent AV company or go with the in-house provider, if you preserve your freedom in the contract stage, you have options later. At the very least, you can have a competitive bidding process, with bids from the in-house provider and an independent AV company to compare.