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What You Need To Know Before Using In-House A/V
Shop around. You’re NOT required to use the in-house vendor and should always get an additional quote.
People all over the country go out of their way to shop at Costco and Aldi instead of going to Walmart, the one-stop shop down the street, because the quality is better and they get more for their money. So as an event planner why wouldn’t you do the same with your vendors?
A venue’s contract may persuade you to use the in-house services, but that doesn’t mean it is the most affordable or that you’re guaranteed quality service. Yes, it is convenient. They are onsite with extensive knowledge of the venue and the master venue bill may roll up into one. However, like Walmart, convenience usually comes at a price.
In-house vendors can be very limiting on what they can provide you, whereas outside companies are usually more flexible and able to cater to your specific needs, no matter when they arise. In fact, when client requirements call for something more than an ordinary projector-and-microphone production, the in-house A/V provider will often contract with a local company for additional equipment, qualified technicians and specialty services, with an enormous markup on the price.
With the flexibility and competitive prices of outside companies, they most often beat out in-house vendors. There have been instances where clients have terminated their contract with an in-house vendor, paid the termination fee and hired an outside company. They were extremely satisfied with the results of their production and still paid significantly less than what in-house would have charged them! Because of this, make sure to do your research, negotiate your terms, get multiple quotes and then pick the best option for your event
What exactly are you paying for with an in-house vendor?
Every organization approaches events differently but every organization is budget conscious. It’s important to understand where all of your costs are coming from in order to cut as many unnecessary costs as possible.
For a company to be an in-house vendor, they have to pay a commission or liaison fee to the venue. This means in order for in-house to ensure a profit, they have to increase the rates they charge you. If you need someone to do something as simple as pressing an “on” button or flip a switch, you will have to pay, so be on the lookout for these hidden service charges and ask if additional charges will be applied each time you ask for assistance!
On top of those unnecessary charges, serious budget killers come from power, rigging and internet. The in-house provider will want to sell these items as a “bundle” with A/V. It is critical to get separate bids for each element so you aren’t overcharged. For example, a hotel’s in-house company gives you a $40,000 bid for A/V but includes free power and internet. Then, later, you find out you can get the same A/V for $20,000. But when you "unbundle" the services, you now find that the hotel is going to charge you $15,000 for internet and $10,000 for power. If you start by negotiating each of these items individually, you would have received bids for power at $2,500, internet at $5,000, and you would be free to accept any A/V bid that you choose without those prices changing.
It can be extremely beneficial to work with an outside A/V company.
Since the in-house A/V is described as mandatory by the venue, the in-house provider will be committed to multiple events happening at one time. Outside companies send skilled professionals that are only working on one event, yours! They will be onsite and completely dedicated to you so they can quickly and effectively solve any surprises, and quickly accommodate last minute requests.
If you use the in-house vendor you also run the risk of a limited inventory. If you need an extra microphone or speaker last minute, the in-house vendors may be able to provide it for you, but if there’s a 3-day conference happening at the same time as your smaller scale event, the venue will prioritize the conference’s needs first. Outside vendors have larger inventories which mean lower prices and the guarantee that you will get what you need when you need it.
Outside companies can also help you keep costs down by ensuring you are using minimal power and rigging. You can still make a visual impact with less power by using things like LED lights instead of conventional lekos, an LED video wall instead of a projector and other power-efficient equipment. Rigging can be an expensive element so brainstorm with your A/V company to modify technical plans to ground support or if rigging is an integral part of your event, your A/V vendor can help you find ways to keep fees to a minimum!
Employees and freelancers at outside companies have specific skills and have worked on events for various clients in different venues, so they have the expertise to produce a seamless event. If you want specialty elements, like video mapping or advanced lighting, these professionals have the technical minds to make sure everything is done correctly. An important question to ask if you choose to work with the in-house vendors is who will be handling those specialty elements. You want to make sure it’s a qualified professional and not just whoever is available.
During the creative process, outside A/V companies will offer innovative ideas to give you an impactful show and work with you to provide a final invoice that will be priced specifically to your budget. They want to be a part of this process to understand your objectives and your brand so that they can help you convey your intended message in the production. To help bring these creative visions and your brand to life, outside companies are consistently purchasing new equipment to provide clients with the best technology for their boldest ideas.
At the end of the day, the production value will be higher, you will be spending less and you will have gained a trusted A/V partner that wants to see you succeed!