by Jacquelyn Manson
Like me, most event planners are not technically savvy, so when we receive our audiovisual (AV) proposal and/or bill, we are in a bit of shock and often a little confused. Over 10 meeting planners attended the AENC Association Meeting Planners Roundtable on Friday, September 27 at Sigma Xi headquarters in RTP where Chris Alford and Roger Goodwin of the A&V Company helped us learn the BASIC s of how to understand and communicate our event AV needs.
Budget: First, when initially talking with an AV company about your event audiovisual needs, it makes all the difference to know what your budget is for the AV portion of the event. “It validates that you have real money to spend,” says Chris Alford, Vice President of A&V Company. If you have no idea what your budget is, let the AV company know this so they can help you understand what equipment and labor will be needed to successfully accomplish your event goals. Be realistic with your expectations too. If you have $500.00 to spend on your event AV, don’t expect to receive a huge technical production with multiple screens and a live feed for your event.
If you are an event planner, then you can negotiate! If the initial quote is too high, go back to the vendor and ask them to explain the cost and negotiate with them. One way to cut down on overall AV cost is to consider contracting with one audiovisual company for all your events. This allows you to negotiate a better rate for each individual event, while keeping your overall AV cost down.
Your bill will be based on how complicated your event needs are. If you need production services, you are going to pay more for the time, energy and creativity the AV company puts into creating your event. If you just need rental equipment, your fee will be less, again based on the needs of your event.
Agenda: The event agenda is the best way to communicate AV needs to your prospective vendor. “A detailed agenda can be the best source for an AV company to help you plan your AV needs,” says Chris Alford of the A&V Company. Agendas include location, dates, time and subject matter. It creates a discussion on your needs including equipment and staff requirements. This is an especially important tool if you don’t have an idea of what your AV budget should be for the event you are planning.
Scope of Work: Your RFP. Giving your prospective vendor a detailed Request For Proposal (RFP) reassures the company that you do have money to spend on audiovisual and it helps them understand what your expectations are for that event. It gives the vendor a more in depth scope of the work involved, the atmosphere of the event and the amount of time needed to execute the AV needs for the event.
Including a layout of the event, what your want and where, will give the vendor an idea of how to execute the audiovisual portion of the event. “Sometimes our crew has only hours to set up an event so knowing the layout, where the outlets are is vital to our success,” says Roger Goodwin. If the event is large, it will be imperative to best to book the event space out one day out if possible. The RFP also often includes whether or not your company will be providing sleeping rooms, meals, travel, etc for the AV company crew.
So what is considered a reasonable turnaround time on an RFP? Roger and Chris gave these guidelines: 1.) For a basic, local event, 24 hours is a reasonable turnaround time on an RFP; 2.) If the proposal involves multiple locations, creative development, speakers, etc. expect a 72 hours to two week turnaround process. Many times the AV company needs to consult with other vendors before they can complete the RFP and that takes time.
Ideally, it is best to send out your RFP’s 6 months to 1 year in advance. It will help both of you in forecasting and understanding any price increases so you can both budget for them. The further in advance you send out your RFP and include the most detail you can, the better your AV company will meet your expectations. “We know things will change and we will work with you to meet your needs,” states Chris.”
As a planner, don’t be afraid to ask the potential vendor for the following: a certificate of insurance, what is their mission and vision, how many employees work at the company, have they done other events likes yours, do they have references, what are their sales figures and do they work with your competition. Chris Alford suggest going to their offices to meet with them in person to talk about your event.
Invoicing: How will you pay the AV company? It is common to put a deposit down, especially for a large event and make scheduled payments as established in your contract. How and when you pay the vendor really depends on the contract you negotiate together. If you need a detailed breakdown, list of equipment and cost of each, ask for it. You can also ask for a “Scope of Work” statement, which is to have to give to your President & CEO as well as your Board of Directors.
Crew: A&V Company gave us a few tips on how to work with the AV crew onsite. Ask the names of the crew members working onsite, especially your project coordinator. Including your project coordinator in the pre-con meeting is a great way to reinforce your event expectations to the crew. In addition, if you are using an outside AV company, let the hotel onsite AV company know who they are as a common courtesy.
A helpful hint Jovita Mask, AENC’s Events and Sales Manager, gave the planners in attendance, “we like to have badges for the AV staff, and this helps them feel like they are part of our event team.” Another idea for larger events is to have the AV crew wear the company‘s event shirts with their own color to distinguish them as member of the AV staff.
Therefore, in summary, knowing the BASICs is the best way to get the most out of your AV experience. Good luck and remember, don’t be afraid to ask, negotiate and be flexible!
AENC provided two great handouts from Corbin Ball Associates and I have included the links below.
1. Hotel Technology Checklist: http://www.corbinball.com/articles_technology/index.cfm?fuseaction=cor_av&artid=8762
2. Example of an AV Equipment Bid List: http://www.corbinball.com/tipstools/index.cfm?fuseaction=cor_av&artID=370