5 Ways to Save on Conference Audio Visual Production Cost
Contract an Outside AV Company
The reason we started with this fact is because it will also apply to points 2-4. What many planners don’t know is that in-house AV companies are contractually obligated to pay a fee to their hotel partner each year for being the in-house “AV vendor”. The fee has to be paid regardless of how much revenue the in-house AV company generates. This is one of the reasons why their charges can often be exorbitant. On top these of charges, it is very common to see an extra 22% service charge by the hotel applied. Not only are in-house AV vendors financially obligated to the hotel, but some may be obligated to shareholders as well. PSAV, the largest in-house hotel AV provider, is owned by Blackstone (NYSE:BX), a private equity and real estate fund traded on the New York Stock Exchange. This further adds pressure on in-house AV companies to meet quotas and demands by shareholders by adding unnecessary fees and overpricing services.
Outside AV companies are not bound by these circumstances in which most, if not all cases, will lead to double digit percentage savings by organizations. When you partner and build a relationship with an outside AV company, there becomes a familiarity with how your organization conducts events. If there was any troubleshooting needed one year, those issues can be noted and solutions can be implemented the following year. The production managers and planners will learn each others “technical language”. Often times, if there is miscommunication, it is due to the use of technical terms. One party will make a statement or give instruction with one intention, however, the other party’s interpretation may be misconstrued and received with a different intention. Communication is always key to producing a successful event. Reducing the learning curve can save time and help alleviate stress. Overall, when you work with a company multiple times, they become vested in your success and began to understand your message. The bottom line is, if you look good, they look good. Thats a “Win, Win!” for everyone.
If I were to say to you, "You need a 400amp 3-phase service.", how would you interpret that? You may know that it refers to power, but out side of that, I may as well be talking in Arabic. Power is a way that in-house AV companies are able to run up production costs unnecessarily. The typical cost of a 400amp 3-phase service is anywhere from $3,000 - $4,000 per day. Add that up over the course of 4-5 days for most conferences and now you are looking at as much as $20,000 for just power, excluding tax and service charge. Power is an element of production that you obviously can't go without, but presents a way to cut cost significantly. Power is definitely a component that you will want to include in your RFP or negotiate up front before signing. I would always start with an ask of free power and work up from there. This is regardless of what company may be providing production services.
Unless you plan on taking a few electrician courses, this is another reason why I suggest partnering with a good and reliable outside AV company. They will be able to tell you, based on their equipment, the amount of power that will be needed. With most lighting fixtures using LEDs, it is rare to need more than a 100 amp 3-phase service, which in consequence, would only run about $600-$900 per day. That is a major cost savings. Unless you are bringing in large scale production and entertainment, such as large LED walls and 12 piece rock bands, you should never need more than that. Remember, knowledge is power, or in this case, power savings.
Load in Times
An often overlooked component of the RFP process is load in times. This not only affects your AV production, but can also have an impact on other key elements such as decor and prop installation. Hotels are in the business of booking events and will do their best to fill every available time slot possible, even if it means not giving you access to a space until 12am the morning of your opening 8am general session. By negotiating adequate load in times up front, you can avoid overtime and double time fees in labor cost. I would recommend a 24 hour right of entry for all contracted spaces.
Orchestrating a very well thought out itinerary as it relates to logistics and room assignments is another cost savings strategy. It is always financially beneficial to leave rooms as they are set on the first day of your conference. Repurposing audio visual equipment to other spaces or flipping rooms will accumulate additional overtime, or possibly double time, labor cost. It is always easier to move tables and chairs than audio visual production equipment.
Include your AV Contractor in Conference Planning
Many times AV companies are not brought into the planning process until 30 to 45 days before the start of your conference. If you have partnered with the right AV company there is a multitude of resources and knowledge that they can add to your planning process to save time and money. They understand the behind the scene nuances of production flow and can make recommendations on how to cut down on production costs and save time. Something as small as leaving 5-10 minutes between groups of 5 panelists during a session can be the difference in renting 5 mics as opposed to 10. Your AV company may provide additional services that you don't know about and will offer discounts if they are included in their contract. There are countless times that I have seen equipment and/or services that we offer booked through another vendor. That could be stage furniture, photo booths, stage sets, etc. By communicating with your AV partner earlier in the process, there is a higher level of comfort and confidence that you can move forward with leading up to your conference.