Are your Audio Visual Equipment costs:
A) Outlandish?
B) Justifiable?
C) Hidden? or
D) Unexpected?

Hopefully, you answer B most, if not all the time. However, if you sometimes feel like the event services company is not being fair, here are some ways to open up the lines of communication and help you through the technology maze.

1. Determine Your Audio Visual Equipment Needs (Unexpected). This may seem like a simple matter, but it extremely important to understand exactly what you need before going out to bid. How do you do this if you don’t understand the technology?  Start with your speaker’s – find out about their powerpoint presentation equipment needs. Ask them to be very specific and make certain that they actually need what they are requesting. If you have entertainment, again ask what they need. Take the time to ask a lot of questions and keep drilling down until you get all the answers. Don’t assume anything. Find out what the speakers are bringing in themselves. Nothing is worse than renting a laptop for $200 and finding out that speaker is bringing their own into the meeting. Or they have an Mac and you are wired for a PC. Ask, ask, and keep on asking until you have everything nailed down.

2. Contain Labor Costs (Hidden). Labor is often the largest expense when planning a large show with a lot of audio visual equipment. Find out what the various labor rates are for regular time and overtime, and when double time starts (usually between 12 and 6 am). Determine if there are labor charges incurred through the event services company and/or the venue. Ask the audio visual company to give you the amount of time it will take to complete the set-up and strike and try to work that in during regular working hours.

Also, put a 24-hour hold on your main tent rooms that have audio visual rental equipment in them. If the venue refuses to do so, consider going to another venue. The last thing you want is to spend thousands of dollars on labor because the event services company had to set up most of their equipment from 3 to 6 am. Wham!

3. Pay attention to the little things (Justifiable and/or Unexpected). If the event services company goes through tape, batteries, flip chart paper, markers, and tie-downs, these are justifiable expenses that should be passed along to your organization. However, it is important to know exactly how many of the above items they went through (ask for a detailed accounting) and what the charge will be for each of those items before the event. Many organizations forget these items in the RFP or think that the event services company is not going to pass on that expense to the client. It is completely justifiable to charge you for these items as long as you know what the charge will be beforehand and you have a detailed accounting of the charges.

4. Pay MORE attention to the big things like Internet and Power Charges (Outlandish). Many venues will charge the event meeting services company a high fee for Internet and Power, especially for large, multi-day events. Since the venue is not a telephone or power provider, they will not be able to break down the exact amount of power kilowatts your event used. This is a tricky one, but it is negotiable. This is probably where you are going to have to ask around within your own peer group. Use the Convention and Visitors Bureau within that city for a gauge. Check the Internet. Try and gather as much concrete data as possible as to what is a reasonable rate for these charges and then bring those to the attention of your venue contact prior to contract signature.

5. Negotiate ALL terms prior to signing any contracts (Justifiable). Your event meeting company will be negotiating with the venue for some of the above items and with the audio visual rental equipment company for others. It will most likely be two separate contracts. If you are uncomfortable with all the technology terms being bantered around, ask and then ask again until you have a full understanding of the terms. Remember you are the customer. Make certain that all terms are fair and you understand each line item.

Hopefully, at your next event, you will only answer “B” to your audio visual equipment costs — these being justifiable.