There are some tactical measures event planners can take to develop an AV budget that accurately represents the event program. But from the moment the planner receives the production company’s proposal until he or she pays the bill, there is work to be done to keep costs for event AV in check, without compromising on quality.

Go over the event AV proposal item by item.

Performing a detailed review of an AV proposal seems like obvious advice, but not every event planner has an encyclopedic knowledge of equipment trends and costs. If the planner is not an AV expert and isn’t comfortable with his existing contractor, he should consider bringing in a third-party consultant to review the proposal or help acquire competing bids. Another option is to obtain training from a reputable AV expert on how to review a proposal.


With or without the help of a consultant or technical training, the planner should discuss the elements of the proposal with the production company. Some specific questions to ask, include:

  • Are there any charges the proposal does not include? (Charges, such as taxes, surcharges, gratuities, shipping and receiving, venue charges and rigging can be considerable).
  • Why were these equipment recommendations made? (Is it the best equipment for the job or only the equipment the company has in inventory?)
  • Do the labor costs align with the labor requirements? (For example, some events have short move-in and move-out windows and overtime work is inevitable)
  • Is the labor rate only for straight time (vs. overtime)?

Ask about equipment substitutions and reductions.

With a firm grasp of the logic and math behind the AV proposal, planners can begin a subsequent discussion with the AV company about cost reductions. Such a conversation isn’t about getting the same equipment for a better price. It’s about working through some different scenarios (placing limits on speaker requests), substituting equipment (hand-held microphones vs. wireless lavalieres), or changing the programming (one stage instead of two) to achieve cost reductions.

Compromise on in-house event AV usage.

In-house AV contractor exclusivity is a recurring discussion topic in events. Most planners prefer the freedom of choosing their contractors. The majority of contractors only love the idea of in-house exclusivity when they are the in-house provider. So to mitigate the premium costs of some in-house, exclusive contractors, planners can ask to use the in-house contractor for a portion of the meeting (break-out rooms, for instance), but their selected contractor for the rest (general session).

It’s a discussion that has to happen when the venue rental is being negotiated. But it’s a hybrid approach that, when possible, can help bring down the overall costs.

Take a daily inventory of equipment and labor.

It’s well known that planners wear many hats during an event, from minding the registration lines to making sure the coffee breaks are ready. The list is long. But assigning someone on the team to ensure that the promised equipment is in place and the technicians and laborers committed to in the AV contract matches the workforce on site is crucial. Such diligence makes it easier for planners to approve daily charges and sign off on the final bill with confidence.

Build a trusting relationship.

No matter how much negotiation, substitution, or program modification planners pursue, the end goals should always be the same. Both parties—the event organizer and the AV company—should strive to optimize, and when required, compromise so that each gets what they need to meet budget requirements and profit margins. The key to achieving these objectives is for planners to work with people they trust. For help building an affordable AV program with a trusted partner, reach out to one of the experts at SmartSource Computer & Audio Visual Rentals.