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Should I Use In-House AV or an Independent Event Tech Partner?

Should I Use In-House AV or an Independent Event Tech Partner?

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The events industry is evolving and within that evolution, we’re seeing a rapid rate of in-house exclusive audio-visual contracts. There have been in-house AV contracts for decades, so these are nothing new; however, most of those contracts were preferred provider contracts, not exclusive. These previous contracts didn’t prevent independent companies from working in the venues or have a ton of hidden fees or exclusivity clauses built-in for multiple aspects of the event. Today, many of the contracts do all they can to keep other providers from working and to stop competition. This directly conflicts with the industry’s support for freedom of choice.  In some instances, the convenience for all-in-one options within a venue can appeal to event planners and producers, but these contracts can also limit choices, jeopardize event success, and ultimately raise prices for event professionals.

We want to share some things to look for when choosing your venue and negotiating a contract. There are several important factors to keep in mind to ensure you get exactly what you need from a venue without unnecessary added costs.

What should I ask about when reviewing an in-house AV contract?

Rigging – 

  • Does the venue have exclusivity? 
  • If yes, does this include labor and is it:
    • By point
    • For motor
    • For truss
  • Most rigging exclusivity clauses in the past have been just for rigging points. Now, many include motors and we’re seeing a growing trend to include truss as well. The difference between the three can greatly increase cost and/or limit your options depending on your event. 

Internet – 

  • Does the venue charge by the day or by the event?
  • What’s the charge per person?
  • Are there additional charges in the ballroom?

Power – 

  • Does the venue charge by the day or the event?
  • Can you use your own distros or do you have to use theirs?
  • Are you charged by how many hookups you have or by how much power you consume?
  • Ensure that your vendor doesn’t ask for more power than you actually need as this will certainly increase your costs. Tip: Using LED light fixtures at your event can save cost on power as it uses considerably less power than standard lighting.

Room Exclusivity and AV Equipment – 

  • Does the venue have exclusivity on AV equipment?
    • If yes, is that for all rooms, just breakouts, or does the venue allow outside vendors, but only in one room? 
    • This is becoming more standard in Las Vegas but is important to check at any venue. A venue may say they allow outside vendors, but with the clause that the outside vendor can only work in one room of your event.

It’s critical for those booking the venue to ask these questions and more and look at all the clauses in a contract to ensure you’re getting the most out of the venue and the best value for your event. The even more important point to remember is you can always negotiate your contract with the venue. If there’s an aspect that seems unnecessary, overly costly, or will inhibit you from creating the event you want, you can negotiate.

Choosing the right partner is critical to the success of an event. There is nothing more costly than a poorly executed event. The choice of who to partner with really comes down to what type of event is being planned and what is needed for its success. Does the event consist of many small rooms, only requiring one or two mics and a smaller projection screen in each or a relatively straight forward general session? In-house AV could be a smart choice in these scenarios. Is the event more complex or larger in scale, or does it include several large breakouts? This scale or complexity of an event would most likely require the expanded resources, both of products and personnel, that an independent partner is better equipped to provide.

Pricing and value are often the main considerations. Many venues primarily focus on their hotel room rentals and catering services, with AV being more of an additional source of revenue. Because of this, in-house AV contracts can include a hefty venue commission, often with potentially expensive exclusivity contracts, as we mentioned above, which is why it’s important to review and negotiate a contract that works best for your event. When working with an independent event tech partner, the pricing that you’re being given is market consistent. This means that pricing tends to be more transparent and held to a fair market standard. 

Sometimes choosing AV for an event is about using the latest technology, but more often than not it’s about which technology will best complement the event’s content and overall theme. This is where the difference in value comes into play. Independent event tech partners come with a wide range of emerging technology options, allowing many solutions across a wide variety of needs. They’re also willing to work with the client if any of their technology requests fall outside the range of their inventory and find the best solution to realize the client’s vision. In-house AV contracts usually incentivize the use of a venue’s gear that was purchased to handle a typical range of events and for that reason actually might have fewer solutions to offer clients, especially on complex or intricate events. 

Perhaps, however, the most important aspect of who you choose for your AV is the people you hire, the technicians and engineers on your show. Independent event technology partners employ dedicated, specialized, and career technicians and engineers who are best equipped to build successful events. With in-house AV, while there are many professionals within, this is not always the case and the range of specialized and experienced technicians may not be as wide. In-house AV contracts may also be tied to union labor, which can ultimately limit who can work on your event. At Alford Media specifically, we do not see technicians as entry-level employees or some odd group that works shows, but as professionals who have chosen this field and see every show they do as a reflection of their abilities and pride. We love getting new, young people involved in this industry, but we give them a training and experience curve before putting them in a show position. At Alford, our average technician has been doing main tent corporate shows for over 20 years. They understand that clients expect their logos to be the exact color on screen that they are in print, that 5 seconds of dead air time on stage is a lifetime to a presenter, and that many times the meetings we do are crucial, stressful moments in the careers of the people presenting and that it is our job to put them at ease and in the best light possible. It is not just another meeting, it’s your vision.  

In-House AV vs. Independent Event Tech Partner

There are several aspects to consider when deciding who to partner with on your event but in the end, it all comes down to which service is able to match your focus for success. Would your event benefit from an all-in-one package at a venue and requires a less complicated range of expertise or skillsets? In-house AV may be a good option for you. Or does your event require the level of knowledge and responsiveness of professionals dedicated solely to your event? In this case, an independent event tech partner may be a better option for you. The freedom of choice should be yours.

Learn more about Alford Media’s products and services or take a look at our events portfolio. If you have any questions, please contact your Alford account manager or contact us here.

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