I recently read an article from Event MB about the new world of venue contract negotiations as we (*hopefully*) emerge from the pandemic. What was already a complicated process has even more considerations, on top of the fear of signing a venue contract after spending the last 2 years trying to move meeting dates and renegotiate terms. The added complications and the intentionally slow decision-making have led to conditions where important considerations can be lost or forgotten. This may be why we’ve also had quite a few of our clients reaching out to get a refresher or with new questions on what they should be looking out for as it relates to AV.
Here is what you need to address in your contract negotiations to make sure all of your AV needs are met and your costs are kept in check.
In-House vs. External AV Providers Hotels and other meeting venues often offer “in-house” AV services, which are almost always provided by an outside vendor contracted by the venue. They are happy to be flexible and make adjustments, however, they will charge you for it and the bill can get out of hand very quickly. Your AV bill will also include a service charge on top of the equipment fees and will likely include a revenue share with the venue.
Your best bet to ensure all of your AV needs are met, contingencies and unexpected changes are covered, and potential failures are minimized or prevented altogether, is to work with your own AV Provider. This puts you in complete control.
Meeting planners have the right to use their trusted AV partners and should be allowed to oversee all aspects of their AV technology needs. Before you sign any contracts, make sure you will be able to use your preferred vendor and your own team.
Occasionally, you may find yourself in a venue where you are simply not able to negotiate out of using in-house AV. You can still bring in your AV partner as a project manager to oversee your event. Initially, it will feel like an added expense, but in our experience, it can actually save money because having someone ‘on your side’ that understands the technical aspects of your event will prevent incorrect or unnecessary billings as well as ensure your sessions happen in the way you envisioned them.
If you are able to negotiate your own AV team, here are some venue costs to consider and negotiate before you sign the contract.
Supervisory Labor Some venues have provisions in their contracts for supervisory labor–staff paid to oversee your event from move-in and set-up through tear-down and move-out. To be clear, this is not the same as providing labor to assist with your move-in and move-out. This is, however, a potentially costly added expense. Confirm upfront if supervisory labor is required and what fees are associated. Put what you expect with their event supervisor into your contract or try and negotiate it out altogether. Also, if you have to pay for it, you should see your supervisor at your event during the agreed times. This can be helpful if there are last minute needs that the in-house team can support. If the supervisor is nowhere to be found, you should not be billed for that.
WiFi and Broadband Hybrid events require strong and stable hard line internet connections that can handle your streaming needs. Venues typically charge to drop a hard line connection in each meeting room, and each room the event streams from will have an additional charge. This is on top of the broadband needs for attendee devices that you were already negotiating pre-pandemic.
Rigging If your event will require rigging for lights, speakers, screens, etc. confirm with the venue what their rules are and how you will be charged. Many venues require that their contracted company sets up all rigging–this is fairly standard. Find out rates and if rigging charges are different if you are using an outside AV provider. Also, some venues charge rental fees for rig points or motors. Again, confirm these details up front
Electrical Connections This is another detail that can easily be overlooked. Some venues will not charge you for electricity and connections if you are using their in-house providers but will charge a fee if you bring in your own vendors. Keep in mind, the outside company is not permitted to plug anything into the venue power themselves and more often than not, the in-house vendor will charge a fee for power drops to bring electrical connections to places specified by the outside AV company.
Venue-specific AV Considerations: This is where it is really helpful to have a partner that can come with you on a site visit. Your AV provider will notice things that may add cost or change the configuration of your event. Some examples are:
- Union Labor – Confirm if the meeting venue is a union venue, meaning they are required to use union labor. Generally speaking, the labor costs will be 2-3 times higher than at a non-union facility. It is also important to know which union you’re working with and all of their requirements as they each have different rules. Your outside AV provider can be very helpful in this situation, helping you understand all the rules and manage the overall union labor schedule to manage costs as much as possible.
- Set up of facility for load in and load out – knowing where the loading dock is in relation to your meeting rooms can dramatically change set up costs. If it is a ‘long push’ from the truck to your meeting room or if there is only one freight elevator in a large facility, for example, knowing about this in advance will give you a more accurate picture of event cost
- Location of your meeting rooms within the facility/facilities – if your rooms are spread out or there are many concurrent sessions across more than one site, you will need more technical support to ensure a great attendee experience
- Obstructions in the event room – over the years we have seen chandeliers that are only 6’ from the floor, columns in the middle of event spaces, floor-to-ceiling windows that would blind attendees at sunset and many other considerations that need to be accounted for in your AV plan.
- Check out any staging, risers, podiums, in-house sounds systems and anything else the venue will be providing. You want to confirm everything is in good working order and meets the standard you want for your event. Creaky stages and beat-up equipment will have a negative impact on your event and the overall experience for participants.
Comped Rooms Include your AV team when negotiating a comped room block into your contract. Having your entire team on site is added peace of mind and one more assurance that your event will go off without a hitch.
Partner with a Pro When it comes to producing a top-notch event experience for your attendees, sponsors, and speakers you cannot afford to have technology failures. Partnering with a professional AV provider, especially one you can build a long-term relationship with, and who is experienced in today’s hybrid event formats, is your best assurance that all of your AV needs will be met and everything will run smoothly.