Editor’s Note: This is the first column in a new series about avoiding common traps and hidden costs from a venue insider’s perspective.
Audio-visual (A/V) technology is a big deal for your meeting, and believe it or not, A/V equipment and labor can take up to 25 percent of your total budget (depending on the event’s size and production needs). While A/V is considered “behind the scenes,” it is an essential element that helps keep attendees present in the moment and provides them with a great experience. It’s what allows attendees to see and hear a speaker and view a presentation. Even if talking about lighting and sound systems doesn’t fit your comfort zone, it’s one of the most important elements tied to excellent meeting planning. Having the skills to know what to ask and what you need is imperative to the bottom line.
BUDGETING FOR A/V
Before pulling out all the A/V stops, let the venue know what you want and how much you have to spend. It’s important to have a range when talking to your conference center, and be prepared for frank conversations about what options will realistically fit into your budget. There’s no use in talking about the latest and greatest in technology offerings if your budget will only allow the basics.
ORDERING THE RIGHT A/V EQUIPMENT
Deciding on equipment based on your budget is one thing, but once on-site you will want the A/V team to confirm everything will work within the meeting room spaces you have booked. Bring the list of audio-visual equipment each presenter or panel needs and make sure it will work within each designated room. Also be sure to communicate to the presenter what equipment you will have on-site or what they’ll need to provide in order to avoid last-minute scrambling.
FACTOR IN LABOR COSTS
In addition to the equipment needed, labor can be a major factor in an A/V budget. When comparing pricing, be certain the venue’s proposal includes labor and tax. Don’t forget that night or weekend setups usually have higher labor costs. Unexpected costs, such as last-minute change orders, can as much as double your labor costs and wreak havoc on your budget.
UNDERSTANDING THE A/V CONTRACT
Before signing an A/V contract, be certain you understand what A/V is included in the pricing. Again, compare your list of equipment needed from the presenters with your contract list. Ensure your labor charges for setup and teardown are included. Read the contract again, and ask questions of your venue contact until you feel comfortable with the information. If you are still confused after talking to your contact, run it by your organization’s legal counsel.