The client wasn’t unusual – she needed someone to handle audio visual for her meeting and the hotel salesperson informed her the property had an in-house provider. “They’re great!” And so I sent a quote, got a signature and handled the event. But why hadn’t she talked to anyone else? That question was in the back of my mind a lot when I worked in hotels.
This was an important multiple day meeting. I know she looked at a bunch of venues. If food comes out a few minutes late or overcooked, the event keeps going. If a wild pack of dogs ate all of the food a la A Christmas Story at least the VP of Finance can still give a presentation. But if the microphone cuts out, the meeting stops. The presenter yells “Can everybody hear me?” then talks loud enough for the first two rows to hear and everyone else starts checking their phones and talking amongst themselves.
Just like any other purchase where you compare a few different choices, it’s worth your time to at least look at two or three AV partners to make sure you’re well taken care of. (Incidentally when you compare venues you’re not usually comparing AV providers. At the time of this writing in my city, Philadelphia, maybe 13 out of 17 of the top properties use the same AV company) Here’s some ways to identify a few options:
- Preferred providers – The majority of hotels and conference centers have a third party in-house provider. They can be a great option but there’s some potential concerns which I’ll post about soon. Some venues own the equipment themselves and service it with their own employees. Even if there’s no one on-site, venues will typically have a “preferred” vendor.
- Personal referrals – Your best option is to ask people who have planned events about their audio visual partner. Or if you attend a meeting where you’re impressed by the AV, ask the organizer who they’re working with. You could also wait until a break and get the name of the company from one of the technicians.
- Local referrals – If you don’t know anyone in the area check with the local chamber of commerce. Companies who maintain chamber membership are typically more reliable and “serious”. The chamber may also be able to point you towards other local partners.
- Internet search – A simple search will turn up many results. Try narrowing it down by searching for “audio visual” or “event staging” combined with the nearest major metropolitan area, for example: “audio visual Philadelphia”. If you go this route be sure to ask for referrals and information on other clients the company has worked with.
I’ll write soon about how to choose between potential partners.