Or “Why is X provider so much more expensive?” or “Why is my bill so different this year?”
I recently sent an event proposal for $20,000 and the hotel AV provider’s quote was $30,000. (And their total was after a 30% discount.) On the other hand another recent proposal was $14k and we lost to the in house provider on price. Why do AV quotes seem to vary so much?
It’s true that some companies are just more expensive than others. But there’s a lot of room for interpretation when someone asks for AV. You want to make sure you’re getting proposals that include the same caliber of service and equipment. In the first example I gave, I know for a fact both proposals included the same things, and the second I know they didn’t. Here’s some factors to consider. Good partners will bring up some of these, but they don’t know what someone else is quoting so it’s impossible to make you aware of every relevant concern.
Amount/type of labor – Is there a dedicated in-room technician for your general session? How many? If you have a lot of breakout sessions how many technicians are dedicated to those rooms, if at all? Outside companies typically include a dedicated tech. Hotel AV partners generally have someone on-site anyway, so for smaller events they can “float” between all clients. If you need a quick response to any problems you may want to request a technician/technicians just for you.
- Internet – Did the hotel audio visual company include the internet with the rest of the proposal? Ask for a separate quote. Most external partners don’t provide internet. If you’re comparing one internet quote to another make sure you’re getting the same amount of bandwidth.
- Travel – External partners typically have to travel some distance, large or small. Costs might include travel for all equipment and technicians, or just the lead technician or project manager.
- Installed equipment – Some venues have permanently installed speakers, projectors, screens and/or displays. This is typically priced lower because it doesn’t require as much labor to set up and remove.
- Geography – Changing locations from event to event will affect overall pricing. Venues in NYC, Chicago and Los Angeles are going to charge more overall than Pittsburgh, New Orleans, and Salt Lake City.
- Union Labor – Labor already makes up a big portion of AV, and venues which mandate union labor are more expensive.
- Business Model – The type of partner will have different strengths and weaknesses in terms of pricing.
- Hotel AV companies pay around a 50% commission to the venue and include a 21-23% service charge. In a true apples to apples comparison hotel AV companies will generally be the most expensive. One trade off can be convenience, especially for a non-complex one day event.
- Local-only AV companies with a handful of employees have very low overhead costs so they can charge less. That said they sometimes charge much more for equipment they don’t own, or have large travel costs outside their home base.
- National audio visual companies typically outsource some of their equipment and labor to local partners, so pricing will be affected by the quality of their negotiated rates and local contacts.
- Venues which own their own equipment and service it themselves instead of keeping a third party company on-site are typically a very low cost. The trade-off is their inventory is limited and staff generally aren’t as knowledgeable.