Do I have to use the in-house AV provider?

Or “Do I have to pay these fees to use a different audio visual company?”

Just like that contract from Little Mermaid

I had this conversation a lot with the hotel conference service manager: “This company wants to use outside AV. Do we need to charge them this fee?” Me: “No, that’s fine, they’re at least getting internet from us.” Or more commonly: “This client is bringing in a production company. We’re not charging them anything to do it. Also if they need anything from you there’s a 20% discount on AV in the contract.” And that was that.

You’re most likely not required to use the venue’s preferred AV partner, and you most likely don’t have to pay “keep out” fees if you choose a different partner. This is especially true if you haven’t signed a contract yet.

Let’s rewind a minute. If you’re happy with the in-house audio visual team then that’s great. Your event is important, and the experience you have is important, so there’s not a “wrong” way to do it. But competition keeps us all honest. It’s worthwhile to keep your options open, especially if there’s areas you’re looking to improve, like pricing, the quality of service, or new product offerings.

Non violent leverage only

As the client, you have leverage. The venue is primarily interested in room nights and/or food & beverage so they usually won’t object to audio visual concessions. Maintaining a good relationship with the venue is important for in-house AV providers. For that reason, they’ll tend to agree to requests from the venue.

Especially when you’re negotiating your contract it’s easy to keep AV options open. If you’ve already signed a contract it still doesn’t hurt to raise the issue. You’ll want to review the contract carefully; here’s a few common items to consider:

  • Building Access – Unless stipulated in the contract a facility can’t limit your access to the space you’ve rented, which includes any third parties you are working with.
  • Vendor security / supervision – It seems like I’ve seen a lot of clauses recently about “load in / load out supervision”. The venue does not have the right to include security or supervision costs, unless you let these lines stand in the contract.
  • Rigging – It’s not uncommon for rigging to be exclusive to the facility, although that’s the equipment specifically attaching to the building infrastructure, not all flown (hung) equipment.
  • Storage – The venue is not required to provide additional space to store AV equipment. However they cannot restrict usage of space which you’ve contracted.

This helpful paper from ESCA (Exhibition Services and Contractors Association) goes into more detail on the subject.

Have a question? I’d be glad to help.

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