March 1, 2019
The technology used to convey thoughts and emotions to large audiences has changed, and continues to change, significantly over the last century. The
reliance on technology started in the 1920’s with the first useful, or at least functional, Public Address Systems. Over the course of time, as
communication became more necessary for the efficient completion of goals, we saw expansion into the visual market with dramatic increases in quality.
While the differences between that first PA system and a current Line Array, or the first slide projector to the current 3D capable 4K big
screens may seem like a huge leap, it is important to note that such differences are still out there in the marketplace today. To ensure you
achieve the maximum impact for your audiovisual dollars; keep these four things in mind.
1. Know your goals and expectations and be able to articulate them.
The potential production value of your event depends on 3 basic components that we, at ACT audiovisual, call the COM assessment.
Prior to starting the plan for any event (yes, even prior to venue. We will talk more about that at point 4) you should have a thorough understanding
of these three components.
COST:To get the best value out of your production dollars, you are going to need to know how many dollars you may spend. Set a realistic budget and inform your audiovisual partner of that budget number up front. I know what you
are thinking, “If I say my budget is $10,000 then I know the proposal will always be $10,000!”. If this is your concern, you are not working with an
AV partner you can trust, and you should shop around.
However, even if you are working with a hotel AV sales person who you have never met or spoke to before, I can assure you, you will get better
production value if you chose this approach. The reason being that you have now changed the bidding nature of your event from “who can do this the
cheapest” to “who can give me the most value for the budget I have”.
On the flip side, if your request is “I would like 2 screens, a sound system and a camera” you are likely to get one proposal which will contain
everything you need, to have a spectacular event and another proposal which includes exactly what you asked for. You may save thousands of dollars, and
that will certainly be something you can bring up in your next job interview, because you were fired after a mortified CEO had to give an
investor presentation in front of 2 tripod screens!
OBJECTIVE: Your audiovisual requirements must reflect the purpose of your event. Given the same room and same number of attendees, your AV choices will differ between a session designed to teach front line employees how to use new
software and an evening awards gala designed to encourage and empower those same employees for a job well done. A room full of moving lights and
wall-to-wall led panels will not encourage concentration and a tripod screen and lectern microphone will not create a memorable experience that future
employees will strive for.
Any worthwhile AV partner will ask about your goals for your event, to see what you are trying to accomplish. After all, that is the point of the
technology, to increase the effectiveness of your communications and provide you with a positive return on your investment. This can be
calculated in different ways depending on the objective. Did you sell more cars? Will there be a better turn out at next years Gala? Did your students
learn more efficiently?
Lastly, is the technical design. Your AV partner should understand how to calculate things such as screen size, stage lighting, camera placement, and
sound system requirements. These things are not done “by feel”. There is a science behind all of it; maximum and minimum distances from screens, audio
dispersion angles, sound projection distances, colour temperature calculations.
If you want to get the most production value out of your event, you need to have a technical model in mind. For example, you can perform a gala event
in any ballroom, in any city, however, you may need a significantly higher budget to execute your gala in a ballroom with an eight-foot (2.5 Meter)
ceiling height. Instead of the standard “2 screens with drape” you may need to employ 4 smaller screens or even 8 LED Monitors in order to achieve the
same experience for your audience.
For more information on taking the audiences point of view into consideration you can check out Ray Franklin’s blog at
2. Not all products are created equal!
All Red Delicious are apples but not all apples are Red Delicious! You think I am going to say “you need to compare apples to apples”. You should;
not doing so is quite simply, stupid, however, that’s not the point of this segment. The fact is that not all apples are equally useful for all things.
You don’t use a Macintosh for apple pie (don’t @ me) and you wouldn’t use Granny Smith apples for apple sauce. Comparing apples to apples is not
When it comes to audiovisual, asking for a screen and projector is not enough. If you do ask for a screen and projector, and your audiovisual
person doesn’t immediately respond with questions, you need to find a different provider. You may get one proposal that lists the price as
$300.00 and another proposal that lists the price at $1200.00. The highest price does not necessarily mean it is the best value and the lowest price
doesn’t mean it’s the worst value. Contrarily, you might get 2 providers asking for the same amount; one providing a 10’ screen and 1 providing a 6’
screen, or, one providing an XGA projector and one providing a WXGA projector. There is no guarantee that the larger screen, at the same price,
is the better value. Let me explain.
In a ballroom with a 10’ ceiling the bottom of the larger screen will be cut off by the heads and shoulders of the participants. In this case, the
larger screen will provide a poorer result. Likewise, if you are using PowerPoint and produce a presentation with a 4:3 aspect ratio and employ
large pictures to reinforce your ideas, then an XGA projector might be perfect for your needs; contrarily, if you are an accountant and you want
your audience to review spreadsheets all day, you need something with a higher resolution to ensure the small numbers are clear and legible.
Big Screen / Poor Value (Photo stolen from #AudienceAdvocate pending request to stop stealing)
Smaller Screens / Better Value
3. Not all suppliers are created equal
Different suppliers offer different services and have different business models. Social Events, Gala’s, Corporate Meetings, Tradeshows, and Sales
Events all require different disciplines, skills, and resources. There are a few different types of suppliers that offer these services.
1) Hotel AV Departments. Hotels offer AV services to their guests in 2 different ways.
a. Some chose to provide the services themselves, they have a limited stock of basic AV needs (screen, projector, speakers etc.) and typically utilize
their banquet department to set up your equipment for you.
These hotels typically offer lower quality and under-maintained equipment but provide it for free or an exceptionally low price, if you negotiate it
as part of your hotel contract.
b. Others see the opportunity to take extra money from clients without it showing as a hotel line item on the client’s invoice. These venues chose to
contract with an AV company wherein they “recommend” the “in-house” provider in exchange for a percentage of that companies total billables.
These commission rates can regularly exceed 70% of your AV bill. This arrangement is usually made between large international hotel brands and
large multinational AV companies.
Both of these options provide you with the lowest value for your AV dollars. You either receive equipment that won’t work the way you had
hoped, or you will pay 2-4 times the fair market value for you event. That being said, if you are having a board meeting for 10 and just want a 6’
tripod screen and a flipchart, the “in-house” option will probably only cost you an extra $50-$100 and it is pretty hard to screw up a tripod
screen. But not impossible!
Maybe they only had 1 size of screen left?
Is this the first time the sun set through that window?
For large events and conferences, “in-house” providers will usually sub out the event to an AV generalist or a Production Company. Since they still
want to make money, and the Venue still wants their pound of flesh, you will likely pay about 3 times the fair market value for your event.
2) AV Generalists. These are companies that offer a full range of production services . These are mainstream AV companies and they usually offer both
Sales and Production services (full disclosure – ACT audiovisual fits within this category) and can usually offer a wider range of solutions to
best serve your event. The two key benefits to this class of provider are as follows;
a. The pricing in this market is usually quite competitive as AV generalists maintain a larger inventory of equipment and have relationships with local
specialists, for the rare occasion you need something that they don’t usually carry in inventory.
b. They install and service the same equipment that they provide, meaning you will receive more knowledgeable and long-term staff members to operate your event. While the typical age of a technician in the hotel industry is between 22 and 30, it is not unusual for an audiovisual company to provide
the benefit of an audio engineer with 20+ years of experience.
The price point and the product offering make AV generalist a very attractive option for anyone hosting a corporate conference, association
meetings or social events like weddings or graduations.
3) Production Companies. These are companies uniquely suited to doing large scale, single service
events such as an awards show, gala, product reveals, sporting events, etc. Think everything from Academy Awards to an NHL game. While these companies
are capable of doing your corporate event, having them do so would be like asking NASA to make you running shoes. The pricing for large scale events
is very competitive, however, as you may expect, having NASA make you running shoes would not be cost competitive. Most “in-house” companies will
sub out larger jobs to these providers as they typically lack the knowledge and experience to execute such events.
In summary of this point, in order to achieve maximum production value, you need to pick the right company for your event. Failing to do so will lead
you to pay too much or experience the embarrassment of not getting the product you were expecting. Furthermore, do your research and get
references. A common joke in the AV industry is, “Every time Best Buy has a sale, we have another competitor.”. Everyone from home theatre
enthusiasts to DJs believe they are experts but if you hire a DJ to perform your AV you can expect your event to go Haywire. Check to ensure your
provider has a solid reputation and belongs to industry organizations such as AVIXA. You can check for company membership
If AV providers were shoes; an event planners summary
4. Know your Venue Contract
One of the most important steps in preserving your production value is to review and negotiate your venue contract. These contracts can range widely
from no references to AV to tens of thousands of dollars in “Third Party Charges” for using someone other than their chosen supplier. These charges,
along with the AV commissions, form a non-customer facing line of revenue for the hotel. There are 2 things, in particular, to watch for:
1) Product specific exclusivity charges – These are charges for thing like Rigging, Electrical, and Internet. These
are services that are quasi built in to the property and should be made available as part of your room rental agreement. While charges for
accessories are reasonable, such as extension cords, routers, or chain falls and motors, the charges for a rigging point or electrical outlet are
not. Many hotels have passed the billing for these services off to the “in-house” AV department as a way to wipe their hands of the awkward
conversation of “Yes you can plug your projector in, but it will cost you $250.00”. A great video, which is funny but not at all unrealistic, can be
2) Service specific charges – Loading fees, over-site fees, elevator fees, and connection fees are all
charges that may be found in your “boiler plate” venue contract. Some are legitimate, such as Union Labour, but others are not. Having someone “watch
your provider during set-up” at a rate of $75.00/hr is not a legitimate charge. The whole point of these exorbitant fees is to place you in a
position to think that the “in-house” option is the most affordable route. It is an executive class version of the Tony Soprano sales pitch “Nice
business you got here, be a shame if something happened to it.”. To be specific, “Well, sure, you can use any supplier you want, however, cost
wise it may not work out very well for you.”. If you address this before you sign the contract, you can increase your production value
exponentially. Here is an example, from a great article by Julius Grafton. You can read the entire article here.
Sure we can provide internet, sign here!
Bottom line, if you read your venue contract before signing it you can achieve a $10,000 event for $5,000 rather than a value of $5,000 for the
price of $10,000. For a more detailed analysis of all things contract related, reach out to Heather at Planner Protect.
To summarize, the key to maximizing your production value is to engage all of your partners at the beginning of the planning process. This includes
your audiovisual partner. Develop an open and honest relationship with them and they will ensure you, and your budget, are always well taken care of!
As always, if you have any questions, are looking for an AV partner, or just want more information, check us out online at www.actav.net or toll free at
1-855-MY-ACTav (1-855-692-2828) and let us be The Link Between Technology & You!