Months have been spent planning for your annual event. The venue has been under contract for some time now. All the details are set from the food to the decor to the entertainment. The last thing you need to confirm is the in-house hotel AV pricing and services. You get the estimate and it’s 50% more than you had budgeted (and consider to be reasonable). In fact, last year in the hotel across town where the same company is the in-house audio visual provider your bill was much less using the exact same setup. What happened?!

This is a common scenario that most meeting planners can relate to. And it can be an extremely frustrating fiasco. I’ve outlined 6 ways to avoid the “AV shock” and put budget control back in your hands.

1. Don’t sign a contract until you know what you need and what you want to spend

I’m a firm believer in utilizing contracts as a means of protection for both parties and clearly defining expectations. But be sure to have a clear understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish in your event and what you would like to spend to accomplish your AV goals. You have a lot of leverage throughout the negotiation process. After you have signed, however, your options are limited substantially.

2. Everything is negotiable

Just because your estimate comes in a nice slick presentation with pretty logos and official job titles, don’t think for a second that you don’t have the leverage to negotiate the price. As I was once told, never underestimate the power of the phrase “Is that the best price you can give me?” Always ask for an explanation and never assume you have been given the best price the first time.

3. Make sure you have an Audio Visual advocate

Your event is important to you, your client or employer and, most importantly, your attendees. Each stakeholder has invested something to be there whether it’s money, time or effort. Your audio visual provider should have the same sense of urgency as your team. If you keep getting pushback or resistance to your ideas and needs, that should raise a red flag. Look for creativity and excitement as you work through your AV needs with your prospective provider. If they’re not excited about the experience, then how will your event be the best it can be for your attendees?

4. Ask Questions

Many times we take things at face value. We are given a list of equipment or pricing for services and don’t question the proposed package. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about AV services. Your audio visual company representative should have the ability to walk you through the proposed setup with patience and intelligence until you are comfortable that you will be getting the level of production that you require.

5. Find a Partner and Plan Together

It can be challenging to find vendor partners that you trust. But the right AV production partner can be worth their weight in gold. As you work through the planning of all of your event elements, bring your audio visual company in on the process. Instead of developing RFPs that are based on assumptions or previous events, have your AV partner make recommendations and designs based on what you will need this time. Often this method can be more economical and have more impact.

6. Do You Have To Use The In-House AV Provider?

Everything is negotiable (see #2). If your event will be produced at a higher level by utilizing a private AV provider, negotiate your ability to bring any AV company with you instead of the in-house hotel AV before you sign with the hotel. This is much easier to do in the negotiation process than it is after the contract is signed. Avoid venue fees and negotiate the ability to use outside AV.

Meeting planners face many challenges on a day to day basis. A trusted Audio Visual partner can alleviate many headaches for years to come and allow you to broaden your offerings to your client.