When you see an AV quote, do you feel overwhelmed and confused? I know I do – and with experience and better communication with our AV supplier, my knowledge is improving. Don’t be discouraged if you find AV quotes and contracts to be a source of stress in the event planning process. Audiovisual technology is a crucial part of any event, and although you may not find it particularly interesting, it is important that event planners familiarize themselves with the terminology.
From start to finish, here are a few steps that can be taken to avoid having any AV mishaps or unfortunate surprises at your events:

1. Although you may only be in the preliminary stages of the planning process, prepare an RFP with as much detail as possible to ensure that you receive an accurate quote from AV companies. Include information such as: meeting rooms that will be in use, equipment for each room, the number of days/hours that you will require AV equipment, and include a draft of your schedule.

2. Decide on your AV budget and share this information with AV suppliers when you send out the RFP. Being honest about your budget ensures you do not waste time with a company that cannot accommodate your needs. It is also important to let them know that you are approaching a few suppliers for quotes and that you will be choosing a supplier based on how much value they can drive into your budget – not on lowest price, and that you will negotiate a final price and requirements list with the firm that provides the best value in their initial quote. Make sure that every supplier is asked to quote on the exact same requirements to compare apples to apples.

3. Review your hotel contract in relation to AV. Some venues place restrictions or penalties on the client for using an AV company that is not in-house. If these additional costs are excessive, you may have no choice (financially) but to work with the in-house AV specialists.

4. Find out if they have experience setting up in the venue where your event is being held. It isn’t necessary to work with the in-house AV company, especially if you already have a great working relationship with another supplier, but do see if they have experience with your site. If they don’t, it is important to invite them to join you for the site visit.

5. Share a preliminary program with the chosen AV supplier early on in the planning process, and keep them in the loop as changes occur.

6. Get ALL set-up and presentation requirements from your conference speakers. Typically, event planners will ask speakers if they require a laptop, screen, projector, and mic, but your AV provider needs more. Let your speakers know which standard AV will be available in the room, Will they require sound for their presentation?

a. Do they need a remote to move forward in the PPT?
b. Will they be playing videos?
c. Are they planning to bring their own laptop? Is it a Mac or PC? What is the connection type (HDMI, mini-HDMI, etc.)
d. Are they ok with not having access to their laptop at the podium?
e. What type of mic would they like (lavalier, podium, handheld)?

7. Attentively review the final contract before it is signed. If you aren’t confident in your AV related knowledge, sit down with the supplier and go through the contract in detail. They can help you understand every expense. No question is a bad question! You may also want to ask a knowledgeable colleague for help.

8. Create an on-site AV schedule for the technician and provide as much detail as possible. There is no such thing as too much information. The more familiar they are with your program, the better prepared they will be on-site. Be sure to ask them about their on-site needs such as lunch breaks, access to the space, and allotted set up/tear down time.

9. Test the equipment, and provide the AV technician with presentations in advance. Make sure they do a sound check (especially in your main plenary or for your keynote presentations), and ask speakers to bring their presentations to the AV technician ahead of time to allow for testing.

10. Meet with the AV technician who will be on-site for your event prior to the start of your event. The details for your program were likely coordinated with an Account Executive, and typically the necessary information is forwarded to the on-site technician, but it is best to acquaint yourself with this person in order to reassure yourself and him/her that you are on the same page.

Communication is key! Good communication between the event planner and the chosen AV supplier will ensure that this component in the success of your event is not a source of stress.