October 01, 2000
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio October 2000 Current Issue
October 2000 Back to BasicsPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

Back to Basics

By Deborah Wilson


The real reasons why the final bill rarely matches the proposal price

Often, even after all the detailed planning of an event, the final audiovisual invoice does not match the price on the proposal. Planners look to A/V providers for equipment and expertise and trust that the vendor will deliver the best service for a fair price. Why, then, is it so hard to reconcile the bill to the bid?

Good communication is the key. Bringing your staging supplier into the planning process early can eliminate most on-site surprises.

Many companies provide a dedicated project manager to handle logistics and cost- management for your production. However, it never hurts to educate yourself on your vendor’s processes. The more you know, the more control you have.

A/V companies provide an outline of their policies governing labor charges. This is usually the most volatile component of the proposal.

The day rate quoted for technical labor usually covers 10 to 12 consecutive hours. Labor costs, however, are not only determined by how many people are working for how long, but also by the time of day worked, what day of the week it is and the intensity of the schedule. Costs tend to be higher on weekends and at odd hours. Meals and other required breaks must be scheduled, or financial penalties might be assessed.

Turnaround time is also a consideration. If the staging staff has to return to the venue less than eight hours after working a prior shift, higher rates might be charged for subsequent hours.

For rigorous schedules that need nonstop support, your A/V provider might suggest a staggered schedule for two or more crews. The initial estimate might look excessive, but this should help you avoid paying surprise penalties and working with a tired, lackluster staff.

Some venues are under contract to trade unions such as electricians and carpenters requiring that you use their personnel. When scouting a site, ask if it is a union venue. If so, union costs are in addition to the A/V provider’s quote. Whenever equipment or props are hung or “flown” from ceilings, riggers must be brought in. Your staging company can arrange for this special labor and equipment. If the decision to rig is made after the original proposal, expect an increase in costs. Specialized labor also becomes a consideration when using fog machines or pyrotechnics.

A/V equipment often uses more power than wall outlets offer. If so, power and electricians’ charges will be added to the bill. If you are using a simple A/V setup, these costs should be minimal. But when staging a large, splashy event, power costs can be considerable.

Notify the venue in advance if you expect to need additional power, and try to negotiate it as part of the initial contract. Your A/V specialist can estimate the power needs at the request for proposal stage.

Some venues have in-house A/V suppliers; they or the venue itself might charge extra to use another A/V company. Ask about these fees in advance. They often are negotiable.

On-site schedule and equipment changes can be a money pit for planners. To control these charges, start by giving only one or two people the authority to approve on-site charges, and make sure there is signed documentation to support each change. A good paper trail is essential.

To minimize on-site equipment additions, get written verification of each presenter’s A/V requirements prior to the event.

Deborah Wilson is a certified technical specialist and marketing coordinator for the rental and staging group MCSi, based in Dayton, Ohio.

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