Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio October
Back to Basics
By Deborah Wilson
KEEPING A/V COSTS IN CHECK
The real reasons why the final bill rarely matches the
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
Good communication is the key. Bringing your staging supplier
into the planning process early can eliminate most on-site
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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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