Basic Audio Visual Training For Event Planning
Event planners don’t often consider the technical knowledge they require to run an event, and let’s be honest, it can be overwhelming when we think about audio visual (aka A/V) for our event planning needs.
You want your event to be professional, no matter how big or small it is, and some basic audio visual training will help you navigate the world of technology so even the basic information doesn’t sound like a foreign language.
The first event I planned on my own was hosted by HGTV and featured home building expert, Mike Holmes from the hit TV show Holmes on Homes, and Home Depot was the sponsor. It was an outdoor event with a large tent (roughly 40′ x 80′) so our audio visual wishlist was very important and special requirements were needed so 300+ people could hear and see Mike Holmes and the other featured guests when they were on stage. We also had to take into consideration that we were outdoors and rain was forecasted for the day — and it was rainy and windy that day!
At that point I didn’t have any audio visual training and relied heavily on the tech guys that I hired (and trusted!) to make sure all the details were worked out. Thankfully it was a success, but looking back it was in my best interest to get the training I needed before the event so the whole process ran smoothly and I could stay within my client’s budget.
It’s easy for details to fall through the cracks when you don’t have the experience or knowledge you need, including getting basic audio visual training, before you’re in front of your clients. Learning the basics goes a long way in making sure your event is professionally run.
Audio Visual Training
In today’s episode of EventPlanning BlueprintTV, Will Curran from Endless Entertainment is teaching you basic audio visual training and in this video, you’ll learn:
- What kind of screens you need for your event
- What common mistakes event planners make when hiring audio visual companies
- How to save money on audio visual when planning an event
- How to read a quote from an audio visual company
- 5 tips all event planners MUST know about audio visual, and more…
I have a question for you…
If the world of A/V has you feeling overwhelmed, what’s one thing you learned from this audio visual training that surprised you?
I look forward to hearing from you, but remember, links to other videos or posts will be removed because they appear as spam!
Melanie: Hi, it’s Melanie at EventPlanning BlueprintTV, the place to be for those who want to grow and build their event planning business. Thanks for joining me for another episode of EventPlanning BlueprintTV. Today, I’m sitting down with Will Curran from Endless Entertainment, and we’re going to be talking about the basics of AV – audio/visual and audio visual training. So if you have trouble or you don’t know the terms around AV and you need to know it for your events or maybe you just need a brush-up on the knowledge you do have, then this is the episode for you. So let’s get into it and start learning. Hey event planners, I’m here with Will Curran from Endless Entertainment. Hey Will.
Will: Hey Melanie.
Melanie: Welcome back to EventPlanning BlueprintTV.
Will: Thank you so much for having me. It’s always a pleasure to be here for sure.
Melanie: I’m really, really glad that you came back because Will is the master of AV, and we’ve done some more in-depth conversations about AV, but today what we want to do is we want to talk about the basics, so we really want to get down to that AV 101. So Will, let’s just get right into it because, well, just because. Let’s do it. So I just want to ask you a few questions, because I know a lot of people out there, when it comes to getting their AV for their event, whether it’s a small event or even a large event that they’re putting on, it’s really daunting because you’ve got all these terms you might not understand. There are a whole lot of choices. You have people trying to sell you things that you may or may not need. So let’s just start off with three mistakes that event planners make when it comes to AV.
Will: Yeah, absolutely. So AV is probably, I would say, the most confusing thing to planners when it comes to events, because it’s the one area that most people don’t have any experience with, unless they’re an IT-based person or they were in a band when they were young. There are definitely some confusing aspects to it. I’d say one of the biggest mistakes when it comes to the basic AV, when it comes to these things, is definitely the screens. The visual portion of the event is one of the things that I see that gets ruined at a lot of events. And one of the simplest things is definitely the aspect ratio of the screens that get chosen. The aspect ratio is basically whether you have wide screen versus a more standard square 4×3 aspect ratio. So it’s basically 16×9 versus 4×3. I’ve noticed that at a lot of events that don’t really have a full AV production, they can be quickly mistaken and mixed up. So for example, let’s say you plan on having some really great presenters come in. You might have them bring in a 16×9 presentation, but it might be on a 4×3 screen. So you’re not utilizing being able to take advantage of their beautiful widescreen presentation. And then vice versa. I’ve also seen it where you might pay a lot of extra money to go HD or to go 16×9, but then almost all your presentations are 4×3 aspect ratios. So make sure that across the board, all your presenters have the same aspect ratios for all their screens, so just decide whether you want a 4×3 or 16×9. Tell all your presenters to do it that way and tell you AV Company what you plan on having as well. Typically 4×3 in standard definition is cheaper than high definition 16×9, but definitely, as everyone knows with high definition TVs, high definition just looks a lot better. So that’s a really big mistake I definitely see. Another mistake that I see is just definitely working with an AV company, to see their previous work, to see the quality of their attention to detail for sure. A lot of times when it comes to the AV, it’s one of those things where you assume that they are going to tidy up the cables. You’re going to assume that they’re going to make it look really, really good, that they’re going to make it sound perfect. Sometimes, some AV companies, they can let things slip and it seems like they’re saying, “Hey, I can just do it the easy way rather than the hard way.” So I definitely recommend talking to your AV Company and saying, “Hey, can I see some pictures of your events. Can I go to one of your events? Do you have any video testimonials that show me your events?” And you can definitely see, when a company has attention to detail, when they’re not putting cables everywhere hanging down looking like a mess and everything like that. So definitely check into their attention to detail for sure. And if I could pick one more mistake, let me see if I can come up with a really good one. I think one big mistake that happens with AV companies especially, because they definitely like to stay in the background. They typically wear black shirts, black pants. They don’t want to be seen. They just want to be invisible ninjas in the background that do everything. Definitely, sometimes it’s easy to forget about your AV Company from the human side of thing. So when you’re working with your AV company, remember they are just like you. They need to eat. They want to rest. They love to socialize, everything like that. So one of the great ways to get your AV Company to bend backwards and do everything for you is to take care of all their meals, for example. I have an event coming up this next week, and I can tell you that the clients said, “Hey, we’re going to have meals for you when you load in, during the midway through load in, during the event, everything like that, after load out. We’ve got your meals all taken care of for you guys so you don’t have to go out and find food, pay for food, everything like that.” Typically we’re used to paying for food for our own, but when they took care of that one little small thing, just paying for our staff’s food, we are like we’ll do anything. We’ll set up longer so we can make sure everything is perfect. We’ll go the extra mile, and it’s just because the client had our backs so we have theirs as well. So find special ways to acknowledge and just say hi to the stagehands and technicians and they’ll definitely go backwards for you.
Melanie: Yeah, I love that for a number of reasons. I think it’s really important to take care of your team and your AV is part of your team, but the other reason is that if you’re just new to AV and it’s something that’s really scary to you, and you take care of them, they’re going to teach you. So you’ll be more inclined to stay on board and make sure all the cords are tied down or put away properly or taped down so people aren’t tripping over them or whatever it is, but you can also learn a lot more from your team, which can go a long way. So that third one was my favorite for sure, because it just works for everybody.
Will: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Melanie: And so just going back to your points one and two, how much time should you give yourself to coordinate your AV, especially if you’re just getting started?
Will: Oh, definitely the sooner the better, I think. One big thing is that I think a big mistake, and we should definitely talk about it a little later is just that people assuming that AV is very, very expensive. A lot of times, if you give yourself a lot of time, you can factor the AV budget into your total budget, for sure. And a lot of times, I always say it’s always good to get your vendors in order first before you start planning your event, primarily like picking your venue, picking your dates and everything like that, because your vendors are definitely a resource for you. We want to teach you how to do things. We want to help you find the secrets to saving money. We want to make your life easier. So getting us in earlier rather than later, like even before you have your venue, sometimes we can even help you negotiate fees on your behalf for the venue as well, because we have so much experience in that, so getting in early is definitely something huge to do for sure, as much time as possible. I wish I could say six months, like say an exact time, but it also depends on how complex your event is. I have some events that take a year to plan, and you’re literally years out on getting these things taken care of. And I have some events where I get a call a day before an event, like, “We need this X, Y and Z,” and I’m always happy to take care of them from that perspective as well. So I’m definitely more of the sooner the better, and I flip the script when it comes to the ordering of your planning. Get your vendors in early.
Melanie: Okay, cool. So vendors first and then you can work on the AV and get your stuff sorted out.
Will: Yeah, exactly.
Melanie: And what do you think about, say you don’t have a lot of experience and you want to go to an AV company and you haven’t established that relationship yet, what about being really honest with them, so you’re like, “Hey, look. This is my first event or my third event. I don’t have a lot of experience with AV. Can you help walk me through this?” because there’s always that fine line of not wanting to be taken advantage of as well, but also learning. So can you speak to that.
Will: Yeah, oh my gosh. I love when planners are very, very honest and they say, “I don’t really know what I’m doing. I’ve never booked AV before.” A lot of times, some people come in and they try to act like they know everything that they’re doing, so us as an AV company, we don’t want to offend them by walking through the quote line by line and anything like that, but sometimes a client would really, really appreciate some extra hand-holding for sure. And I find that it’s really quick to be able to see if you’re being taken advantage of. You catch people in lies really, really quickly, and that ultimately, while an AV company is a company – they want to maximize revenue, they want to try to increase profits – ultimately they know that especially if you’re doing a multi-event, like multiple events in a row, that if they take care of you once, you’re going to come back. So that’s the ultimate way that they’re going to get more revenue for sure. But I think definitely being honest and saying, “I don’t know,” eventually it’s going to arm you to make the right decision. So for example, we do this, we actually walk our clients line by line and say, “Hey, this is a VRX-932 LLAP. That means it’s a linear speaker. When you tack them on top of each other, you can cover a large area.” We’ll explain all these things, because then what happens is for example, let’s say you’re going out and getting another bit, you can be even better armed and understanding the difference between all the different quotes and everything like that for sure. If you’re being taken advantage of, usually it’s the fact where they say, “Here’s the quote. Good luck. See you later,” and kind of hope for the best that you’re going to not ask questions or anything like that. But when you ask questions and you say, “Hey, I don’t know what this is,” you’re going to get the right information and make the right decisions.
Melanie: Right, and that’s a good point and I think it kind of speaks to being engaged in what you’re doing and being proactive and making sure you want to learn, not only for yourself but for your clients moving forward.
Will: Absolutely, I totally 100 percent agree with that.
Melanie: That’s cool. Thanks for that. That was just something that came to mind when you were talking about the points that event planners typically make when it comes to AV. So on the flip side, what are five things that any event planner should absolutely know about AV?
Will: Oh definitely. There are a couple of things that are universal, because what’s tough about AV is that it’s aligned with technology and technology is moving so fast. So I could say, “Hey, you need to know about this new XYZ technology and why it’s awesome, but this XYZ in about a year later, it’s going to be out of date. So there are just some basic things that have not changed over a long period of time. So for example, understanding the difference between different video connections is very, very important, especially because, yes, there are so many things on AD that you’re not even going to have to worry about. For example, what is the cross over limit for a subwoofer to a top speaker, you’re never going to have to know that. We’re not going to have to tell you that. But connectors are important because you’re going to be talking to your presenters and tell them what kind of laptops to bring, what kind of adapters they need to bring. When you’re going up there to play your presentation, you need to know exactly what you need to do. So when it comes to understanding video connectors, you need to understand the difference between, for example, VGA, DVI, HDMI and display port, or mini display port. And there are tons of articles on this. If you search “Video Connectors 101” on Google, there are tons of blogs on this sort of stuff, but understanding the difference specifically, especially right now if we’re talking in 2015, difference between VGA and HDMI. We have a lot of events where VGA is like the more standard blue connector that has all the little pins inside of it that you connect into your computer monitor. HDMI is like what you plug into the back of your TV, like what you plug your PS4 into a TV, or a Blu-Ray player. A lot of laptops are now phasing out VGA, but then there are still a lot of laptops that still use VGA. And what’s really important is to know the difference that they don’t make an adapter that allows you to change HDMI to VGA. A lot of people think there is, but it doesn’t exist. I promise you. But making sure you have both of those, as an option at your event will probably cover both bases and 90 percent of your options. And then asking your AV Company to bring a ton of adapters. Very important. So that’s one really, really important thing. Understanding the difference in microphones is a pretty important thing as well. A lot of times our clients come to us and say, “I need five microphones.” Well there are handheld microphones, which are more like a handheld. You have the difference between wired and wireless. You have lav mics, which is like a clip-on mic. You have the earpiece microphones, which come down, which look like what the rock stars wear where you have a little piece coming down the side of your face. You have tons of different microphones for sure. So making sure you have what’s right for your scenario is very important. So for example, if a presenter needs to move his hands around a lot, going with a lav or an earpiece microphone is important. However, if you want to get really, really clean audio, maybe a handheld is. Well maybe if you try to really save money, maybe going down to wired if the person doesn’t need to move around a lot. And that’s something to always keep in mind when it comes to events, understanding the difference in microphones and their applications for events.
Melanie: And also talking to your client about what they prefer.
Will: Yeah, exactly, and the presenters as well because I’ve had it where a presenter shows up and they’re like, “All right, so you have that lav mic for me,” and the client ordered all handhelds and sometimes they’re lucky that we pack an extra lav mic with us just in case, but sometimes we’re not lucky and it’s not on our shelf. So it’s just something to keep in mind. Other things that you absolutely have to know about AV, I think you need to know the importance of lighting for an event. A lot of times when it comes to, we were talking about earlier just lighting for video, we put a couple of extra lights in here to make sure we look really, really good on camera. It’s the same way when you’re on stage. And making sure you think about what the optical use it. For example, sometimes just having some basic up-lighting on stage in the background make it pop a little more, make it a little cooler. But I’ve had a lot of presenters, a lot of events where you have a presentation that they need show. Well they want to save a lot of money so they get a lower brightness projector, and because of that, they turn on the houselights to 100 percent, because they want to make it really bright in there, but it completely washes out the screen. We’ve all been there. We can’t see the screen. We’re all like, “Why is this so hard to see?” Sometimes it’s as simple as if you want to save a little bit of money, instead of going up to a brighter projector and turning all the houselights on, consider turning off the lights or dimming them down and getting some stage lighting. We call it stage wash. Think about wash just as a general lighting for the stage. Something important to keep in mind is the brightness of those lights as well. Sometimes they’ll just throw some lights on there. Make sure you ask them, “Will this be too bright for my presenters to see?” It’s just a simple thing to keep in mind when it comes to your AV, but consider doing some lighting for your event, whether it’s making it look a little cooler, making it so you can see the presenters and not have to get too bright of a projector, that’s very, very important. Let’s see, that’s number three, right?
Will: Number four of simple things you need to know about your AV – I think that understanding the importance of having an AV company provide the laptop is sometimes very, very important, and understanding what is a good laptop to use for a presentation and what is not a good laptop. If you’re having your presenters bring their own laptops and plug in and you’re just looking for a simple AV setup, I say do that all day long. However, if you’re planning on making it a very theatrical transition, you need to have a slide up in between presenters or things like that, I definitely just recommend having the AV company provide the laptop and telling your presenters to bring it on a thumb drive. Or even better yet, tell them to give it to the AV Company a week before the presentation just so they can make sure they can test it all and get it ready to go.
Melanie: That’s a great piece of advice.
Will: A lot of times, I’ve had clients bring laptops and they just crash. And I would love to say that I could fix a laptop in 30 seconds and take it apart and rebuild it back together, but sometimes that’s just not possible. We’re going to do what we can to fix it, but definitely sometimes it’s just a matter of, “Hey, we’re going to bring our own laptops. Have your presenters send their presentations early. We’re going to test them. It’s all good to go,” and then you’re hands off. And plus, everyone likes that too because it’s less of a concern of plugging in this, making sure they have this. And a lot of times too, if they’re providing laptops, you don’t have to worry about the adapters and cables and everything like that.
Melanie: True, it’s all done for you and it’s simple and it’s less chaotic on the day of the event.
Will: Absolutely. I’d say the last thing I’d say to keep in mind when it comes to your event is definitely, and I want to pick a really, really good one here, I think it’s the layout and the effect of that on the AV is very, very important. Talk to your AV Company and make sure they see your layout; they see where you’re planning on putting things. It’s very, very simple to understand that sometimes, for example, I’ll show you how a layout can affect projection. I’ve had an event where they picked a really small room. They want to pack everyone in it. They want to save a lot of money and they also want to make it feel like a tight room. Well they planned to have a table right in front of and to the left to the right of the stage. Well we were planning on doing mirror projection screens, and because of that, we had to move the projector screens back against the wall and then project on the front, and it was a little more chaotic than it could have been. It was a little bit crazier. And so making sure you say, “Hey, this is where we’re planning on putting everything,” and making sure that’s to scale as well is sometimes very important. But using a software, for example, Social Tables, or asking your AV company to put together the plot or asking the hotel to put together the plot, just making sure that everybody’s on the same page and that everyone agrees upon what’s being done there is very, very, very important. So there are other ways that can affect it, for example, audio, different lighting scenarios, where are you going to put the AV techs that are controlling everything? There are a lot of things that affect the layout. I read a really great article, ironically, on Social Tables blogs about how AV affects a layout and the questions you have to ask your AV Company about layout. So feel free to Google that article. It was super-duper helpful, but make sure you are all on the same page. It’s one of the basics.
Melanie: Awesome, and communication is obviously key when it comes to creating the right AV or having the right AV for your event, not only with your AV company and your event, but your speakers as well and your presenters. And so when you’re ordering the AV, is there a checklist that is created or will the AV company give it to you so that, especially when you’re just getting started, you know I need A, B, C, D, E kinds of things? Is there a really simple way for event planners to make sure they have everything they need?
Will: Well so we created a checklist, so you always search “AV planning checklist” online.
Melanie: I will put a link to that one below.
Will: Yes, super awesome, helpful. However, if you are not lucky enough to download that guide or that doesn’t have everything, as time evolves, our guide obviously isn’t going to auto-update itself, but the one thing that I totally, 100 percent recommend is that you sit down and you have at least a 30 minute to an hour-long conversation with the AV company before they build your quote. A lot of times, we get a lot of clients that shoot us over an email that says, “I need AV. I need this many microphones, this many speakers and it’s going to be at this venue.” Well it turns out that venue has 50 rooms. I don’t know what type of microphone, like we talked about earlier, that you need. I need to know if you’re planning on doing anything else. So I always ask clients, “Hey, let’s get on the phone. Let’s get on Google Hangout. Let’s talk through this,” because not only are there specific things I want to ask you on a detail-oriented level, but also there are the things I want to let you know all about me as an AV company. I want to know about your vision. What do you want to do, because for example, you could say, “We need five microphones,” but in reality, there’s only going to be one time where there’s going to be five people on stage. Well maybe we can talk about saving you a couple hundred dollars and get one microphone and maybe everyone will be willing to pass the microphone. Those sorts of things are the things I’m going to be able to talk to you about. Is budget important to you or is looking good really important to you? Is there a key, critical thing that has to go absolutely perfect and has to be amazing? We’re going to talk through this whole entire thing. And a lot of times too, as well, we are going to basically walk you through the quote and ask you all those questions that you get everything. For example, when we go through and somebody talks about a more typical AV for a more corporate event, we’re going to say, “Hey, tell me a little bit more about your presenters. What are they doing? Okay, are they going to need a confidence monitor, for example, a screen in front of the stage so they can see the presentation rather than turn their head at the back of the stage to look at the screen? Is having a timer so they know they need to get off stage really important?” We’re going to ask these sorts of questions and make sure everything is included. But sometimes when you’re saying, “Hey, I need a quote by the end of the day. Here’s five details and figure it out,” we have to guess. Sometimes, for example, this can cause you to spend more money on AV as well because we’re going to put things on there that we think are going to make the experience great, but you may have already said, “I don’t need a confidence monitor. I don’t need a timer.” And if we’re coming in and putting all that stuff on there that we think is going to make it run smoother and you say, “I don’t need that,” well it’s going to make us look way more expensive to you. So having that conversation can really get us all on the same page. Again, communication is so key, and plus, again, we’re all people and we love working with other people, so if you get on the phone with us, we’re going to get to see your face, we’re going to get to know you. You’re not just Joe Schmoe asking for a quote. You are Melanie asking for the quote, and it’s harder for me to say, “Oh no, I’m going to say no to Melanie.” Instead, I’m going to be willing to work with you because you were on the phone with me. I trust you. We’re going to get this done.
Melanie: Yeah, much easier to have that conversation and figure out what exactly you need. Cool, thanks for that. So let’s just say it comes time to ordering the AV and you may be really confused about it. So should you hire somebody to help you?
Will: That’s a really, really, really good question. I see a lot of clients, for example, who hire third party people to order the AV or they ask an IT person to take care of the AV for them and everything like that. I don’t think that’s necessary a lot of times. Unless you are planning an event on the scale of there are specific cues that I have launch, the CO2 has to go off with the confetti while this video plays while the CEO comes over while the lights go all the way up, and it starts to get with the cueing and the details get beyond you, where you have to plan a million other things. However, if you’re doing something really, really simple, I don’t think it’s really necessary. In fact, I believe that the AV Company should be that person for you. They should be the ones helping you out, giving you all the answers to all of your questions. They should be the ones that you trust to take care of you and again, get your back, take care of you on every single facet when it comes to everything. So a lot of times, like we were talking about earlier, ask the AV questions and learn from them, because yes, sometimes you don’t want to come off as not knowing anything, you’re afraid you’re going to get ripped off, but by asking questions and being on the same team, things get taken care of really, really well, and the AV person is going to take care of all those details for you. So I definitely believe that an AV company should be there, has your back. For example, we were talking about the quote walkthroughs. They should be able to explain every single line item on that quote in layman’s terms and why you need it and why it’s important. Otherwise, you’re probably trying to confuse you anyways and that’s not what you want, obviously. So definitely utilize your AV Company as your resource and as your in-house AV Company and your own team as well.
Melanie: Yeah, and so I want to backtrack a little bit because there are two types of scenarios here. You can have an in-house or an out-of-house AV company, right? So if you’re in a hotel, for example, they typically have their own in-house AV Company that they work with, and you have to work with them by renting the venue, that particular venue. Are there any scenarios where you would need their in-house plus you’d be able to hire an out-of-house as well? Those will probably be typically larger events.
Will: Definitely. I always tell people don’t ever feel like you have to have your hand forced into using an in-house AV company. There are definitely scenarios where you can use just the out-house AV company. If you’re looking to do a mix, there are definitely scenarios where, for example, I’ve seen a lot of events where they let the in-house AV company take care of all the simple AV, like the breakout rooms, the flip charts and all that simple stuff, and then they leave the out-house company, who’s a little bit more creative, who’s a little bit more excited, I guess you’d say, to do all the big stage elements. I’ve seen that for a lot of big events for sure. However, definitely don’t feel like your hand has to be forced into using in-house AV companies. A lot of times now, whether you’re signing up with the venue and then all of a sudden they’re highly suggesting you use their in-house AV company, a.k.a. they’re just going to keep saying you have to, but then if you read their contract, you realize you don’t, there’s definitely some scenarios where in fact through fees at you. For example, I’ve seen it where if you book a hotel and then you sign their contract and then you say, “Okay, I’m bringing in Endless Entertainment,” they go, “Okay great, well we’re going to charge you for a baby sitter to watch…” Well we call them babysitters. They’re in-house AV liaisons, or we call babysitters. “We’re going to have someone babysit you during load-in and load-out. We’re going to charge you for power. We’re going to charge you a dock fee. We’re going to charge you an elevator fee. Oh and by the way, we’re also going to charge you 20 percent of what it costs for them to be here.” And it’s ridiculous and clients absolutely hate it, obviously, because maybe they have a long-standing relationship with us and they want to work with us, or maybe they just don’t like the in-house AV Company for whatever reason. Every single scenario, there’s a way to get out it. The way you get out of it is to go back and flip the script, and to get the in-house AV company involved before you pick your venue, because we know what venues are the hardest to work with, and for example, we wrote a guide on our website, which I’m sure Melanie will link below, called “How to Remove In-house AV Restrictions,” and it’s a two-part little chunk of text. One you can put in your RFP that you’re requesting for your quote, saying, “Hey, whatever you put in here, I need to know if you’re going to charge me for using an out-house AV company, but I don’t want to be charged for any of this XYZ,” and it basically removes that. And obviously if they send in a quote like that, it’s saying, “Hey, we’ll let you use an out-house AV company with no fees.” And the second part is putting it in your contract when you sign the venue’s quotes, and this removes all of it. We’ve seen venues get a little more creative. Sometimes it gets crazier, but the big thing is, know that you have a choice, and know that you need to confirm you have a choice before you even pick that venue, because a lot of times it’s really, really easy to just kind of go with the flow and realize, “Oh my gosh, I have all these fees now to pay for having this out-house AV company.”
Melanie: Right, which can really mess up your budget.
Will: Yeah, it can really mess with your budget for sure. We want you to have the ultimate choice because ultimately, we want you to pick what’s best for your event, whether it’s an in-house company of whether it’s like Endless, which is an out-house, we just want you to have a choice.
Melanie: Yeah, that’s a good point. And it also brings up another point about the negotiating side of it and making sure you read your contracts and knowing what you can and can’t negotiate on. So like Will said, I will put those on the blog post, I’ll link to his articles in my blog post, so head on over there to get those. But the other thing is that I wanted to mention – it slipped my mind for a second, so we’ll move on – oh, I was going to say comparing apples to apples versus apples to oranges, especially when I got started and before I built relationships with my key vendors, what I would always do is get three to five quotes, but I would make sure that they’re the same kind of quotes, so I’d have that same kind of conversation. It does take a little bit of time at the beginning, because if you’re having half-hour to an hour conversations with three to five different companies, that’s going to take a little time, but in the end, it’s going to help out so much and it’s going to save you so much time moving forward.
Will: Absolutely. I agree 100 percent with the apples to apples portion. We see a lot of those, especially those hour-long conversations that you’re having, you’re able to see that there is a difference between a hundred-dollar speaker and 50-dollar speaker and all those things like that. And sometimes I realize that AV is definitely one of those things where if you’re going in apples to apples and you really want to work with Endless, we’re slightly more expensive than someone else, but we’re coming in and willing to bend over backwards to get a client to make sure that you’re really, really happy as well. So definitely make sure quotes are apples to apples.
Melanie: Absolutely. And the other thing is it’s not always about money. Sometimes the relationship is going to be that much easier because you just work well together and that can be worth paying a little bit more money for, because it’ll save you so many other things like headaches or times, and often it’ll save you money in the end anyways, because if you don’t have that working relationship, those fees can add up. Because we had talked about saving money and I don’t always like making things about money all the time because I think value isn’t necessarily aligned with monetary issues, so what about when it does come time to save money, how can we save some money on AV?
Will: Absolutely. I think first that your needs are 100 percent in the quote, so like really talking through exactly what you need, we talked a lot about my tips to save a lot of money. One big thing, like you were talking about with the relationship end of things, build a relationship with your AV Company, with all of your vendors in fact, not just your AV Company. And even if you’re using a vendor once, you never know when you’re going to use them again for sure. And to get to you point, I was talking to one of my clients and we were talking about how a lot of times, when you just pay full price for something, a lot of times, they’re willing to throw a lot of extra value in for you. So if you are able to get something within a budget, don’t just assume that getting a discount is the only way I’m going to get maximum value out of this. A lot of times when things aren’t paid for and everything’s taken care of, you can go home realizing that everything’s going to be taken care of. And also, when a lot of times our whole budget meetings, we noticed we have some profits show, we feel we can really take care of the client and there’s going to be no issues. And I always find on my end, even when I hire other vendors, when you pay full price, things always just run smoother. For whatever reason it is, but whenever there’s a discount involved, things just don’t work as well.
Melanie: Well it has to be a win-win for everybody, right? So if you’re trying to get someone down to and it goes for an event planner who their client is trying to negotiate services for them, well if you’re feeling like you’re getting ripped off, you’re not as inclined to do a good job. It makes it much more difficult to feel like you want to do a good job. So it goes across the board.
Will: Absolutely. And when it comes to saving more money on the AV portion as well, understanding the different levels of equipment as well, so for example, there really is, even though every company brings great gear, they take care of it, everything like that, there’s definitely more expensive versions of everything for sure. And so really talking through and being like, “Okay, why do I need this specific piece of equipment?” And then they’re going to talk through features and benefits and what it’s going to do and how it’s going to make your experience better. You can always ask the question and say, “If I’m looking to save a little money, is there a thing available that has less features, that doesn’t have recording, that doesn’t have a digital version?” So for example, the digital version of a mixing audio console versus an analog version. We’re always going to put digital because digital sounds better. If you want to save money, we can always do an analog version as well. So understand the gear and always ask questions. And the one thing that I always find that if you’re looking to save money and you’re on a budget, just tell them what you need to come into. Don’t do like blind bids, blind bit it and then expect that everyone’s going to fight to the death to get you the lowest quote. Just say, “Hey, I’ve seen Endless. I’ve worked with you. I have this quote. I like it. I want it. It has everything I need, but I really need to get to this number.” And if you say that, we’re going to say, “I’ll be right back.” We’re going to go crunch our numbers, we’re going to talk about it and we’re going to say yes or no. It’s going to save you way more money and time than saying, “Oh here, let me get that bid and give it back to the other AV company and then they’re going to come up with a bid,” and also, that really hurts our feelings as well, because we feel like we’re commoditized, and we just feel, “Are we really given the value that we really are.”
Melanie: Yeah, I really like that point a lot because it really does just come down to value, and you don’t want somebody else to do that to you, so why would you do that to your event planners?
Will: I agree 100 percent.
Melanie: Excellent point. That’s good. Are there any other ways that you can think of?
Will: I mean definitely going back to that relationship portion, I always find that when you really do take care of your AV company and buy them meals and things like that, for example, I had an event where things were going really, really great and they were like, “Oh my gosh, these projectors are just not bright enough. We need it,” and that saves you money rather than being charged a second time for projectors or whatever it may be, so definitely, the relationship is just huge, especially in the AV portion. And I think the last, last tip for saving a lot of money on AV is definitely taking your time on the quotes. I always find that when we’re rushed, “I need this by this date. I need this XYZ,” we’re going to feel commoditized. So when we have our time to really think through the issues and talk through things, a lot of times as well, you can talk to the in-house AV company about, but if you’re talking to them about fees a week before the event, they can put you in a chokehold and say, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing we can really do,” because they know you need to do it, whereas if you have the time and you have the choices, ultimately people are going to be willing to work with you.
Melanie: Well thank you so much. There was so much amazing information in here and as I mentioned at the beginning of the video, Will and I have done a couple of other training sessions, so if you want something a little more advanced, you can have a look on our YouTube channel and I’ll put a link to that one too so you can go straight there, so I’ll link to that in my blog post just under this video. So I just want to recap because a couple of things have really stood out to me and I know they’ll be different for different people, and I’d love to hear from you what you think are the top one, two or three things from this conversation, but for me, I think it really came down to taking care of the AV Company and treat them as part of the team. Communication is also key, just being open to saying, “Hey, I don’t know what this means or what that means. Can you help walk me through this?” Also communicating with your clients and or speakers if you have them, or entertainers, see what they need. And the third one is educating yourself and being open to it by getting audio visual training. So those are the three things that stood out to me in this conversation. Do you have any that you want to highlight before we sign off?
Will: Yeah, so if you guys are looking to learn more about AV, and I talked about a bunch of guides we’ve written and blog posts that we’ve written already. I definitely recommend checking out our blog for sure. We’ve got so much stuff on there. You’ve seen the resources. We have a resource section full of webinars and things like that for you guys to check out. We’d love for you to check it out. And I definitely recommend things like our AV planning checklist is huge. It’s got a lot of our dirty tips and tricks that we’ve kind of picked up over the years as far as things you can understand with AV. Some of the tips we talked about are actually in it. I also recommend “How to Remove In-house AV Restrictions” guide that we wrote. That includes those things you can do to remove those restrictions.
Melanie: Thanks for joining us. I hope you learned a lot. If you have any questions about AV, Will and I would love to hear from you, so go ahead and ask us in the comments below. And if you liked this video and you’d like to receive more like it, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel, EventPlanning BlueprintTV. And get yourself over to eventplanningblueprint.com and sign up for our free weekly advice. I’ll see you again next week.