Meeting Mentor Magazine

June 2024

Are You Budgeting Enough for AV?

Audiovisual technology rental and services historically have been at the top of the most-expensive-yet-must-have lists for meetings and event planners for years. In a Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) survey 10 years ago, AV already was second only to food and beverage on the budgetary line-item list.

And it hasn’t gotten any less expensive since then. The events AV market has been changing lately, both in terms of general business actions such as mergers and acquisitions — think the consolidation of PSAV and Encore — and pandemic-related downsizing of smaller, independent AV companies. Like the hospitality business, AV providers also have lost personnel to other industries over the course of the COVID-related downturn in in-person events, which in turn meant less business for AV companies that weren’t able to quickly jump on the virtual/hybrid bandwagon.

Some AV providers also may find themselves needing to ramp up their offerings after halting new purchases during the live-meeting hiatus of the past few years. Audiovisual tech advances still march on, however, which means AV providers are having to spend more, and more quickly, on technology upgrades as business comes roaring back. And with the skyrocketing costs of raw materials nowadays, AV equipment is pricier than it used to be — even screens and video projectors now cost anywhere from 15% to 50% more than they used to.

Even transporting AV equipment is more costly nowadays. Not only have AV providers, along with the rest of the public, been dealing with the volatile gas prices that have been driving up trucking costs, but the trucking industry also has been struggling to attract and retain drivers to get all that equipment to a show. In fact, an analysis of driver wages and benefits data compiled by The National Transportation Institute found that rapidly rising wages are a top trend, even for newbies. “Drivers with just one year of experience in late 2022 are earning more than the highest paid drivers in late 2018,” according to a report on drivemyway.com.

The upshot is that planners in 2023 can expect to see AV costs that are at least 25% higher than they were pre-pandemic, according to Animatic Media’s Hot Trends newsletter.

“If you want to keep your events apples-to-apples based on your pre-pandemic needs you will need to increase your budgets. This isn’t even so much about renegotiating with your trusted vendor partners, it’s a true adjustment to be made. AV vendors and rental companies simply cannot absorb the hard increased cost of labor, equipment and transportation.” The company added that it expects to see this adjustment continue until at least the middle of 2023.

So what’s a planner to do? If you don’t have that extra flexibility in your budget to absorb the costs, you likely will have to scale back a bit, perhaps by using fewer screens and cameras during general sessions, repurposing the already-set general session ballroom for breakouts as well — especially those you plan to livestream and/or record for later replay — and limiting the AV-intensive breakouts to just a few rooms that remain set up to handle them. Maybe you can cut down on AV transportation costs by buying and bringing your own equipment or having your production company rent from the in-house AV provider or another local source.

You also may be able to negotiate a discount if you use the same AV company for multiple events. Talk with your AV production company to find out what they can do to get the price down, just as you would discuss menu options with catering. They may come up with some ideas that they’ve used with other events that could help keep your event AV more affordable. And to keep from being hit with additional charges after the fact, Endless Events has this suggestion: “Before you sign an AV contract, ask your vendor ‘Is this everything you need, and as long as I don’t change anything on site, can you confirm that the final invoice will equal my quote?’ We cannot stress the importance of asking this question enough. You need to make sure you feel 100% confident that nothing should change. Make sure the quotation includes all the equipment you need, and we usually recommend a backup microphone and projector too. If you do this and don’t change anything on site, you should not expect any additional charges.”

For much more on how to save on AV and production, see tech guru Brandt Krueger’s column in the Spring issue of MeetingMentor.

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About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 4,400+ associations, corporations, and sporting authorities through our 400+ global associates. www.conferencedirect.com

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually. www.meetingmentormag.com

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