I was talking to a friend who is also in the audio visual rental business who tells me that in order to become in-house AV for some of the better hotels, I should be prepared to give them up to 60% of the AV rentals and labor if I intended on bidding to become in-house, at all. To my great fortune, robbery was never my game and I had no intention of taking my business to the hotels so that we could simultaneously stick it to the customer.
Negotiate Out the High Cost of Hotel AV
As a member of many message boards where event planners gather, I know all too well that the best event planners know how to negotiate out the ridiculous pricing on audio visual rentals. Simply put, let the hotel know up-front that you will be taking bids on your audio visual equipment and the in-house Av will be able to bid, also.
Many hotels consider wiFi and rigging a MUST HAVE and require the in-house AV handle that. While you may opt to agree with their terms, dicker on the price. Expect to pay upwards of $1500 for wiFi with the hotel. If you have to have some rigging done, at least, negotiate how much you'll pay.
In-House Labor vs Outside Labor
Don't forget the labor! Depending on the destination city, labor prices for an AV technician in most cities should cost no more than $60 per hour. Like most vendors, we charge by day rate or half-day rate which works out to be about $30 - $40 an hour. Prices for hotel AV technicians are upwards of $150 an hour depending on destination. Prices also vary if the hotel is a union hotel or not. The best thing to do if you are planning on only using labor is to ask before signing the contract.
Finding an AV Vendor
Anyone who has ever had an AV catastrophe can tell you, do your homework on vendors! A simple Google search can reveal quite a lot. Is there a website? Do they seem to have a web presence on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter? How long have they been in business? How fast do they respond to a query from their website or email? And always call and trust your instincts.
Questions to ask:
1. Do you own all your gear? (If they do, your ability to get the gear at discounted prices just got better)
2. What brand names do you use for: Projectors? Speakers? Microphones? (Listen for brand names like Eiki, Panasonic, shure, QSC, Meyer, Behringer, etc).
3. Do you have laptops? PCs? or Macs?
Use your good judgement and your own equipment list to determine your questions. A good AV vendor is happy to provide you with a copy of their insurance certification, an EIN letter from the IRS (not just a W-9 or the number itself) and an equipment list or a list of the most common rentals. If you are unable to secure these 3 items, keep looking for a vendor!
ASK FOR FREEBIES
Some vendors are great at managing an event but own no gear. Expect that they must cross-rent the gear from an equipment provider which means they have no ability to give you a freebie. Of vendors who own their own gear, ask for a freebie. For example, let's say you have a general session and 11 break out rooms to equip. Ask if you can get a little up lighting in the ballroom comped or the 11th break out room comped. Vendors with their own equipment are able to do a little extra for you which is always nice! If they give you 10 battery operated up lights, you just added tremendous ambiance to your room and saved yourself upwards of $500.