5 Myths of using In-House A/V

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I am shamelessly stealing this post from one of the smartest women in the events & meetings business Midori Connolly. Midori has been a contributor to MeetingsPodcast from the beginning and she has said she would like to do more shows with us. She is an innovator with Green Audio Visual with her company Pulse Staging and events

I seem to have this conversation all the time with clients about using in-house AV on events. When my team is already bringing in the general session Audio Visual, the breakouts fall to the in-house A/V. I wouldn’t say always but these breakouts usually have issues and our hands are tied. As we get to know our clients better and better we can anticipate issues much earlier and make the sessions about your content not about any technical issues. (like you trust us with the general sessions) Recently I spoke at a conference and walked into the venue with my laptop and was told they did not have a projector? I asked the -in house A/V if they had one for me to use and he said he would have to call the office across town? I looked at the meeting planner and she said she thought they would have one for her? Strange situation for me to be put in. I was there as a speaker but do own a production company. (no I don’t carry A/V equipment with me) :)

I had to share Midori’s explanation of the many myths is so well written.But soon she will be back on the podcast and maybe some of her smarts will rub off on me.

5 Myths that could equal lost time and lost dollars for your live event…

Unlike most Audiovisual companies, we concluded that a big long list of our equipment is really not practical, useful knowledge for most Event Professionals (although we do have one, it’s quite extensive and available if you’re interested!). Instead, we present five myths demonstrating why you should always consult with an independent AV service provider when planning your event.

1. It will cost more if I don’t use the hotel AV service.

This is perhaps the most costly assumption you can make when choosing your AV provider. We can demonstrate several examples where you could save your client or your company hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of precious dollars. This might be through careful scheduling of labor, adapting schedules or even helping you shop and negotiate power and rigging charges at various venues.

2. My venue will not allow me to use an outside service.

Pulse Staging can help you manage this sales tactic and negotiate with your chosen locale. Frequently the in-house provider will attempt to charge for using an outside company, often referred to as a corkage fee. However, with the careful use of a simple red pen, you should be able to mark through these unfair, bullying practices that can be up to 40% of a final billing!

3. An outside AV company won’t be able to accommodate last minute changes.

Don’t let this deceptive statement fool you! Much of a hotel’s equipment, especially any specialty gear, is actually shipped from other sources. No matter the destination, the extensive network of Pulse Staging has always supplied the desired changes to the event, no matter how large or small.

4. The in-house AV company will know the venue better than anyone else.

This is where a fresh perspective becomes your advantage. Imagine designing the same set-up for the same room for the same audience day after day. Understandingly enough, the design might become slightly predictable. Pulse Staging professionals appreciate that meeting attendees need stimulation to stay focused; and their AV design reflects this.

5. The quality of service I receive will be the same as the hotel’s, and I know I will receive the same service no matter what city or state I am in.

Almost all “in-house” Audio Visual companies are actually independent agencies—not employees—of the hotel. While they might adhere to their own standard of service, there is no guarantee they match that of the hotel. Furthermore, the team of AV specialists you depend on will change with each location. Your dedicated Pulse team travels with you, no matter the distance. This means we will be able to anticipate that your CEO usually wears a silk shirt – and accordingly provide her with her own preferred microphone.

Besides these myths, there is the general concern of whether or not your Project Manager (not a sales representative, but an on-the-ground Project Manager) will be dedicated to your event. Will they be distracted with another, larger show at the same time? Will they be available by phone at 2am when you realize you need to make changes before 6am? And what about after the event? Will they travel to your debriefing to give you performance reports and insightful suggestions on how to improve the next event?

These are all serious and vital aspects of AV that any Meetings Professional must be attuned to. In times of minimal budgets requiring maximum impact, turning to a professional AV consultant could perhaps be the elusive piece to your almost-complete ROI puzzle.

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  1. says

    Michael, wow, thanks so much for deeming me worthy of stealing from :-) You are far too kind!
    I would add that I often have the same experience at my own speaking engagements. It’s always so shocking when I realize, “You mean, other AV companies don’t do that as a norm?”
    Working with a good producer and solid staging company is often the best way for a planner to achieve a boring experience – because, as we like to say, our service is so good you’ll forget us!
    Thanks again Mike, I appreciate the props.
    Midori Connolly, Chief AVGirl
    Pulse Staging and Events, Inc.

  2. says

    Haha, I am so not mad – and please feel free to use any material you’d like.
    Michael…not sure why I used that. I like the name I guess (maybe because I’m married to one?).
    Happy Holidays to you too and keep the great info coming!!

  3. says

    I want to add that choosing the right production company is key to the accuracy of the myths listed. As a former in-house man (now converted), I often saw things from the opposite perspective. We were often called upon to “save the day” for groups who did not choose well when selecting a company. We also were often the resource for last minute equipment needs when changes were made, equipment didn’t work, or something had been forgotten at the warehouse. I also saw many occasions where every last piece of gear had the sticker of an equipment rental company on it, and the labor force was from the same pool of freelancers we used for similar events.

    Not debunking the write up at all, I couldn’t agree with it more. After all, my own business is founded on the notion that working with in-house AV is unpredictable and over priced. Just saying you should choose carefully.

    • says

      Hey Colin thanks for the comment. If you talk to most any production company techie person they usually say they cut their teeth doing A/V at a hotel. My co-host for the podcast Jon Trask always refers to his time servicing clients. Actually it is a great debate on who or what you get with in-house and bringing in A/V. As a owner of a production company myself I am constantly going down this path with my clients. But that is the biz! may the best (wo)man win! Again thanks for the comment Colin!


  4. says

    Thanks for the post. It was a lot of a commercial directly for PULSE STAGING, but I did want to address both sides of the myths that you share. I agree with some of the points, but there is more of the onion to unpeel as it relates to in-house a/v. Trust that I’m not the final word on av in any way, shape, or form, but this is based on my 30 years in the industry, 26 with hotels, and 4 with my current company, Freeman.

    We travel with the majority of our customers, a la Pulse Staging and provide services on the creative/production side, as well as the equipment side. For many national organizations, at their national meetings, it does make a great deal of sense to work with the company that really knows and understands your needs.
    They should be a part of your team, a partner per se, and not just a vendor which should benefit you greatly.

    On to the myths:

    1. As a hotel exec for 26 year in addition to 4 years with Freeman, it is less expensive to use in-house audio visualin terms of pure equipment costs…as long as you are using the available in-house inventory. Most larger meeting hotels carry a good inventory of equipment. As a hotelier I can tell you the majority of session rooms are a stand/powerpoint projector & laptop, cords, screen, and surrounds. The majority meaning a little above 80%. Those aren’t going to exceed the needs of most major meeting hotels.

    But you also need to look beyond the meetings where planners are using “big tent” general sessions, where PULSE STAGING would be spending most of their time. While most associations and corporations have 1 or 2 large events, they have many, many smaller events that make it cost prohibitive to take along a PULSE STAGING to handle small meetings. In-House a/v would obviously be a better financial choice, and I would be PULSE STAGING counsels their clients accordingly.

    2. Facilities allowing outside a/v companies: In a tight economy like the present, you have more leverage to make these clauses a moot point. A facility wants you using in-house because they work with them more often, have good working relationships, and because they make a percentage of revenue. Who wouldn’t try and negotiate that into the deal?

    While they don’t “mandate” the use of in–house companies, there are many facilities that will charge patch fees and the like. In many cases, these won’t be lined out with a red pen. But, for a larger meeting where a large production/av company is traveling with you, the costs are small in terms of the overall planning, and if you can’t redline them out, the peace of mind from a partner that is anticipating challenges and needs is great compared to those charges.

    3. In-House a/v accommodating last minute changes: Again, if their inventory isn’t used up because the hotel is full with other groups beyond yours, and you are looking for standard equipment as described above, the majority of the time a full-service hotel will accommodate. A professional planner will be having questions like this on their checklist as the MPI and PCMA communities have tried to educate.

    However, nobody is a bottomless pool. The in-house av company or the national production/av company are going to reach out to the very same local vendors to supplement their inventories. On a large national event, your production/av company will have (based on history of working with you) made extensive lists of other “last minute challenges” and will bring back-up equipment usually. If they run out, they’ll get it locally, or may opt to get it locally instead of shipping it in in the first place (or in our case, we have warehouses around the country in branches where we have this).

    But again, there are other meetings beyond the larger ones. Everybody has a limited amount of equipment.

    4. The in-house company has better knowledge. This was glossed over above, but it is not defendable. Simply, they do. What is discussed above is about designing the look and feel of the event, not knowledge about the capabilities of the room and facility itself. In the majority of venues, there are contracted electrical and rigging companies who are the only ones who can work in a facility. And these are for safety, liability, as well as revenue reasons. And, as the lessee of the facility, you want many of these services performed by companies who are trained and knowledgeable.

    We work in about every convention center and hotel that hosts events throughout the year. AS often as we are there, we still have to go through our discovery process with the local teams each and every time because the locals know better. That’s not about design, it’s about knowledge of what can/can’t be done and why.

    5. Finally, the quality of the av service matching that of the hotel. Very few hotels own the av company in their hotel, and as a result, they are dependent on the committment of that company, its training in products, services, and CUSTOMER SERVICE that it provides to its customers. Facilities typically go through extensive and expensive RFP bids in hiring the in-house company, with a focus on the financial deal as well as how well a prospective partner aligns in its committments.

    Something along this line, that was not mentioned above (directly anyways), that is real important to us is this: An in-house av company works for the facility and will always have the best interest of the facility at heart. It has to be that way. A company that you hire and travels with you for complex events has your interests at heart. So, when the hotel wants to tear down a set early, squeeze you on set-up time/tear down time in order to book other business, the in-house av team will work to help the hotel. Your company will represent and protect your interests.

    No doubt that a national production/av company that is part of your team is the best solution for larger and more complex events. A national brand, like Freeman or others, has experienced and well train professionals who know your business and have your best interests…not the facilities best interests…at heart.

    We also have divisions that provide in-house av for facilities and work very hard to do a good job representing and working with the facility to provide good customer service to its customers, and a good return on investment to the facility.

    There reason, and a season for both partners to the meeting planner and the facility.

    • says

      Thanks Brad for joining this conversation. Great to hear from you on this. I am currently down at PCMA in Dallas and spoke to a couple of your colleagues last night a tweetup. Great guys and I enjoyed hearing about the companies dip into social media. I also have been really impressed with the creative staging and execution at PCMA. PCMA10#

      Great points on this and I hire outside and in-house A/V for our clients all the time. Obviously, you have to look into the best interests of the client, what the venue provides and the actual show flow of the type of engagement or service they demand. Where there are so many situations for using both I have found overall bringing in a trusted A/V team always trumps using the inhouse A/V. But that is selfish on my part because I usually know the teams and equipment so I do not get more gray hairs in my already whitening mane. This stuff mostly isnt rocket science and when you do use in-house A/V you can usually ask a few questions to the onsite techs to see if they are on the ball. Also what else is going on in the venue and if you have dedicated techs to your rooms. Thank you again for your comment I appreciate it and I hope we can connect in person sometime.

  5. Glynne Diggle says

    Great comments but as everyone realizes, you are trying to promote “your” side of the av industry. Being a Director at a hotel for 15 years now and being the highest ranked department for customer service within our chain I think I can attest to there being very positive aspects to using the in house audio visual provider. In house av does know the venue better than any out side provider and can offer solutions to challenges that outside providers cannot. We have relationships with all the other hotel departments that can be invaluable in helping the meeting planner manifest other aspects of their event. We do save the client money on transportation and per diems including lodging for the traveling technicians. In house av has local relationships and sources for specialty pop up equipment requests exactly the same way outside productions companies do “as well” as having plenty of equipment on property. You’re not carrying around extra gear on the off chance something changes. Only the most commonly requested pop up equipment at best. I don’t disclaim that established relationships with a production company can have value to the right client if the production company are true professionals and put the interest of their clients first…..I don’t understand why you won’t promote the same about in houses av companies. Many, many in house av companies are run professionally, putting the interest of their clients first and we have many, many established repeat clients who put their full confidence in us to deliver the successful event they deserve. Thanks for the opportunity to respond. Happy travels!

    • says

      Glynne- Thank you so much for your comment. And you are right they do know the venue and we dont carry evenything on the truck when arrive. This is a once sided argument from my perspective (well Midori’s I just stole it) but it is my blog and I run into these issues with on-site a/v constantly. Not to say that we don’t have a bad day once in a while. I do beg to differ on the pricing though. Think about buying anything at a hotel… is it more expensive? A toothbrush? A beer? Their is a convenience charge which rightly so the hotel should charge for. Just recently at a Florida venue my client and the 3rd party meeting planner were talking about a add on lighting package for a party. The costs were astronomical to have the in-house bring it in. We on the other hand had most of it on the truck and brought in the rest from a local vendor. Its all apples to apples and business. These days pricing is an art. The economy has turned our industry on our heads.

      I really appreciate the comment though and I hope to see you on the next one.


  6. says

    Just shot a bunch of interviews for a client in San Francisco. We also were asked to video a panel discussion so we asked for a line out from the inhouse sound tech. He was sweating like crazy and had 4 wireless mics out on the floor three lavs for panelists and one table top mic for the moderator. He had the volume up on all of them. So the feedback was out of control. The client was not happy and the tech was even unhappier. This is an isolated case but when I spoke to him about it he said that is the way he does it. I just thought about this post……


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