Should you use an outside AV company or an in-house AV company?

Choosing the right Audio Visual provider is essential to the success of your event. Just like any other professional service, the people you choose to work with will have a tremendous effect on the overall outcome of your venture.  When planning a meeting or conference, the question will almost certainly arise: should I use an in-house AV company or bring in an outside AV company? In this article I will share some insights from personal experience as well as some lesser known industry tips, tricks, and secrets.

Do I have to use the hotel AV company?

To answer this simply – no.  The hotel will of course try to steer you in this direction, seeing as how they receive a large portion of the AV revenue. The hotel AV company is extremely advantageous and profitable for the hotel, but this isn’t always the case for the customer. Please read the next point to find out why.

Your contract with the hotel will sometimes be worded in a way that will lead you to believe that you are obligated to use the in-house provider.  This is never the case, and any terms favoring the in-house AV can always be negotiated away. Keep in mind that the AV provider is a separate entity from the hotel, so the hotel doesn’t care too much about who does your AV for you.  What the hotel mainly cares about is your F&B revenue and your room night revenue (which are direct profit centers for them).

Is in house AV cheaper than outside AV?

Usually not, and let me explain why. A lesser known fact is the process in which the in-house AV company and the hotel/venue share the AV revenue.  Most of these contracts give 50%-60% of the top line AV revenue to the hotel, meaning revenue before any expenses are accounted for. This means that if the in-house company is charging you $100 for a piece of gear, half of it immediately goes to the hotel.  After they account for the plethora of expenses associated with running and maintaining an AV company, the final profit from this item will be maybe $10-$15.  The competitive nature of trying to secure contracts with hotels has given extremely favorable terms to the venues, while driving down the AV profit margins to be paper thin.

The advantage of using an outside AV company is that they are not bound by this revenue sharing contract. They can rent you the same piece of gear for literally half of the cost and still make the same profit from it at that price. This is universally true, and therefore, you almost always get a better value from an outside AV provider as opposed to an in-house AV provider.

Which option will give me a better product/service?

This is a difficult question to answer, but let me provide you with some insights that should help you make up your own mind. Firstly, in-house companies usually have quite a few events happening all at once throughout the hotel.  They may or may not be busy or short staffed, but one thing is for sure: their attention is divided between many different events.  When you bring in an outside AV company, you can be sure that they are dedicated to your one event and that you will receive their undivided attention (after all, they have nothing else to worry about!).

Additionally, the stakes for in-house AV employees are much lower than the stakes for local companies. The sad but true fact, is that an in-house provider is usually under no pressure to deliver a flawless event. Their contract with the hotel ensures that they will receive a steady stream of business regardless of their performance. The AV contracts are so profitable for the hotels, that they tend to overlook sloppy AV work or customer complaints.

A local outside AV company, like any local business, is under much greater pressure to deliver a perfect product. The stakes are much higher, since a refund or bad review could cost the company dearly. Therefore, local AV companies are much more likely to plan out and execute your event to perfection, since the whole experience is much more personal to all parties involved.

Who has better equipment, in house AV or outside AV?

AV Road Cases

This is again a difficult question to answer, but I can let you in on a little secret once again. While in-house AV companies do usually have a full inventory on site at the venue, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are immune to equipment shortages. With many events happening at the same time, it is not guaranteed for example, that they will have an extra microphone available or that they are not overbooked on a particular piece of gear on this day.  Once again, the room for error is much more relaxed in this setting, and in-house companies are known for providing “similar equipment” instead of what was actually ordered. They are also motivated in reusing or repurposing sets from previous events, so they don’t have to do a full reset (as long as it’s “close enough” to your set).

Once again, an outside AV company is not bound by any of these potential drawbacks.  Local AV companies have just as much if not more access to resources for sourcing equipment (since they are not bound by preferred vendor agreements like hotel AV).

Are there any advantages to using an in-house provider?

Sometimes going with an in-house provider can be tempting since it’s easier on the hotel conference manager – even if it means getting a more expensive and often inferior product.

At the end of the day, go with a company that you trust and enjoy working with. A lot of annual conference planners enjoy working with one single provider who can travel and provide a consistent high standard of quality at each venue. Once you find “The One” AV company that meets all of your objectives, we recommend sticking with them and using them on a regular basis. Having reliable people who are familiar with your events is a great way to fast track the AV planning and focus your attention on other aspects of the conference.

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Our aim is to respond to all inquiries within 24 hours, but usually much faster.  For immediate assistance, please feel free to call (239) 319-9191

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