Best Practices in AV Contracting


As our economy and locally owned businesses continue to recover from the pandemic, the audio-visual (AV) industry is extremely excited to see events, conferences, galas and more starting to come back. Many audio-visual providers are locally owned businesses that employ people directly in our community.

Business is built on relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Having access to audio-visual equipment and services is crucial for the entire event sector in today’s digital age. Audio-visual technology assists with conferences, trade shows and other marketing opportunities. One of the biggest decisions an event planner will make while working on an event is choosing an audio-visual provider.

While meeting and negotiating with an audio-visual company, it is important to provide all relevant details. This includes the size of the audience that will be in the plenary room to ensure adequate audio requirements are being quoted. When discussing the proposed event with your audio-visual supplier, you should discuss the size of the projector screens. This could include a theme and who the audience will be. It is also important to outline the size of the audience in various breakout rooms so the appropriate equipment is supplied as well. A clear direction needs to be presented to the audio-visual company to ensure the best results.

Having said this, many venues will make a strong suggestion for you to use their in-house audio-visual team. The in-house audio-visual companies are usually contracted by the venue and typically give back a commission to the venue. This gives the venue a financial incentive to have you work with their provider meaning, you could pay more for equipment and service if you choose to use another “outside provider” as the venue will want to cover the loss in revenue.

As an event planner, you may hear things such as “Our in-house AV team knows the venue inside and out.” To the experienced event planner, this is generally not a concern as an audio-visual company’s staff is trained to work in a variety of settings. Many times, “outside audio-visual providers” have already worked in that facility before and are aware of perhaps some of the challenges and benefits of the individual rooms.

Like any other contract you are likely to sign, take the time to review it and understand what is being proposed. One of the key items that should be in your contract is venue access times. It takes time to set up the audio-visual equipment to ensure your event is the best it can be. Ensure that the venue has allotted you enough time for your supplier to have your show ready at the correct start time. Understand what happens should the contract be terminated, including what would happen if either party fails to comply with the terms of the contract.

With your venue contract, understand that some services are exclusive and patch fees could be included in your contract. Like everything else, these may be negotiable before you sign your venue contract but you will have to make sure you open the discussion. Things such as electricity, WiFi and rigging costs could be added on top of the venue charges especially if you are planning on using non-in-house services. The venue will make the case that they own the building and the rigging points. They will make the case they pay the hydro and the internet and will pass these charges on to you. Again, these are negotiable and could help save you and your organization money.

Comparing audio-visual companies is important when planning any event. Don’t be fooled by cheaper prices. Cheaper does not always mean it’s the best deal. Be sure to get bids from both in-house and outside audio-visual providers so you can compare and make sure you’re getting the most for your money. Make sure that each bid is comparable to accurately measure which offer will give you the best experience. Consider not only the price but also the services offered. This could make all the difference in creating an event that runs smoothly.

Ask all the questions. Don’t be shy. Do your research, and understand what is involved in audio-visual sector contracting. With careful research and comparison, you can be sure to create a successful event and make your show shine with Canada’s leading audio-visual providers.


Michael Wood is senior consultant, client relations, Ottawa Consultants and the director of strategy and communications, Canadian Audio Visual Providers Association.


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