Depending on the needs of internal or external clients, your event may require working with any number of vendors to achieve your goals. But when does a vendor become more like a partner? Is there a point where your contact becomes more valuable to you than just a point of transaction? Of course, the answer to this question varies depending on how critical that service is to the success of the event, and also on how confident you are with that particular aspect as well.
However, technology is constantly developing and requires dedicated attention to stay as cost effective as possible without sacrificing on best practices. As AV production specialists, it’s our job to continuously find the best ways to deliver your message to a live audience. And since audiovisual is usually one of the top three costs for any event, the onus is on you as an event planner to extract as much value from it as possible. As we come to the end of 2018, it’s a great time to evaluate your costs and relationships to learn where you can bring more value in the new year. Here, we’ll help you decide if you’re getting your money’s worth, or if it’s time to make a change.
An Ideal Partnership
The best place to start this kind of conversation is to establish what an ideal partnership with an AV production team looks like. To do so, we’ve spoken to several of our long-term clients to hear from them what they value most in the relationship as part of our annual training program. What we noticed was that each of their answers certainly differed, but that there were three common threads.
- Performance: It all has to be right. No partnership can form if your AV production team doesn’t deliver. It could be due to systematic flaws, poor planning or communication, or just an inclination towards costly mistakes – the ability to deliver a quality service that meets your expectations is really the first pillar of a partnership.
- Consistency/Reliability: It isn’t enough to only provide one good experience. The experience – from the initial estimates, to the planning, and finally to the onsite execution – is extremely important, and after a few events there should be a clear sense of consistency. We take it a step further by keeping the same pool of technicians dedicated to working with each group. From that, we’ve learned that familiarity both in point of contact and in the faces our clients see onsite generates confidence that they know what they’re getting.
- Creativity: Especially for groups who constantly have to fight “last year syndrome” where everything tends to mimic what was done the year before, it can be hard to keep events feeling fresh. In any case, a true AV partner should be a resource to help revamp an event, offer new ideas on brand activations, or to design and build a unique experience for guests.
If this year’s experiences with AV production don’t leave you feeling like all three boxes above are being checked off, then you’re not getting as much value from it as possible. Maybe you work with different vendors for different events, or you are talked into using an inhouse AV provider (you almost never have to use them), or even if you just haven’t thought to consolidate down to one AV relationship for your team of event planners, it could be a missed opportunity on a number of benefits.
Aside from the main three points above, seeing your AV production provider as a partner also offers cost benefits as well. Think of it as a strategic relationship on one of your highest annual costs. When the transaction is only one event, pricing can only reflect that one instance, and any situational costs incurred by the AV provider may be factored in. If you’re looking at it as multiple events – perhaps there are others in the year you know you’ll need audiovisual for – then there may be opportunities for a more favorable pricing structure. Advanced planning is the best way for us as AV providers to keep our costs down, and so if we have dates to plan around, we can pass those savings along.
There are also seasonal factors involved which will help to know. Typically, the high-volume seasons for AV providers are the Spring and Fall. During these times, supply is high on both equipment and technical staff, and those costs are driven up. Likewise, in the Summer and Winter, demand is low. Knowing your AV partner’s seasonal trends may help you plan your event budgets accordingly to get the most value for your dollar at any time of year.
It’s also very common that groups will have certain events with much tighter budgets than others. As the relationship between you and your AV partner develops, you may be able to work out a favorable agreement to bring costs down on those events, leveraging your full calendar of events. Each situation will be slightly different, but if you don’t think to develop that relationship, you won’t see the advantages.
Building a partnership with an AV provider is also a great way to reduce the time you have to spend planning around it. Obviously, there are events that will be mostly duplicating a past event, and in these cases working with the same AV production team will be night-and-day over a new team. Of course, that’s one of the things that makes it so hard to change! But for groups with multiple event planners across various internal departments, having a true partner for your organization is a great way to increase productivity. Familiarity can be built up across everything your team is working on, creating a much clearer understanding of your brand, expectations, stakeholder preferences, and whatever else you might otherwise have to explain again and again. It puts your AV provider in a position to be intuitive and anticipate your needs, and that goes a long way in your overall experience.
This familiarity also means no more reinventing the wheel. There will certainly be times when a totally new design is needed, but for similar programs, any updates or modifications can be easily made once there’s an established format. Otherwise, our process with a new client or event always starts with collecting as much information as possible about what the event look and feel will be, what the event goals are, who’s involved…etc. – and that conversation can be much more condensed each following time.
While it may not be as flashy as time and money, building trust is a key component of any good partnership. AV production is unique in the role it plays at events – we are the ones physically running your show or program, and the truth is that failure represents literal public humiliation! That does tend to forge a bond between client and vendor, and one that carries from one event to the next. Having an AV partner means knowing that no matter what project, curveball, or unique challenge that’s presented, you’re not alone in it. It also means you can unload some of that thought onto someone else and trust they can get it done, freeing you up to focus on other things. Of course, peace of mind in both planning and execution onsite is appreciated best by those who’ve experienced the opposite; so, if you haven’t been under fire like that before, then you’ll have to just take our word for it.