• How to Avoid Hidden Costs

    FROM THE Summer 2016 ISSUE

    PART I: Common audio-visual mistakes and how to make the most of your budget.

Editor’s Note: This is the first column in a new series about avoiding common traps and hidden costs from a venue insider’s perspective.

Audio-visual (A/V) technology is a big deal for your meeting, and believe it or not, A/V equipment and labor can take up to 25 percent of your total budget (depending on the event’s size and production needs). While A/V is considered “behind the scenes,” it is an essential element that helps keep attendees present in the moment and provides them with a great experience. It’s what allows attendees to see and hear a speaker and view a presentation. Even if talking about lighting and sound systems doesn’t fit your comfort zone, it’s one of the most important elements tied to excellent meeting planning. Having the skills to know what to ask and what you need is imperative to the bottom line.


Before pulling out all the A/V stops, let the venue know what you want and how much you have to spend. It’s important to have a range when talking to your conference center, and be prepared for frank conversations about what options will realistically fit into your budget. There’s no use in talking about the latest and greatest in technology offerings if your budget will only allow the basics.


Deciding on equipment based on your budget is one thing, but once on-site you will want the A/V team to confirm everything will work within the meeting room spaces you have booked. Bring the list of audio-visual equipment each presenter or panel needs and make sure it will work within each designated room. Also be sure to communicate to the presenter what equipment you will have on-site or what they’ll need to provide in order to avoid last-minute scrambling.


In addition to the equipment needed, labor can be a major factor in an A/V budget. When comparing pricing, be certain the venue’s proposal includes labor and tax. Don’t forget that night or weekend setups usually have higher labor costs. Unexpected costs, such as last-minute change orders, can as much as double your labor costs and wreak havoc on your budget.


Before signing an A/V contract, be certain you understand what A/V is included in the pricing. Again, compare your list of equipment needed from the presenters with your contract list. Ensure your labor charges for setup and teardown are included. Read the contract again, and ask questions of your venue contact until you feel comfortable with the information. If you are still confused after talking to your contact, run it by your organization’s legal counsel.

With executive orders and restrictions across the country in a state of constant flux, not everyone is ready to jump back into meeting in person. While some planners are eager to get back to “normal,” the long-term adjustment to new meeting protocols and potential risks make some hesitant to gather.

While wearing masks and social distancing can help keep attendees safe, intentional design choices—such as including nature-inspired elements and materials and plenty of plants—can also help to calm attendees.


The times they are a-changing, and that has never been truer than when it comes to selecting an A/V partner and deciding whether the in- house A/V vendor or an outside third-party provider is the right partner for you. Due to advancements in technology, lighting and other A/V equipment that has come down in price, planners are now finding op- portunities to use previously out of budget technology with a much more palatable price tag. 


Retreats and off-site meetings present wonderful opportunities for groups to collaborate, strategize and build relationships away from their normal office environments. With proper planning, these sessions can be highly effective and even pivotal in setting a new direction. However, off-sites may present some unforeseen challenges that can quickly deflate the energy in the room if not anticipated and addressed in advance.