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Event orchestration | 15 November 2017

Top 9 AV Disasters to Avoid at Your Next Event

Kaitlin Colston

Chances are if you are in the events industry you have used AV at your events. Chances are you’ve also run into an AV disaster…or two…or three.

AV can be one of the most overwhelming parts of the event planning process. Sometimes the terms sound like another language. Unless you are an expert in event marketing you probably don’t understand your quote right off the bat. But that’s not the only challenge that business event strategists might face.

Here’s a list of the top 9 Tips to avoid an AV disaster at your next event. Lets jump in below!

1. Not Understanding Your Quote

Lets face it, AV terms are confusing. When you first check out your quote you might feel overwhelmed. What is rigging? How do I know how much power I need? Do I really need 6 microphones? Feeling unsure often times you just hope for the best and sign it. This is not the way to go!

Ask your AV company to walk you through your quote line by line. They should be able to explain everything in layman’s terms with clear examples. Ask for them to explain exactly what you are getting and why you need it for your event.  If they cannot make your quote crystal clear this might be a red flag to walk away, any great AV company will walk you through the entire process and be on your team.

To avoid an event AV disaster, make sure you understand your quote

2. Underscoping

When it comes to your quote make sure you have everything you need on it the first time. Often you have big desires for the event but the AV company hastily slaps together a quote. Because they did not scope out your event and ask you for as many details as possible, you end up with additional costs once on-site.

It could be as simple as an oversight in how many mics you needed for a panel. Or it could be a massive cost such as additional rigging needed to hang objects such as speakers and lighting from the venue ceiling.

To avoid being underscoped, know the basics of AV. Ask a lot of questions about potential “what-ifs” at your event. As a final measure of precaution, make sure there are procedures in place if the company forgets something. If they forget you should not be paying for it, so make sure you are covered to avoid unnecessary costs.

3. Booking Your AV Company Too Late

We recommend your AV company being one of the first event vendors you book. Having your AV team involved earlier in the planning process allows them to help you implement your goals, vision and budget. The biggest reason to book early is your AV company can help you work with your venue to remove in-house restrictions saving you money in your budget. Which brings us to the next point!

To avoid an event AV disaster, don't book your AV company too late

4. Not Negotiating with the Venue

There are many obvious needs to factor in when picking your venue. Is the venue big enough for all my attendees? Does the style of the venue match my event? Is the rental fee within my budget? But there is one part of the venue contract that typically overlooked.

One of the biggest ways to bust your budget quickly are venue fees. Some are necessary and some are not. Having your AV company help you walk through the fees will help you decide what is and isn’t needed. Below are the common fees that can be negotiated out of your venues contract:

Service fee – A service fee is a fee that is tacked on sometimes claiming it is an administrative or paperwork fee. Often, this fee is not needed and being charged solely to make more money. When going over the service fee you need to ask yourself; does it seem reasonable? What is the service fee for? Ask what the fee covers. If the venue can’t give you specific reason the fee is being charged ask for it to be dropped.  

Internet Fee-  In today’s world, you need internet. Venues know this and have decided to start charging you to tap into their internet services. Often this fee is, unfortunately, a rip-off. However, you can negotiate this fee off your quote before you sign your contract.

Before paying the venue internet fee look into other options available for wifi. We recommend which uses 4G hotspots and a router to give your attendees the wifi experience they expect.

However, it is important to know when you need more than just hotspots. If you plan to live-stream you need to use your venues internet to avoid buffering and the stream breaking up. If this is the case for your event add their fee into your event budget to ensure a quality event.

Power Fee – Similar to the internet fee, a venue power fee can come as a shock. As the name implies, this fee is charged to tap into the venue’s power source (and no you can’t just plug into outlets we will get to that later). We recommend negotiating not to pay for the actual power, but to pay for the power to be connected by a professional ensuring a safe experience. It’s extremely important it is set-up power properly. If you don’t you risk electrocution and fires.

Talk to your AV company before you sign a contract stating how much power you need. There are ways to save on the amount of power you will need such as using LED lighting and lower power efficiency items.

Babysitting Fees – If you are not using the in-house AV company, the venue may require an in-house AV tech to watch over your AV company set up. This is called the “babysitting fee”. Venues often say it’s for quality assurance but if you have a great AV company this isn’t necessary. This fee is negotiable, don’t pay it.

Using an Outside AV Company Fee – The venue can charge a fee for using outside company such as 25% of the contract. Venues often get a cut from the preferred AV company if you use them, so they don’t want to lose income. You have to be aware of these costs, but there are ways out of this through negotiation.

5. Incorrectly Formatted Presentations

This the most common AV disaster!

You work so hard to find the best speakers for your event, you empower with amazing presentation tools, your expectations are sky high—only to see a disaster unfold when they go to present. Maybe their presentation is the incorrect aspect ratio for your screen, or perhaps they didn’t use the right file format, no matter the reason the amazing presentation you have been banking on is now a dud.

To avoid this happening to you, talk to your AV team way before the event. Find out what aspect ratios the presentations need to be in for your screens. Having a standard format presentation on a wide screen not only looks bad but wastes a lot of valuable space.  Ask what format the presentations need to be delivered in and request your presenters use it.

Also, check and see what connector cords presenters need to have. Not all cords work with all systems.  Ask what file formats for videos and presentations are and forward the information to any presenters well ahead of the event date. On top of this make sure all presentations are tested prior to the live show to avoid any presentation disasters.

To avoid an event AV disaster, make sure you corrections are formatted correctly

6. Not Properly Communicating

Whether you’re emailing sponsors or vendors, communication is key. There are so many moving parts to an event, if everyone isn’t on the same page disaster can strike. Keep your all vendors and your AV team in the know, if you have changes notify them immediately. It’s usually too late to bring up changes once they even has started. At the event it may be too late to get the proper rentals you need and your AV disaster can ensue!  

If your AV team hits a problem during your event make sure they explain in detail what is going on. Ask for a solution instead of playing the blame game on a technical glitch.

7. Incorrect power

There is never enough power in the walls. You cannot just plug into the outlets at your venue. Depending on your venue you may need to tap into their power supply or  sometimes you need a generator (especially with outdoor events).  Always consult with production company to ensure the power you need is incorporated into your total AV budget.

8. No Back Ups

When dealing with technology you never know when it will decide to crash. It’s one of those expected event nightmares. Every crucial element of your event should have a backup in place. If you only have 1 computer to run the presentations or live streaming on what happens if it goes down? To avoid an AV disaster, be sure to have backups of all presentations, and crucial gear such as projectors, computers, microphones and cables. If you never have to use them great, if you do you will be glad you had them!

To avoid an event AV disaster, remember that your AV company is your friend

9. Forgetting That Your AV Company Is Your Friend 

While your AV team is often behind the scenes, remember they are people too. Try to treat them as such! Call the techs by name, and make sure they are alloted time for breaks. A simple way to show appreciation is if they are doing a good job tell them! Being nice to your AV team will do you wonders should any disasters occur. They are on your team so treat them like it!

There you have it the top 9 AV disasters to avoid at your next event. We all know in the events industry hiccups are bound to happen. However, if you hire a great AV company and refer back to these tips often you should have a smooth sailing AV experience and event!


Kaitlin Colston is the Editor-In-Chief at Endless Events—a nationwide, event production company. They take care of the AV & the event production so your job is as easy as possible.


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