Keep Your AV Company Options Open With This RFP and Contract Language
In life and business, you get what you negotiate. This is especially true when planning a company event at an off-site venue. Savvy negotiation and communication allow you to partner with the AV company of your choice. Let’s look at how to navigate this process so that you can be confident in the audio-visual production elements of your next event.
Securing an Outside AV Company: Communication Is Key
We’ve found that many meeting planners are surprised they don’t have to use a venue’s in-house AV department. As we covered in our last blog, most venues’ “in-house” AV provider is actually an independent AV company that gives a substantial percentage of the AV spend back to the venue. When a meeting planner brings in their own outside AV company, sometimes the loss of that revenue is made up for in fees, penalties, and charges that you’re unaware of until after you sign the contract.
Luckily, there are easy ways to get ahead of these charges. Meeting planners are naturally strategic, detail-oriented people. Use these gifts to empower communication regarding your AV expectations. If you have an AV provider that you want to work with, establish that as a sine qua non early in the process, and have your venue contract modified to eliminate any fees for bringing in your own audio visual production partner.
This is a situation in which transparency is power. Be crystal clear with your wants and needs. Ask questions. Document everything. Save emails. Should there be a miscommunication down the line, these simple strategies will work in your favor.
Penalties: Knowledge Is Power
Negotiating a better position is difficult when you can’t see which boundaries are being crossed. Most venues are fair and honest, but it’s not unheard of for meeting planners to receive bills with fees never clearly disclosed in the contract. To help, we’ve compiled a list of common policies and fees you can address in your contract.
Make sure the contract stipulates that your staff, attendees, and vendors have the right to access rented meeting spaces when performing actions that pertain to the event.
It’s normal for venues to charge a fee for additional electrical needs if required. You should consult with your AV production partner to define your specific power requirements in order to ensure that you have what’s needed and you’re billed appropriately. Patching
Many venues will charge a “patch fee” if you want your AV company to patch into their audio system. The patch fees can range from $30 to upwards of $200 per room per day and are negotiable prior to the contract signing. We prefer to use our own sound systems allowing us to provide a better quality of audio and more flexibility with how we configure the room.
Before signing a contract, ask for a standard price list so you understand all fees associated with rigging lights and other AV components. You can ask for them to be listed again in the contract for extra clarity.
A venue does not have to provide storage space for vendor equipment, but it can’t restrict the client from storing equipment in the spaces they’re renting. Make sure the contract explicitly states this.
Load In & Load Out Supervision
If you don’t want your vendors to be supervised by the facilities staff or security, include a clause to address that. Just be aware that you assume the same liability for your third-party vendors as you do for your own staff.
Most venues in the United States do not require union labor for audio visual production services. It’s always best to confirm with your chosen venue if there are union labor requirements before signing a contract. If you find your event is taking place at a union property, it’s best to consult with your AV company, allowing them to coordinate and manage your union labor requirements.
Commissions, Fees, and Surcharges
The venue shouldn’t charge you or your chosen AV company access fees, commissions, surcharges, or restrict reasonable access simply for using (or being) a third-party vendor.
As you can see, some of these policies and fees are reasonable responses to safety code and infrastructure concerns. So, pick your battles and prioritize negotiating restrictions that penalize you for using an outside AV company.
Get It In Writing
When entering negotiations, it’s important to get your mindset right. To do this, you must embrace your event’s inherent value to the venue and leverage that. Remember that venues want to host your event to make money and increase patronage, so it’s in their best interest to negotiate with you if you want to partner with an outside AV company.
Earlier, we recommended that you should be direct and ask questions about fees and policies when speaking to a facility’s CSM. This is a smart tactic for any partnership, and it will help you gauge their interest and openness—but as they say in Game of Thrones, “words are wind.” You will need to rely on written contracts to ensure there is no confusion or setbacks.
Not all meeting planners send RFPs to venues, but if your organization does, include a “Buyer’s Rights Regarding Third Party Suppliers” clause. This clause stipulates that you can use outside providers without being penalized.
“Buyer will not accept or agree to any proposal or contract containing conditions, terms, or clauses which unreasonably restrict our choice of third party suppliers for our event(s) at any meeting facility, whether such conditions are expressly stated in the proposal or contract, or whether they are contained in the general operating policies of the facility, be they published or unpublished. Furthermore, Buyer will not accept or agree to any fees, surcharges, or penalties of any type charged by a meeting facility that are in any way based on or tied to our choice of third party suppliers, whether such fees are expressly stated in the proposal or contract, or whether they are contained in the general operating policies of the facility, be they published or unpublished. This ‘Buyer’s rights regarding third party suppliers’ clause shall be appended to all contracts that are executed by Buyer, and if it is determined that this clause is in conflict with any other clause, portion of any contract, or any general operating policy of the facility, then this ‘Buyer’s rights regarding third party suppliers’ clause shall be deemed to take precedence over the other item(s) with which it is determined to be in conflict, unless specifically agreed otherwise.”
Keep in mind that RFPs aren’t contracts. To ensure the meeting facility doesn’t penalize you for using a third-party provider, you can either add this clause to your own contract for the venue to sign or make sure it’s put into the contract they give you.
Words are wind, but written contracts are legally binding. If both parties are honest and provide timely information, your event could be the start of a longstanding, mutually beneficial relationship.
Choose Tallen As Your AV Company For Insider Knowledge You Can Trust
Audiovisuals are a mission-critical element of your events because they help spread your message to the right people in the right way. To take full advantage of the moment, partner with an AV company like Tallen. We use our twenty-plus years of experience to help meeting planners get the most bang for their buck so that their event goes off without a hitch and is a success for both the venue and your organization.