Tips for Managing the Costs of AV Services

Planning considerations for your next event
By: Eric Bracht
If you were to do an Internet search for “ways to control hotel AV costs” you will find that most results address the differences between using in-house versus outside service providers. While these articles contain valid points and useful information they often don’t address simple things that meeting planners can do in the planning and event process to help keep AV costs from getting out of control. As a former director of in-house AV services I have some suggestions and best practices that may be more useful when planning your next event.

One of the first things that can be done to control AV costs is to consider the type and location of the venue. Capacity of the venue is considered, but capabilities are often overlooked. Hotels and convention centers typically offer flexible spaces with very little installed presentation systems. Conference centers typically offer purpose-built spaces with installed, basic sound and display systems. Is the space appropriate for the type of meeting or event you are planning? Some considerations are:
  • Does the venue provide AV/Event Tech services though a third-party provider or with their own staff?
  • Are there built-in presentation systems or is everything is portable? Built-in systems are often less expensive to provide since they require less setup labor.
  • Does the venue allow you to bring in your own provider? If yes, are there fees associated with doing so?
  • Ask for a copy of any guidelines for outside AV/production services before signing any agreements and negotiate any concessions prior to signing any contracts.
Don’t be satisfied with a contracted discount rate unless you have a history at the venue. A 20% discount won’t tell you much if you don’t know the starting prices. Pricing can vary greatly from market to market. Even if you are planning similar meetings, the budget from Atlanta may not get you far in San Francisco.

There are all types of meetings and events. Some require a very high level of technology support, while others require only basic sound and display support. When discussing controlling the costs of AV, most minds go straight the big shows, but smaller shows with smaller budgets have the same concerns. Any shows that will require dedicated labor support should consider scheduling to keep labor costs within budget.
  • Book meeting spaces with enough lead time to allow setup during normal business hours. Avoid requiring overnight setups which might be at higher labor rates.
  • Avoid turn-around rates. Don’t follow a late night with an early morning.
  • Block rooms on 24-hour hold; otherwise you may be responsible for removing and re-setting your equipment.
  • Schedule rehearsal time; otherwise presenters may show up at their convenience, preventing the crew from taking scheduled breaks or meals and driving up hourly rates.
And as for equipment:
  • The AV industry typically charges for equipment per room/ per day. Schedule meetings with similar needs in the same room on the same day to maximize efficiency.
  • Consider creating a standard room set and informing presenters of what will be available versus asking for their needs. This will usually generate a faster response if they need something not listed.
Statistics in the AV industry show that as much a 17% of all revenues result from last-minute changes and additions. That can make a big difference in a tight budget. While “pop-ups” are expected in the industry, there are a few things meeting planners can do to keep them from becoming an unwanted surprise when you get the bill.
  • Discuss this contingency with your AV provider in advance: Is pricing any different for last-minute orders? Do they have back-up equipment on-hand?
  • Set you expectations with the staff. Let them know what is and is not acceptable for the presenters to request if not included. Inform the venue staff of your procedure for approving/denying these requests.
  • Be available (or designate someone) to respond to the staff when a last-minute request occurs. If it is approved, make sure to note it in your records so you can reconcile at the end of the event.
As the meetings industry recovers from the impact of COVID we all hope to be much busier in 2022. I hope that some will find these suggestions useful as they plan their next great event!
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