Best-of-the-Best Essential Tips
from Marketers & Meeting Planners
Once you have your desired event plan worked out, review it through a careful and critical lens in search of costs you can eliminate or minimize. Your plan, with its included budget, will be your guideline for the entire event and if you want to save money, you have to make your plan as cost-effective as you can without completely sacrificing quality and audience appeal.
Next to catering, A/V equipment is one of the big-ticket items that come to mind when planning what you will need at the event site. Equipment is a broad term that includes but is not limited to items like projectors, screens, computers, microphones, podiums, easels, and a host of administrative supplies. Items supplied by the venue such as paper, staplers, clips, markers, flip chart paper, power cords, and surge protectors can sneak in as hidden, cost prohibitive fees so careful advance planning is absolutely critical for your budget.
You may discover substantial savings by bringing as much of your own equipment and supplies to the venue as possible and renting equipment from outside vendors. Here are some cost-saving considerations:
Discounts and Complementary Services - Ask your venue what discounted or free-of-charge services are available. You may be able to use site equipment such as walkie-talkies during setup and conduct of your event, and other items like microphones, podiums, or easels. Every item you can remove from the venue's price list amounts to dollars saved - but you have to ask, and ask nicely!
To illustrate, ConventionPlanit.com posted this comment submitted by Keri-Dawn Selinger, Director of Programs & Events for The Likeable Lawyer in Austin, TX:
"Recently when discussing our Audio Visual estimate with the gentleman with the on-site company, I asked 'Is that the best you can do?' He instantly said he appreciated my asking and not voicing outrage at the prices and gave me 10% off. In his follow-up email, he offered another 10% just because! Ask (and show respect) and it shall be given!"
Just being nice may net you some savings!
Selective Installation - Place A/V equipment only in the rooms where you'll actually need it instead of blanket installation across all contracted spaces. Do you really need that many breakout rooms? Perhaps you can rearrange your agenda to make use of fewer spaces. Analyze the total number of rooms you will need as careful space planning can result in substantial budget savings.
Another area where costs add up quickly is labor. Get a clear and itemized understanding of the labor charges you will incur so you can negotiate pricing and separate out tasks you and your support team can do yourselves. Control labor costs by contracting for one hour of setup and one hour of teardown and find your own support to cover whatever else needs to be done. You may consider bringing in a volunteer crew or hire local labor to do the heavy lifting.
If your selected venue allows outsourced vendors on premises, shop around and compare venue with vendor pricing on A/V service packages. You may find the venue is willing to meet an outside vendor's price. You may also discover in the process that you can save substantially on equipment fees in the long run by purchasing and bringing your own equipment to each event. This will require some thorough research and perhaps hands-on demonstrations to assemble your package. Consider also the speed at which technology equipment can become dated or obsolete. Check out the following fascinating video, by CKing, on top 10 picks for digital projectors based upon Amazon user reviews.
Visual design plans may also call for working with graphic designers to create imagery for your event such as PowerPoint presentations, wall banners, brochures, your event app, and other visual media. If you've never worked with a designer before, selecting one can be challenging as there are so many, and their fees and design styles cross a wide spectrum. Mashable.com offers 10 Fantastic Places for Finding Designers Online. Using one of these competitive resources may help you find a designer who can work within your budget. When posting a job, clearly describe what you need in as much detail as possible so the designers can bid fair market rates. Keep in mind that the cheapest price may not deliver the best quality. The money you save on a low design fee will be lost if the resulting work is substandard and has to be replaced.
Understand what your liability is for damage or loss of any venue property. Inquire about locked storage areas and password protection for computers so you can secure belongings, proprietary information, and other valuables and keep them safe during the event and particularly during the off-hours, such as overnight when the event has shut down for the day. Make an inventory list complete with serial numbers for all equipment you bring on to the premises so you will have a record of its presence if anything goes missing. Also consider, the cost of venue security into your budget and assist security by tasking your support team to keep an eye on valuables.
Hidden Fees - Examine your contract carefully and watch out for hidden fees and other facility-specific charges. Read all the fine print and ensure you understand the terms and language used as well as your liabilities and any contingencies that will affect your bottom line. If you're daunted by the amount of fine print to be read, divide up the portions among your support team and each of you review your assigned section. Also, if the venue or vendor representative is using lingo you don't understand, ask immediately for clarification and don't sign any contract until you feel comfortable with its terms.
Review Your Task List - Take a cost-controlling approach to your planning efforts. Compare your contracted items with your event production list to ensure you have eliminated all extraneous costs and any items you can outsource or handle yourself.
Sponsorship - Seek sponsors or non-profit agencies that might be willing to team up with you on expenses or bankroll the event.
Piggyback Ride - Look for opportunities to join with other events at the venue to share or minimize expenses. For example, you can use the preceding customer's meeting room setup and preclude the teardown expense for the customer's event and the setup expense for your event.
Build Relationships. Being a repeat customer who offers reliable business and positive feedback for the venue may net you future discounts on services and event packages.
Your A/V setup should be an asset that enhances your event experience but it doesn't have to break the bank. With careful management, your strategic plan and budget can support a successful and quality production. Share some ways you have used A/V creatively to enhance the attendee experience!
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