Updated: Mar 8
Many hotels that host events will have an in-house AV provider. Some hotels either require you to use their in-house AV or penalize you for using an independent AV company. These charges can be a percentage of your total invoice or just a flat fee. As an event planner, you are going to want the highest quality service you can secure for your event, and the last thing you want to worry about is your AV provider. Therefore, understanding your options when holding an event at a hotel is critical. Let’s run through the basics to help you understand this dilemma.
It is important to remember that even though a hotel will advertise in-house AV, the hotel AV company almost always doesn’t even work for the hotel. Hotel AV companies will typically pay roughly 50% of all of their gross budgets to the hotel, plus a signing bonus, to get in-house access to the hotel. This access is why in-house AV rental & production can be so expensive, and the service is often poor. For the hotel AV company, they find themselves in a beneficial position because they are operating on a model of convenience, similar to a gas station convenience store.
With that definition of in-house AV, let’s move on and compare how it stacks up to an independent AV provider.
Hotel AV companies will usually have very little vested interest in your particular production, simply because their clients often fall into their laps. They are connected to the hotel via a contract. While some hotels will allow you to bring in an independent vendor, many hotels are trying to run independent vendors away by increasing the required insurance certificate minimums or requiring you to pay their AV provider to “babysit” your chosen independent AV provider.
On the flip side, independent AV providers will make you a top priority. Because they do not have clients fall into their laps, they understand that your satisfaction is imperative. Most importantly, by bringing in an independent audiovisual provider of your choice, you pay for dedicated support for your event, not anyone else’s. While in-house audiovisual companies are often providing AV services for many events co-occurring, an independent vendor will staff your event with technicians that are only focusing on your one event at that time.
Hotel AV companies will typically charge anywhere from 120-200% of the prices demanded by traditional independent audiovisual companies. Their contracts with the hotels vary, but this price increase is usually due to the kickbacks that the hotels get from their in-house AV providers. These payments leave the in-house company little room to discount clients.
At the end of the day, while in-house hotel AV providers have gotten a bad reputation, they are not all bad. When planning an event, the best process is to get quotes from both the hotel AV company and independent companies. With the numbers in hand, you can weigh the pros and cons of your particular event. Many times, even if the hotel is going to penalize you for not using their AV services, you can still save money by using an independent vendor and get better service. Consider any past experience you have with the hotel and don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Want to better understand what to expect from an AV company? Read the first blog post in this series: Choosing an AV Company—Common Terms, What to Expect & Important Questions to Ask