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AV Fees, What Does The Service Charge Include?

AV Fees, what does the service charge include?

Recently,  Stephen was asked by one of our clients to review a proposal for AV fees from an AV company for their upcoming event.  This contract was not previously negotiated by Stephen, but it’s not uncommon for clients to lean on us for this advice.

The proposal that listed a service charge which was 40% of the total invoice.  When Stephen inquired further, he was told that this charge covers all of the support elements needed for the event, beyond the equipment and dedicated labor, which are billed for separately.  It included technology support and event management – before, during and after your event.  Sounds reasonable right?  However this particular client never once met with the Tech team before or after the event!  The service charge also covers all the other customer benefits of using an onsite AV provider (such as having general pop-up equipment on property…. even if you don’t use the pop-up equipment…)

YIKES!  But it got worse as Stephen kept prodding….

The service charge also provided the client with daily gear preparation and testing, and accompanying consumable items (such as batteries, projector bulbs and tape). Things that are clearly not included in the rental of the AV!

It begs the questions….what exactly does the rental cover?

When our planner clients are procuring audio visual services, their expectation is that gear testing is the cost of being in the AV industry and part of the rental.  Consumables such as projector bulbs should also be part of the rental, not an additional cost.

And friends (especially our AV friends) we get it!   AV companies have huge expenses when it comes to equipment and continually having to reinvent when new technology comes out.  That being said, planners are often already uneasy with AV proposals when they get charged $12.00 for a power bar that you could buy at the dollar store for $4.  To pay for the “convenience” of having the on-site provider, but not actually benefitting from that convenience with last-minute requests just doesn’t add up.

What is the solution here?  Could AV companies do better job of positioning themselves with their consumers?  Could they be more transparent in their fees and what each fee entails?  What damage has been done to the reputation of the AV firm that posts charges for service fees that appear to be a cash grab?

So what about bringing in an outside firm to the hotel?  It seems that a lot of AV  companies are protecting their in-house rights by tying things like Internet to the exclusive use of the in-house provider.  Some hotels and AV firms offer complimentary Internet service in the function space, which sounds great until you find out that it’s 2 megabytes of service ….. not enough to power Netflix!  The enhanced wifi, will then cost the planner a fortune and again is tied to the in house audiovisual company.

What can planners do to combat hidden AV fees:

  1. Go to RFP – planners have the opportunity to source out other AV firm options.  By taking some time to create an RFP, distribute it to a few firms (including the in-house firm), you could end up saving a good chunk of money!  Need and AV RFP template?  We just happen to have one!
  2. Examine the proposal and contract – Planners need to closely look at what the proposal and contract have included.  Many of the inclusions may seem foreign, so its worth asking questions of your provider about what is entailed in the quote.
  3. Build in the concession to use an outside AV firm – At the hotel proposal and contracting stages, ensure you have a concession built-in to your contract to include an outside provider without fees.
  4. Get crystal clear on your internet needs – Ensure that your “complimentary meeting space internet” is enough for your delegates to effectively use!  High quality downloads may require 5 MBPS, and most complimentary room internet allowances are for 1 MBPS (good for basic email)
  5. Service fee clarity – Ask questions of your AV provider about the service fee.  If a service fee is mandatory by the provider, is it reasonable? If you give back equipment does the service fee fluctuate with the overall cost or is this fee static?
  6.  Internet provider clarity – Have you asked about internet provisions? Is this tied to only the in-house provider? You want to ensure that you can use any AV company and that any comp internet has a reasonable amount of bandwidth for your purpose
  7. Required equipment – Ensure the equipment quoted is absolutely required. Are speakers really need when speaking to a small group?? Was that handheld really critical?


Rest assured, not all AV firms out there are trying to pull the wool over our planner’s eyes.  We’ve worked with some great, ethical, honest and budget-friendly AV firms over the years that are completely transparent about their AV fees.

Want to learn about AV fees from people much smarter than us in the AV World?  Head on over to Endless Events, and their blog posts on 6 Best Ways to Save On An Event AV Contract and AV Fees And Infrastructure Costs That You Need To Know About.

RELATED – Why Can’t I?  And Other Hotel Contract Negotiation Questions

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