How to Choose the Best Audio Visual Production Partner

One of the most powerful ways to engage attendees at your events is through messaging and presentations by executive teams, guest speakers and other thought leaders. That message, and its effectiveness, relies heavily on your audio/visual production team, their experience, and their savvy ability to leverage technology to seamlessly amplify that message to your audience.

Having an experienced and trusted team of A/V professionals is crucial to the success of any event, whether it’s live with 1000 attendees or virtually broadcasted out to your networks. Hours of preproduction, sometimes spanning months, goes into planning events. So, when it comes time to address the audience, it is critical to have a team of skilled and highly invested partners ensuring that messaging is shared clearly and effectively.

When choosing the right production partner for your organization, there are three key components you will want to consider. This choice can weigh heavily on the success of your events.

#1 Do your homework

With so many A/V companies claiming to be full-service, one-stop, production houses, it can be difficult to differentiate a basic equipment rental house from a true production operation based solely on a website. While there is value in using on-line tools to research a company’s offerings, often a referral from a colleague can produce a more relevant list than a web search alone.

Reach out to event planners for recommendations

Ask if they have feedback on their production partners. Drawing on the experience of others in the field can streamline the selection process and provide a more focused list of candidates.

Research av production companY’S history, background, and experience

  • How long has the company been in business?
  • How many full-time employees do they have?
  • What type, and size, events have they produced?
  • Can they provide glowing references from other like-sized clients?

Get their references

References are the single most important element in vetting a possible production partner. If they can’t provide solid referrals from satisfied clients, then you should see that as a major red flag. Any worthy prospect should be able to provide a list of comparable clients, photos of similar events, and sincere direct referrals from other organizations.

Inquire about the company’s additional offerings

Can they work with your presenters in creating and managing content? Do they offer video production services, both for pre-produced videos and recording or webcasting the event? Will they provide on-site support beyond just technical operators like a producer, show caller, or stage manager? These are all good questions to consider when you research productions partners to see if they would be a good fit for your company’s events.

#2 Compare pricing

Production budget can be a limiting factor, but a good partner should be able to provide options at various price points and will work with you to customize the event to fit your needs. When discussing pricing and reviewing quotes, make sure to ask relevant questions and be sure all elements are included.

  • Look for a line-item quote that lists out all equipment in each department. This will make it easier to do an apples-to-apples cost comparison between providers.
  • Look closely at labor rates. Inquire about over-time and double-time rules.
  • If applicable, be sure the quote includes travel and shipping estimates. These costs are not always included in early drafts of budgets.
  • Be sure to discuss overages and how those are dealt with on-site. Thorough companies will look at your agenda and include overtime estimates in your budget.

A professional and fair estimate should include these items in the initial quote to avoid post-event surprises.

Also, while your quote may not include venue-related charges like rigging , power, internet, etc. your production partner should be willing to reach out to the in-house A/V and work directly with them on your behalf to provide event details, negotiate discounts, order services, ask for and review estimates, provide production schedules, and work as a conduit between your team and the in-house provider.

#3 Consider the structure and workflow within the company.

Will you have a single point of contact through quoting, site-visit, pre-production, the onsite event, and through the billing process? Some organizations will hand you from one department to another as you move from planning to execution. While this may be fine for some aspects of your event, assigning a Project Manager as a single point of contact through all phases, including being the lead on-site, is critical to success. The PM should be heavily supported by a team of creative, logistical, and technical professionals, but their central role is meant to streamline communication and keep everything running smoothly.

A/V must be flawlessly executed

The catered breakfast might be delicious, the conference chairs could be comfortable, the venue space could be warm and inviting – but if the A/V doesn’t work and the message can’t be imparted or received, then it could be argued that the entire event was pointless. The best A/V partners are able to balance this knowledge and responsibility with the other priorities in the event planning process. Be cautious of companies that:

  • Believe that A/V can dictate all/most terms in the overall event planning process because of its importance.
  • Come across to you as to cavalier in their approach to the roll of A/V in your event: “Don’t worry, we’re all just one big happy family and everything will work out.”
  • Don’t offer back up equipment or have contingency plans for when something does go wrong
  • Are unwilling to be flexible and agile in handling the inevitable last-minute changes

While A/V is a mission critical element of your event, it still must work in partnership with all of the other aspects.

Listen and Collaborate

There are many options and offerings in the fast-paced, high-touch, and often bizarre world of corporate event productions, from full-scale event management agencies to equipment rental houses, to in-house vendors. The scope, budget, and aim of your event might mean employing any or all options. The goal of any good production partner should be to listen to your needs, understand and collaborate on the goals for the event, assist you in navigating the myriad of choices, and help deliver to you, your execs, your team, and your attendees an event that is on time, on budget, and on message.