It happens all the time – I’ll get a call from a potential customer asking if I want to bid on an event. I say “Sure! What do you need?” The response– “Well, I’ll e-mail an equipment list.” The problem is this: you can achieve similar capabilities with a wide variety of equipment.
And, the level of quality can vary greatly. So how do you know what you’re looking at?
Any good bid starts with good communication.
First things first
Before moving on to the AV equipment list and price of any bid make sure the primary details are correct. I know it may sound simple but date, time, and location, as well as venue availability are critical since these can affect an AV company’s bid.
Are the capabilities clearly spelled out?
Equipment lists can be daunting to look at, especially for non-technical people. The main thing to determine is this: does the bid tell you what everything is for? Can you determine what the capabilities are? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If the bid can’t be explained to your satisfaction as the event planner it’s time to look somewhere else.
What are the labor policies and do they match your schedule?
Make sure you have a good understanding of what the labor policies are! Most companies will charge minimum rates (usually day-rates) and significant overtime. Also, many companies have penalties for lack of meal breaks as well as schedules that start before 6:00 am or go past midnight. So, if you just gave the bidder a set of dates and do not include a detailed schedule don’t be surprised when you find out that labor is going to cost more. If you have a schedule that goes from morning until night be prepared for a hefty labor bill with lots of overtime.
Are union and facility charges included?
Many bids DO NOT include required union labor fees or facility charges. Union requirements vary greatly depending on city and facility. Venues usually charge for items such as electrical power, rigging points, storage, and parking (for tractor trailers and such), all of which can vary based on what the AV company is proposing. Don’t assume that an AV company’s bid includes these charges. If the bid doesn’t address these things you need to make a phone call.
The cost of transportation, lodging, and per-diems are not always included in the bid and are sometimes billed separately. Also, there may be surcharges in the event of high fuel prices or travel expenses. AV companies need to charge for these so that they don’t lose money. Just be aware of them so you can take them into account in your event planning checklist. Any good AV company should have a good idea of what these charges will be. But always plan high so you’re not surprised.
Putting together proposals is an art form that many do quite well. That doesn’t always translate into a good experience for the customer. People doing the proposal are often not the same people providing the service.
Get references, ask around. A reputable company with a higher bid may just save you money and headache in the long run.
Review and review again
Perhaps the most important thing to do is read any bid all the way through a few times. Let others read it and see if they notice anything different.
AV can cost a lot, but surprises cost even more.