Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

June 17 2014

Demystifying A/V Services

Shannon Henson, Director of Meetings & Exhibits, International Association of Operative Millers

On March 27th, members of the hospitality industry came together at the newly remodeled Crowne Plaza Kansas City – Overland Park with the hope that the mystery of audio visual services would finally be revealed. If you’re like me, you’ve spent the better part of 20 years in this industry hoping that someone else will be there to make the important decisions about your audio visual needs.  I’m that planner who can only barely plug the LCD into the computer and even then my fingers are crossed when pushing the power button.  Heaven help me if it doesn't work on the first try because panic will ensue--and fast.

Jim Kelley, Director of Global Accounts at PRG, was the wizard behind the mysterious a/v curtain that night. We waited in anticipation for all the big secrets to be revealed. Right off the bat he asked us if our A/V partner is just taking our business or are they giving to the partnership. Hmmm…I never thought about it before. Is the relationship on-going or does it end when the event is over? If your A/V company is playing the role of provider and not the role of partner, you might not be asking them the right questions to get the most out of them.  He then reassured us by saying that there really is no way to keep up with technology because it changes so rapidly (oh great!) He pointed out that the experience we want our attendees to have is the most important thing to consider.

Solving the mystery really begins with your Request for Proposal. There are four keys to finding the best partner for your A/V needs and they start with communication. Communicating your needs to the potential candidates both verbally and written in your RFP is imperative.

Quality information is the second key: You can turn your RFP into a novel but, if your RFP does not contain an excellent level of information, you are limiting their ability to help you. Think about those five w’s you were taught in junior high.  Have you told them when, where, what, who and how (wait, that’s not a w...)  Make sure you have clearly identified all of your needs and services. 

Make the timing of your RFP realistic for everyone involved. As someone who recently took six months to hire an A/V partner I am telling you, the earlier you can send out your RFP the better. If you’re thinking ahead, you might even want to invite potential bidders to the previous year’s conference so they can see what they are bidding on.

Finally, think about what your expectations are for the experience they will be delivering. It may be that all of the companies you’ve asked to bid can deliver the same basic product but, what are the things that make some of the bidding companies special for you? While going through our recent RFP process, it was important that our partner understood our limited budget but, also that they have an eye for adding production elements to our meal functions and ceremonies that would make them look a little richer and more robust.

I let this session wishing that I had attended it before our bidding process began last November. I’m not sure that the mystery was completely solved. However, in an industry that changes by the minute, he might have solved it at 7:05 and a new mystery could have appeared at 7:15. Good luck on your A/V adventures!