Event planners and providers are looking for ways to mitigate the ballooning costs go audiovisual services. (Jacob Slaton Photography)
Inflation hit a four-decade high of 9.1 percent in June, putting continued pressure on consumer’s wallets nearly everywhere that people spend money. It is just one of many issues audiovisual suppliers — as well as event organizers working with tight budgets for their events — are facing right now, according to John Rissi, senior vice president, customer and industry engagement at event tech and production company Encore.
“Everything has gone up across the board,” Rissi said. “But if we were to apply all the increases that we’ve experienced in our pricing, nobody would be able to afford us.”
The cost of AV gear, travel for technicians, and trucking have all risen significantly, Rissi said, with the cost of everyday equipment like screens and video projectors increasing anywhere from 15 to 50 percent. The transportation and travel costs have prompted suppliers and planners alike to think critically about smarter ways of moving AV resources. For Encore, this has meant focusing on systems that allow them to track how their equipment and workforce are being used.
“We’re able to know where the equipment is, how long it’s going to be used, when it needs to be at the next venue,” Rissi said. “That’s a big advantage, and that’s what allows us to not just pass on all of the extra costs.” It’s the same story with staffing — with meticulous tracking, Encore can keep tabs on who has worked certain hours, where their last job was, and how easy or difficult it is for them to move to another destination for the next event.
Event organizers, according to Annette Suriani, CMP, CFMP, DES, principal and chief meeting strategist at AMS Meetings Solutions and executive director of the Association of Meeting Professionals (AMPs), should also be doing their part to help suppliers work more efficiently to help save their own budgets. Since returning to face-to-face events in 2021, Suriani has needed to increase event budgets anywhere from 20-30 percent to make room for widespread price increases. One way she is mitigating AV costs is communicating with venues about AV setups of events taking place immediately before hers.
“Find out who is going to be in that room before you,” she said, suggesting that event organizers can ask their AV company to talk to the previous event’s AV company or in-house provider. “See what they used, what rigging has been done, what lighting has been set up already. And piggyback off that.”
Roberta Sumner, principal at VRS Meetings & Events, also has had to get creative when it comes to getting equipment to events on time and in a cost-effective way. With two back-to-back events in Las Vegas and Miami, her regular AV production company made the decision to rent equipment in Las Vegas rather than transporting it from its original destination because “it was cheaper,” Roberta Sumner said.
Looking locally to cut AV costs, Suriani said, has helped lessen the astronomical costs associated with travel. “Trying to get trucks, trying to get buses, even flying stuff out — rates have gone up so much,” she said. “I just did a meeting in Orlando in May. We have a production company, but they did not bring any of their own equipment, because they didn’t want to have to truck it.” Her AV provider rented equipment from the in-house company and negotiated pricing on their own. “Whatever you source locally,” she said, “you’re going to save some money.”