Knowing how to evaluate and work with an AV service provider is no easy feat. Not knowing much about the company except for sort-of liking the smooth-talking sales representative can sometimes lead to a miserable experience rife with technical issues and lackluster service. Too often this critical decision is also based solely on whoever comes in at the lowest price. Frequently this results in blowing way past budgets when the provider adds back all of the extras they didn’t include in an estimate. So, to avoid these pitfalls and ensure a mutually successful working relationship, I propose this: Approach your AV relationship with as much care and planning as you’d do with a hairstylist.
Now, I know some of you are giggling (and that’s a good thing), but let me explain the reasons why this is a good idea (and how similar the two really are).
- You need referrals to find a good one. Shop around; ask for referrals from friends who seem to be happy with their results or whose events you admire. Look at pictures in industry magazines and note the ones you like. The MiForum and MeCo listserves also frequently feature people sharing information about providers or asking for referrals.
- They can become your most trusted advisor. If you don’t identify with the hairstylist analogy here, think about your relationship with your CPA, instead. Stress the relationship-based connection with the AV provider, and be respectful of the professional knowledge and experience they offer.
- They inspire (and reward) loyalty. If you’re happy with your current AV company, then stick with that team as often as possible. They will anticipate your needs and wants better than someone new. But in order to fight complacency and boredom, don’t be afraid to occasionally try something new! Give license to their artistic judgment and creativity to bring out the best for your meetings.
- Their extra services can bust your budget. When working with a new team, keep a close eye on your budget. Just like a salon, those deep-conditioning treatment types of AV extras can add up! Ask for daily summaries of numbers or simply whether or not you’ve remained under or at budget.
- They are results-driven. When we go to our hairstylist, we bring pictures. Do the same for your AV company. Use descriptive words when describing what you’d like to achieve. Don’t feel pressured to know the difference between a LS9-32 and LS9-16. But give a very strong description of what you expect your attendees to feel, hear and see on the day of your event.
During the exploration process, make sure you engage in conversations with your sales representative and the project manager (as well as anyone else who might be relevant). They will be your primary point of contact for the duration of the planning process, so it’s important you feel comfortable with and trust them. Finally, I would encourage you to have some fun. At the end of the day, you will be working closely with this team for anywhere from one afternoon to one year, so make sure you like them!