Event PlanningTechnology

In-House vs. Outside A/V


The battle of two friendly foes: In-House vs. Outside A/V Companies

In the Meetings and Events Industry there are numerous production companies and agencies constantly vying for meeting planners and their client’s business. Planners wrestle with the question of when to use In-House A/V and when to venture Outside. For many, the decision is the equivalent to “hitting the easy button”, but have you wondered what the differences really are? As with anything in life, there are benefits and drawbacks to each approach. Let us help you navigate which avenue works best for your situation.

Things to Consider

Pros to using In-House A/V:

  • On-site office and equipment
  • Can waive costs on exclusive services (power, rigging, internet)
  • Hotel can be leveraged for deeper A/V discounts
  • Hotel more flexible with load schedules

In general, the In-House A/V team tends to have a greater knowledge of the venue, seamless integration with the hotel, and direct communication with banquets and other hotel departments. Their convenience alone makes choosing the In-House A/V company a preferred choice for many who like to keep things simple.

Cons to using In-House A/V:

  • No continuity for a client who selects a different location each year
  • Generally less flexible with labor hours, pricing, and concessions
  • Many services Outside the norm of basic projectors/systems are outsourced

Although choosing the In-House A/V company may be convenient, there are drawbacks. Since the In-House company is heavily integrated into the hotel, they have to split their revenue with the hotel, generally leading to inflated pricing. In addition, each property has its own In-House team, meaning that the skill level of technicians varies and if you move from one property to the next, it takes out the relationship building and understanding you may get from a company that moves with you. Labor is often scheduled based upon who needs the hours, versus matching skill sets to the event needs.

What’s the Alternative?

Pros to using Outside A/V:

  • Tend to be more creative
  • Latest equipment and technology available
  • Experience coordinating multiple events in multiple cities
  • Last minute additions are easy to manage
  • Consistent pricing nationwide

The other side to the coin is going with an Outside A/V company. In hiring an Outside A/V company, they are generally able to follow you and your event wherever it may be held, allowing for a deeper understanding of your needs, a team and on-site technicians dedicated to your event, and an emphasis on pre-production to work with you every step of the way. Don’t reinvent the wheel each time your conference moves locations; save your meeting planner time, which saves everyone money. Speaking of money, because Outside companies do not need to split revenue with a hotel, they tend to have more flexibility with their pricing, as well as access to a larger assortment of equipment and technology.  

Cons to using Outside A/V:

  • Familiarity with the property may be lacking
  • Additional costs related to travel for site inspections and for event days (airfare, meals, hotel)
  • Added fees by the hotel to make it cost prohibitive (power, liaison, internet, room rental, etc.)
  • Large change in scope of the project on-site may affect costs or staffing for events Outside their home markets in an adverse way

As with everything, choosing an Outside A/V company does have a few cons. Since Outside A/V companies do not work exclusively with one property, their venue knowledge may be lacking depending on where your event is taking place. Furthermore, hotels may add on burdensome fees for using an Outside company for items such as power, internet, and room rental. In some cases making the cost drastically higher overall.

The Verdict is?

Choosing between the In-House A/V and an Outside A/V company can be a tough choice, but one that should definitely be considered during the Site Selection process. The allure of convenience is often what makes many groups decide to go with the In-House A/V company. The In-House company is a great choice if you are looking for a basic production level, knowledge on the venue, and easy integration with the hotel. Where the In-House company can tend to falter is where Outside companies excel. As the In-House company does not move between venue locations, their margin for building lasting relationships with you and your events is small, and they tend to have less room for variety. Outside A/V companies have the ability to be involved every step of the way, from the planning process to the execution of the event, and any last minute needs. They are able to stay up on the latest trends and technologies, and make sure their equipment is up to the task. Outside companies tend to be more flexible and creative, working with you from concept to creation and execution, but may not have as much knowledge about the venue up front.

Know what fees will be added to your master account if you do not use the In-House company, BEFORE you book the property. These fees can make or break a conference or meeting budget.

Have you run into the problem of choosing between an In-House or an Outside A/V company before? What made you choose one over the other?

“Vario is more than a vendor we source, they are both our partner and extended family. Vario huddles onsite with us to discuss flow, options, and they infuse every event with spirit and thoughtfulness that ultimately assist in the overall pulse of our organization. I view hiring Vario as one of my personal successes because they not only meet my expectations, but far exceed them to ensure my executive, our employees, and our company is consistently setup for success. ”

Kelly O'Connor, Senior Executive Assistant to Greg Johnson, EVP and GM of TurboTaxIntuit, Inc.

“Thank you for taking your time and putting so much effort into our site visits. You made what would have been an incredibly tedious and daunting task of viewing all those properties and collecting proposals so much faster, easier and actually FUN!”

Elizabeth Fox, Executive DirectorForte For Children Foundation

“Five Stars for sure! My second year working with Vario on our annual spring conference and each time it gets better, knocking it out of the park. The team gives all they have in making the vision come to life. Working with Vario from the pre-production, where they make sure all the details are covered, to program day, where the team’s experience, pride in work and passion shines in creating an incredible attendee experience is what makes me a Vario client. As a meeting planner, Vario puts my mind at ease knowing I am working with a top-notch planning and production company and the A/V and production in my program are in the best hands. I look forward to working with the Vario team again.”

Carrie Shen, CMP, CMM, CEDCo-Chair EdCon Annual Conference

“The Vario team not only assists with AV needs but works with me on the planning aspect. I completely trust Vario to handle production with their amazing up to date knowledge, attention to detail and most importantly, integrity.”

Marty Covert, PrincipalCovert Operations

“Vario delivered above and beyond expectations. They are more than a vendor, they are a creative partner. Their team were exceptional and went all-in when it came to design, curation, desired impact, and budget constraints. This event was a success in a large part because of them and their professionalism. We simply could have not executed this event — to the world-class level — without their support.

My experience with Vario has given me the confidence that they are the team that can push our brand and experiences to the next level.

Crystal Mayers, Presentation Design Lead, Brand Experience & StorytellingIntuit, Inc.

“Thank you for ALL your help with our Light the Night event. Simply put, we couldn't have done it without you. We have had nothing but positive feedback about the new venue, the production value, and the event overall.”

Rachel Peniche, Board ChairLeukemia and Lymphoma Society

“In 10 years of working events, this was the most interesting experience. I can’t say I’ve seen everything but I think this comes pretty close. A huge thank you to Vario who rain or shine are bad ass partners, I will never use anyone else for my events, they pull through every time.”

Amy Ulkutekin, Event PlannerBeerfest

“We chose Vario because of their knowledge in the AV business along with their team’s professionalism, attention to detail and quality of service. They became an extended part of our team and were instrumental in making our Sales Conference a huge success.”

Angel Atondo, Sr. Marketing ManagerCavium, Inc.

“I cannot thank you and your team enough for helping to make this event a success. From the pre-event consultations, onsite flexibility and management to the personal attention – we felt so taken care of and in qualified hands. You all were such professionals and I really enjoyed working with each of your team members.”

Katie Harvill, Owner & Managing DirectorMatchstick Creative

Success Stories Are Our Standard

Some of our valued clients: