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How to Get Big AV on a Teeny, Tiny Budget

By Christina Green

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Your event AV has a huge impact on the way your audience connects with your materials and your presenters. But sometimes tight budgets cause eventprofs to cut this area. Here are a few ways you can retain AV services without toppling your budget.

AV budgets are tempting to cut. After all, who will notice if you decide to nix the big screen? It’s not an essential like food, right? Not so fast. It’s quickly becoming so. Think about all the ways you use tech in your daily life.

People are used to things like voice search and interactive video. They watch TV and interact with people on their smartphones during the show. When you provide them with only a presenter and PowerPoint, you’re missing an opportunity to make an impression, or at the very least, give them what they’re accustomed to. You don’t want them sitting in your audience thinking about how reruns on their home theater setup are more engaging than anything at your event.

But AV can be costly. Tech often is, but there are a number of creative ways to ensure it’s well within your budget.

How to Get Big AV on a Teeny, Tiny Budget

Ideas on How to Pay for AV and Minimize Expenses

Ideally, you would shop around for the best price on AV but many venues have strict rules about it and using either their in-house group or someone already on their approved list. If that’s the case for your event, it will be harder to negotiate really inexpensive pricing.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t afford it. Instead, you can get a little creative on funding. Here are a few ideas on how you can afford the AV setup of your dreams, even when you’re forced to use the in-house audio visual supplier and shopping around for the best price isn’t an option.

1. Use a Sponsor

Make your AV cost a sponsored opportunity for someone. Place their name on slides or include a brief “commercial” for them running in the background as people are assembling in your sessions. They get exposure, you get your AV needs met.

2. Buy It Once

If you have the budget for it, and your clients aren’t hard-core early adopters, you may decide an investment in AV on your end is worth it. Buy the equipment and use it for all of your events. The one downside of doing so is that with tech things change often. You’ll need to keep up with new products and you, or someone on your team, will need to set it up and maintain it.

3. Negotiate It When You’re Negotiating the Venue

If your AV needs must be covered by an in-house vendor, make that part of the negotiation terms when negotiating the venue. After the contract is signed, you lose some of your negotiating ability because they know you are locked into using their group. If you have future events that you plan on using this venue for, let them know that as well. If you can book the venue at the time you’re booking your other event you may have even better negotiating leverage.

4. Go with an App Instead

In some cases, an app may be less expensive than requiring that mega-screen setup and rental. There are apps on the market that transform smartphones into personal viewing stations. These apps give audience members the ability to zoom into portions of slides that interest them and write notes. The app also means every seat is a good one, even if an NBA basketball player is sitting in front of you.

5. Talk the Talk

When AV companies start quoting you, the difference in prices can come down to equipment. Unless you are big into AV, you may not know when they’re offering you good value or overcharging you for inferior stock.

Do your research on projector.com, which provides write-ups on AV components. While you’re researching look into other peripherals such as mics, public address systems, and lighting rigs. This will help you understand what’s needed and what isn’t. Sometimes packages are a better value, while other times cafeteria-style pricing of only paying for what you’ll use makes more sense. Finally, never be afraid to ask your AV provider how you can save money on the options presented. Also ask them for advice on how spending a little can give a big effect. Lighting is just one way to transform a room or set and make an impact, without having to spend a fortune.

6. Increase Ticket Sales

Increase your ticket sales slightly to pay for your AV. Hotels do these kinds of things all the time. Most of them have made Internet free in recent years but now charge an exorbitant resort fee to cover it. You needn’t charge an additional fee to cover AV, just add a few dollars to the ticket price.

7. Let the AV Group Advertise

In some cases, if your attendees are a very valuable market to the AV group, allowing them to openly advertise may save you some money. However, if you decide to go this route make sure you agree on the parameters of what you consider acceptable advertising to your group. You never want attendees to feel like they’re in the middle of a late-night infomercial. Make sure your negotiation is beneficial to both sides and of service to your attendees. You don’t want them to feel like their privacy was violated and their name sold to the highest bidder.

If you don’t want them to advertise at your event, and your website gets good traffic, you could offer to place a free ad on your event website in exchange for discounted services. Who knows? If they get major leads from your website, they could become a regular advertiser or sponsor outside of this event.

8. Sell Virtual Tickets

You can sell virtual tickets to your event for a lower ticket price than in-person options and earmark money made on the virtual tickets to pay for your AV package. Just make sure you tell your AV and tech people about this so that they can advise on what you’ll need to create a good virtual experience.

9. Earmark a Portion of the VIP Ticket for AV

If you have a famous keynote who is willing, you can sell a VIP experience ticket with a meet and greet or a photo op and then use some of that money to pay for AV expenses.

10. Sell Branded Swag

If your event has a hot brand and a loyal following, selling branded swag on your registration site may be enable you to pay for your AV expenditure. You can sell attire, luggage tags, bumper stickers, cups, and more. You may also be able to sell your presenters’ books for a small fee or commission. It may not cover all of your AV expenditure but it may help you defray some of the cost.


In Conclusion

AV is critical to your event but some budgets have simply been cut back too far to provide anything substantial. If that is the case with your event, there are some creative ways in which you can subsidize or cover the AV fees. AV and technology are not areas you want to skimp. Attendees’ daily use and exposure to them make these components necessary to the event experience so - don’t despair, try some of these ideas to cover the costs.

Additional Resources for Event AV and Tech on a Budget

17 Amazing Event Lighting Effects
Wow Your Attendees with these Simple AV Trends
16 Ways to Stretch Your Event Budget
How to Get More from Your Event Budget [Webinar] 10 Ways to Bring More Tech to Low Budget Events
12 Ways To Use AV and Technology to Drive Event Sponsorship
Budget-friendly Gamification Ideas for Events
Why You Should Spend Your Budget on Experience Not Marketing


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about the author

Christina Green
Christina R. Green is a digital storyteller and writer for associations and businesses, including journals such as the Midwestern Society of Association Executive's magazine and industry blogs. She's a voracious reader but has been known to stop reading if there are too many exclamation points used.
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