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Hiring an Outside AV Company? 7 Things to Get in Writing Before Signing that Hotel Contract

Hiring an Outside AV Company? 7 Things to Get in Writing Before Signing that Hotel Contract

As someone who’s worked in some of the country’s largest hotels and sold AV for independent audio visual companies, I’ve just about seen it all when it comes to hotel contracts.

That’s why I always share this list with my clients. On it are the things you should be sure are spelled out in every hotel contract before signing it. That way, when you’re ready to hire an AV company, you won’t be vulnerable to unexpected costs.

Just like in all contracts, without getting all the details in writing, it’s possible for the hotel to charge fees later on. That’s why being sure these AV related items are spelled out in advance can save you thousands of dollars — especially for large events.

Remember: AV providers, including our team here at Meeting Tomorrow, have tons of experience understanding hotel contracts and navigating negotiations. If you’re struggling to get any of this in writing, or the prices seem too high, just ask us or your AV partner for some guidance. We can make sure you get a fair contract that serves you and your event.

What to Make Sure is Spelled Out in Any Hotel Contract

Supervision Fees
Make sure your contract includes whether the hotel requires you to pay for a technician to supervise the load-in and load-out process. Ideally, there’s no fee. But the advice I give clients is that the fee should never be more than $1,500 total including both load-in and load-out.

Sometimes, hotels will try to require that one of their in-house technicians supervise your entire event from beginning to end. Unless the hotel is a union venue, this generally shouldn’t be a requirement, and it’s important to get the details ironed out in your contract.

Confirm that power for your general session, breakout rooms, and other meeting spaces is complimentary. However, if the hotel can’t offer power on a complimentary basis, make sure to request a flat fee for power for your program rather than a per amp, per phase, or per day charge. This way, you know exactly how much you’re paying and won’t be shocked (no pun intended) by any surprises later on.

Internet Fees (per person and by bandwidth)
This is a common one. Hotels will often charge for internet, especially if you don’t get it in writing before signing a contract.

Also, make sure the minimum megabytes per second (mbps) is included too — this confirms the connection speed. When a hotel contract mentions “complimentary general access wireless internet for up to ____ attendees,” it’s usually very few mbps per device and most of my clients have to order more bandwidth so attendees can connect without any issues. The ideal bandwidth speed is 15mbps, but 5 or 6 might work well enough, depending on your program and your guests’ needs.

Rigging Fees
Rigging is how audio visual companies suspend AV equipment like lighting and speakers above the stage or in another position. Make sure any fees for the outside AV company handling the rigging are itemized in your contract before signing.

Union Shadow Labor Ratio
This is an especially important one. If the hotel is under a union contract, make sure you know if there is a “union shadow labor ratio.”

If so, a union shadow labor ratio of 2:1 (two union technicians to one outside AV company technician) will always be the best value. If the ratio is 1:1 (one union technician to every one outside AV company technician), that will double your labor costs.

This will not change whether or not you have it in the contract, but it will help you budget accurately. Be sure to ask about about union labor upfront when choosing the venue so you’re aware of how your budget may differ by property.

Fees for Bringing in an Outside AV Company
Regardless of whether you decide to go with your own AV partner or the in-house, you want to keep as many options open to you as possible. Double check that your contract states that you won’t face any fees for bringing in the AV team of your choice.

Stephen Wheeler is a Strategic Account Director at Meeting Tomorrow.