Industry Update
Opinion Article29 May 2019

Outsourcing Audiovisual Equipment Has Its Advantages

10 reasons to leverage the skillset of a technology-savvy AV services team

By Jeff Loether, President and founder of ELECTRO-MEDIA DESIGN, Ltd.

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Outsourcing audiovisual equipment is by far the dominant model in the hotel industry, especially in large hotels that cater to convention business. It is also the norm in standard business hotels that cater to group and local business meetings, as well as social business on the weekends. For self-operated hotels, however, outsourcing is not be as prevalent. These properties are typically smaller in size and cater to the small, executive level meetings market as they do not typically have expansive meeting spaces. These hotels have ownership support and an operator that can provide the service with a small technical staff, or with other support staff.

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There are significant benefits to both outsourcing and self-managing audiovisual equipment and event technologies. This article looks at the rewards associated with outsourcing a professional AV Services company and it will assist operators in evaluating: 1) their venues, 2) the types of events they book, 3) the capabilities of their operations teams, and 4) the needs/expectations of attendees.

Here are the 10 Top Advantages of Outsourcing Audiovisual Equipment in the hotel or conference center environment:

1. Lower Operations and Labor Costs

Outsourcing audiovisual services removes the need to purchase audiovisual equipment to support meetings and events, as well as the cost of staff to service those events. The outside provider will supply all the equipment required to support events, as well as the labor to plan, manage and operate the services. They will then provide a percentage of the revenue generated back to the host property for the privilege. Nearly all the revenue received from the outside provider drops straight to the bottom line since the hard costs for providing the service is the burden of the outsourced provider.

2. AV Equipment is Up-to-Date and Readily Available

Audiovisual services are typically not supported within the corporate structure of hotels companies in the same way as room operations, food and beverage and IT. Each venue is responsible for providing this service in the most efficient manner they can manage. For many operators, outsourcing is the most efficient way to ensure their guests receive professional services, with up-to-date equipment.

3. Support Staff is Readily Available

If you don't use an outsourced AV provider, training for internal staff is required, but unfortunately, there are no courses that teach AV services and no how-to books to read up on what to do with all the necessary AV equipment, how to run it, maintain it, replace it or upgrade it when the time comes. Outsourced AV professionals are highly skilled in AV operations. They have the training and are familiar with a wide variety of equipment required by today's meeting planners.

4. Added Revenue Opportunities

Since an outsourced AV provider must generate enough revenue to operate a profitable business for themselves, as well as provide value to the host property, there must be enough business opportunity to make this possible. In large properties with the opportunity to approach $1M in AV revenues, outsourced providers will work with hotel sales teams to upsell equipment and events based on their broad arsenal of technologies. After all, if revenues fall fbelow this threshold, it could become increasingly difficult for outside providers to operate a profitable business for themselves and the host property.

5. Advanced Services Support

AV services can be broken down into two categories; basic presentation support and advanced production services. Basic support includes standard business requirements, such as computer projection/display, lectern microphones, flipcharts and built-in sound systems. Production support includes multi-screen, multi-camera events, concert sound and lighting systems, and highly specialized technical labor. The more often production support is required, the more there is a need is to rely upon a professional vendor to plan, manage and operate these events. Hotels with large event spaces that have the capability to host these types of events should strongly consider how they will be best positioned to support them.

6. Specialized Technical Labor

In addition to venues with large event spaces, some facilities may have highly specialized rooms, such as showrooms, auditoriums, technical classrooms, etc. that may be required to support streaming services, telepresence and teleconference studios, production facilities, entertainment stages, etc. These services require specially trained AV production technicians to operate the systems. Outsourced providers have specialized technicians available upon request.

7. Purchasing Equipment is Not Required

In a new build or conversion scenario, often operators forget to budget for a compliment of portable AV equipment. It's also possible that the construction/renovation budget was over-run and the allocated AV funds were used to buy mission-critical kitchen equipment instead. Outsourcing AV services to a third party solves this dilemma, as the provider will purchase all AV equipment and supplies required to support the property. They may even provide an up-front signing bonus to the property which can be used to cover a portion of the over-run budget.

8. Revenues are Maximized and Collected

When no one is directly responsible for providing AV services, they tend to not to value the services and revenue opportunities can be missed. Outsourcing AV services to a professional provider ensures that these services are sold, planned and executed properly and that revenues are collected for the services provided.

9. On-going Repair and Maintenance of Systems is Minimized

Built-in AV systems, when properly maintained, provide reliable performance that is easy to operate and do not require a high level of technical skill. However, these systems must be maintained and serviced, or they will deteriorate over time. If a hotel cannot afford to maintain, repair, and refresh (keep current) their built-in systems then they will need to use all portable equipment to provide AV services. This is the primary business model of outsourced AV providers and utilizing them in this scenario may be the most efficient course of action.

10. Minimal Installed AV Systems

As stated above, installed AV systems of today are stable, reliable and much easier to operate than in the past. Properties with a significant amount of installed basic presentation equipment (house sound systems, wall-mounted displays, projection screens and projectors) may consider operating basic services on their own. However, where these systems are not present, or where they have deteriorated to the point where they are unusable, portable equipment will be required to support all AV requirements. Setting up and removing portable equipment to support all events opens the possibility of human error and mistakes, creating service failures. In this situation, best practice is to have trained AV technicians on-site to properly setup and remove AV equipment.

Outsourcing audiovisual services is a viable option for many hotels. In addition to lowering operational and labor costs, it ensures that your guests receive professional equipment and support. while the provider will handle most of the day-to-day responsibilities, the hotel should still plan and budget for the service and maintenance of any built-in AV systems and infrastructure. This will allow the AV vendor to provide services as efficiently as possible, creating a win for them, you and your guests.

Jeff Loether

Jeff Loether is president and founder of ELECTRO-MEDIA DESIGN, Ltd., an AudioVisual systems design and Acoustical consultation group with expertise in audio, video, control, and related presentation, entertainment, and communications technologies. Loether is the 2018 recipient of the Mel Hosansky Award for Distinguished Service presented by IACC, formerly known as the International Association of Conference Centers.

    More from Jeff Loether

    About Electro-Media Design Ltd.

    Electro-Media Design Ltd. is an AudioVisual systems design and Acoustical consultation group with expertise in audio, video, control, and related presentation, entertainment, and communications technologies. The practice also includes AudioVisual Operational and Management consulting to address the entire AV systems lifecycle. As independent consultants over the last 25 years, EMD has provided consulting services for more than 800 projects globally, including: hotels, conference and convention centers, spas and resorts, government facilities, corporate board rooms, theaters and auditoria, schools and electronic classrooms, training and meeting rooms, courtrooms, places of worship, restaurants and nightclubs, sports facilities and venues, and command and control centers.

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