Transcript From The Savvy Event Planner Podcast Episode 16
Hear The Entire Episode At: http://SavvyEventPodcast.com/16
Interview Transcript Only
Tom: Ladies and gentlemen, I am on the line with Will Curran. Will, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today.
Will: Thanks so much for having me Tom.
Tom: Man, you were just in like in Istanbul?
Will: Yeah, I just literally got back from Istanbul.
Tom: That was awesome. What was going on over there?
Will: So I'm actually a delegate for the United States for what's called the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance and basically we decide on international and national policy for young entrepreneurs. Basically trying to find out ways that we can make entrepreneurship flourish in as many countries as possible.
Tom: Oh, that's very cool. Now you're doing that but you're also an AV guru.
Will: Yes, I am.
Tom: Tell us about your background. How did you get involved in AV and who did you evolve into the event industry?
Will: Absolutely, yeah. So I always considered myself I guess kind of a geeky kid. I was the website designer. I loved technology. I loved taking things apart, putting them back together. And I was also kind of the goofball kid as well. I was the one at my sister's friend's wedding who danced on the wall and loved talking to the DJ and finding out what music he had and everything like that. Well, I think it was kind of fate that eventually I obviously became a DJ.
And I started DJ-ing back at parties and then basically from there said hey, I want to do bigger and better events. Decided we wanted to throw really awesome high school dances with massive club and concert productions which hadn't been done in Arizona before. Just thought I'd do that. Did that for a little while and said okay, now that's still not enough. Let's go for the next level. What's the next biggest event? And we just started looking at all these lists of all these huge events. We were like we want to do that event. We want to do that event. And from there we just started doing these really, really big events. What we realized is we were contracting so many AV companies we realized there was a major problem and a major solution that could be created around working with AV companies because they just weren't the easiest people to work with.
So we basically kind of shut down a little bit of the entertainment arm and said we're going to focus on the production and the AV portion and deliver really an awesome customer experience. So from there, it was pretty much my desire to do bigger events but also making sure that my clients were really taken care of because it was really just a huge goal of mine to not only bring an awesome event but also make it extremely easy because we all know that event planning isn't the easiest thing or isn't the most, I guess you would say, least stressful thing in the entire world, right?
Tom: Really. So let me go here because you've taken me in a different direction now. You've got my curiosity up. You were dealing with these AV companies. You said they weren't the easiest people to deal with. Why?
Will: Well one of the things was I obviously was innately like a techy kind of guy, so I was curious about what the difference between 750 watt fixture versus a 500 watt fixture is. And I know I'm probably speaking Greek to people now. But what I realized is that most planners, they don't really care about all that detail. They just need it to pull off and look awesome for either their client or for their non-profit or whatever it may be. And what we realized is that the tech guys really just love tech and they weren't really the best people people if that makes sense.
So what basically happened is we realized that tech is extremely complicated in the first place but then top of it the tech people really just want to be tech people. They don't really want to be people people. So it was kind of that combination that made it so it was really, really difficult to work with them. On top of that we started seeing this increase in in-house companies making it extremely difficult to work on their venues. You know, technical people, like more technology was coming in every minute so constantly planners had to know about what was the newest coolest thing and how does that effect their event. So it was just this huge combination and it's almost like this tidal wave of changes that were happening in the industry that really made it so we were like okay, this is time for us to get in and make this super easy.
Tom: Very cool. So let's talk about the venues and their AV companies because a lot of venues will try to steer planners to using their AV vendor. Are there any benefits to using an in-house vendor and what are the disadvantages of that?
Will: Oh, there're definitely plenty of benefits to using an in-house AV company. The first and probably the most common thing that we get cited for by someone who would want to work with an in-house AV company is because they know their venue the best. Obviously they're on the property. They're going to know all the hallways. They're going to know where the power is and everything like that. Sometimes I find that this actually isn't true because for example, we work in so many different venues, a) we may have already worked in that venue. We know it like the back of hands. But also you work in so many different venues, a ballroom compared to a ballroom are usually exactly the same. So that's something just keep in mind.
However, if you're working let's say for example, if you're based in Miami and you're trying to bring me from Arizona to Miami, if you are really wanting to meet the in-house AV company in person, they can do that a lot easier than me obviously in Arizona. However, with technology these days we can do things like Skyping and thank God for airplane. I can fly out there any time you want. So that's something just to really keep in mind, is the idea that they know their venue really, really well.
In some cases they can be less expensive than an outside AV company. One thing to keep in mind is things like travel can cause extra costs. Things like an outside AV company may have a very, very elaborate amount of equipment that is very high end compared to if you just need a simple, small projector and a small speaker system, it might make sense then to use an in-house AV company. So in those sort of things. And one thing as well is that they usually have a lot of staffing available as well. So for example, our company really focuses on having a really wide amount of staff available. So what ends up happening is most AV companies is that if they run out of staff for an event they start sub-contracting and finding staff from other companies as well, so basically doing the sub-contracting labor. And sometimes that's not really the best because they're not their employees. They really I guess aren't a 100% aligned to the culture of that company and your vision of the event and everything like that.
However, with an in-house AV company, and some outside AV companies like ourselves are like this as well, is that everybody's in-house. So when you are sitting down and bringing that person to run the break out room, an outside AV company might need a sub-contractor and it's just someone random there just for that one job. But the in-house AV company they'll be briefed because they're one of their employees. If that makes any sense. So that's the main things to keep in mind.
Tom: It does. Now would an AV company, if you were going to ask them that question, is this in-house or is this outsourced, would they be honest with them to answer them?
Will: I certainly hope so. I think that's a really, really big deal. I think the tides are changing where now people are realizing that it's important, to have in-house labor. So someone may not be honest with you. However, what you can check with it is asking them things like tell me about the culture of your events and when you guys have these large staffing events, what do you guys do? And it becomes kind of obvious as well. So for example, like when we do a big event in Seattle we have to actually fly all of our staff there to get them there because everybody's in-house. You'll tell because the travel bill is definitely very, very large but what we do to compensate that is by having lower equipment costs so it kind of balances itself out.
But it's something where you can kind of tell when you talk a little bit about their company because the people that really care about the culture and the vision in their company aren't going to be talking in terms of just the technology and those sort of things. And usually those are the people that also believe that their staff has to be in-house. The ones who don't care about culture and having great employees and making sure everything's in-house and quality are the ones that aren't going to mention anything of this.
Tom: Okay. Now if somebody books a venue and then they decide to bring in an outside AV company or even provide their own, is there anything they need to consider when they're negotiating their contracts?
Will: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. These days I'm saying you should flip the script when it comes to planning your events. A lot of times we found that when we surveyed event planners 85% of them book their venues before they talk to any of the AV companies or any of their vendors and that can actually be really dangerous because what we found is a lot of hotels are now putting restrictions on the front end in terms of fees, in terms of just hassles in general to working with an outside AV company. So when going to talk to a venue, it's very, very important to ask them and say do you allow outside AV companies? I'm going to tell you 99% of the time they're going to say yes but then that's when you have to say okay, great. Can I see the contract and I really need to be able to see all the details. Because then they're going to say yes, we allow an outside AV company but we're going to charge you 25% on top of it or we're going to sneak in a bunch of fees. Or we're going to make their life a living hell.
There's definitely a lot of scenarios where it can become extremely complicated and remember how I was talking about event planning being so stressful, it's like compounding the stress on top of it. And I think everyone's been there. I've heard a million stories of oh my Gosh, I just wanted the AV to work but it was just so much of a headache. The hotel. The in-house AV company. So definitely make sure you talk to them about your contract, review your contract. We create a really cool guide called ‘How to Remove AV,' or ‘In-house AV Restrictions,' which is a bunch of snippets that you put in your RFP's and also your contracts that basically say hey, by us going with you as a venue you're going to remove all of your restrictions that a normal outside AV company would have. For example things like power feeds and rigging fees, those sort of things. Anything that the in-house AV company doesn't have to pay we don't want to pay that either. And that's really, really important for you to put that in your RFP, in your contract, because hotels are very much incentivized to book the in-house AV company because it's kind of like a little bit of a co-op, right? The hotel feeds the in-house AV leads and once the AV company closes that lead, they get a kickback, so they're really incentivized to use the in-house AV companies. So make sure that you're really, really on the ball and that you almost have your spidey senses ready, that you're trying to look out for any of those fees or any of those restrictions that may come because they're definitely everywhere now.
Tom: Excellent. And we will include a link to your resource in the show notes for this episode, so they can do that.
Will: Thank you Tom.
Tom: Oh no. Thank you, sir. Now before somebody contacts an AV company, can you share what they need to consider?
Will: Yeah. I think one big important thing is for you to understand at what level is something a want versus a need. I think a lot of times that gets very, very blurred when the conversation starts. I think sometimes the conversation starts with a lot of we want this, we want this, we want this. But sometimes when it comes down to AV, obviously we want to make sure that we stay in budget. If we're not in budget, we need to start figuring out okay, what are the things that you really, really need to make this event really awesome. So for example, do you want three different cameras with three different angles being cut between or can we get away with two or one. Are you looking for a really, really great sound system in the general session or are you looking for a really great video. I think really understanding exactly what you are looking for is very, very important.
I think the second portion as well is to understand your overall vision for it and being able to communicate that as well to your AV company. I think including them on the vision is going to help them really execute an awesome event for you rather than just coming in, providing some equipment and brushing their hands and walking away. If you give them the vision and you get them involved they're just going to be so excited to be there. At least I am. Every time we talk about the vision and the event. Because we're going to find ways to go above and beyond to really make that vision come true. So if you're saying, for example if your conference is all about the people on stage being able to leave that stage being like that was the best event I spoke at, well we need to really focus on the things that are going to make it very, very easy for the speakers or the guests to be able to have that experience. So for example maybe making sure we have additional audio tech that hands them the microphone rather than just leaving it on the stage behind stage. Or making sure they have a confidence monitor rather than having them to turn their head every single time they have to look at their presentation. Those little small things can add up really, really quickly. In the AV world, it's all about details. There's so much equipment, there're so many things that can be done and they all start to add up very, very quickly but when we understand the vision we can help you make those decision rather than it be a, okay, here's our bid. Okay, now we need to get it down. Let's ax that, let's ax that, let's ax that, let's ax that because we can, instead of it being oh, let's actually really find what's really needed for your vision.
Tom: Lots of companies do require bids when they're contracting an AV company. So what does a planner need to look at when they're comparing quotes?
Will: That's a great question. I literally just published a blog today about how to compare AV quotes. One really, really important concept that I feel is getting more commonplace now, but I want to make sure that everyone understands is the idea of apples to apples. A lot of times when comparing AV quotes it's really, really easy to not compare quotes apples to apples. And the biggest reason why is because there're so many different choices when it comes to equipment. Like I said, it's all about the details. So for example, if you guys are deciding you want a concert sound system line array, there're like 30 different brands out there of concert sound system line arrays ranging from not great quality to like ridiculously expensive and probably overkill for your event and everything in between. So being able to look at your bid and say this is the exact same bid as this company and then being able to compare prices is very, very important. Because a lot of times what ends up happening is you get two bids and you're comparing the cheap old McDonald's to the nice steak house basically. And of course the nice steak house is going to be more expensive than McDonald's but being able to understand exactly where that's from is really, really important
And then a lot of the things that kind of come from there feed from that main concept. So for example, being able to understand what brands are good versus aren't good. And what you should really, really do is when comparing bids, I recommend letting your AV company participate in the conversation and talk about why they chose those specific pieces of equipment and being able to have a conversation around okay, why did you chose that versus this? So for example, a lot of times when we talk to our clients they go hey, I see you chose a JBL sound system. Our client chose a QSE sound system. Can you tell me about the difference between those different types of equipment and how does that benefit my experience and make the attendee experience better? And a lot of times we'll be able to communicate exactly why we did that.
And something really, really important to know is that any time an AV company tries to explain something, if they can't explain it in layman's terms, which they should be able to do, then if they're trying to make it really complicated and you're not understanding, they're usually just trying to confuse you. And you shouldn't be confused when it comes to AV. It's actually, as complicated as it may seem on the back end with all the programming and everything that happens, it can be actually really communicated very, very easily. Saying things like okay, well we chose this because it's going to really be able to carry the sound from the front of the room all the way to the back of the room without having speakers all along the walls. Those sort of things can be really easily communicated rather than saying well, it's a concert line array, so each speaker gets placed underneath the other one so therefore it provides an even bounded sound across the entire room. So there're definitely a lot of abilities for things to be explained. And don't be afraid to have that conversation with your AV company for sure.
Tom: That's great stuff. Because when you were talking about these line arrays and everything else I know very little about sound. I know what sounds good and what doesn't and I'm thinking to myself oh, how are these event planners going to go? I don't know. We'll hire you.
Will: Yeah. Exactly, exactly. I mean like don't be afraid to ask questions as well. And I really hope that your AV company's very, very helpful.
Tom: Well they certainly should be. You talked about advocating itemized pricing on your blog.
Will: It's funny. I think we were talking about with some of my staff. Us, tech people, we love itemized but then we find that most AV companies don't like to do itemized. Which is really, really interesting. So at Endless, we actually don't do itemized pricing. However, I'll explain why we don't do it and how actually really ultimately it sometimes doesn't matter. Sometimes. So the great thing about itemized pricing is that you can look at it and if they have a JBL speaker, like let's say for example JBL VRX speaker and then we have a JBL VRX speaker, you can look at each line and say well he's charging me $5 and he's charging me $10. Obviously one company is charging more than the other.
However, what we found at Endless that why itemized pricing can be sometimes confusing and difficult is that every company, while we all somewhat follow a very similar pricing model across all companies, there are very slight differences across equipment. So for example, let's say I might be less expensive on the VRX, I might be more expensive on a projector. Or I might be less expensive on a microphone. So those kinds of things should hopefully eventually balance each other out. So hopefully if you have an apples to apples quote where there's the exact same amount of equipment, same exact labor, pretty much everything's exactly the same, it doesn't matter if you have itemized because then if they're exactly the same quote you can look at the bottom line and say this person's higher, this person isn't.
What we find with a lot of times with the itemized pricing is that something may look expensive but then when you're saying okay, that's really expensive, can we get rid of that or whatnot, that might be actually something really critical to the event. Or might be something for example, oh let's get rid of that one cable. Well that one cable is what feeds all of the video from the front of the house where all the technicians are all the way to the back of the stage. And sure, it might be expensive, but it's a very high quality cable and we want to make sure everything looks really, really great. And so what we find is that sometimes the itemized pricing can lead to nit-picking. But with itemized pricing it really does allow you to see through what that person is charging you very, very quickly. Something to keep in mind is if a company like myself doesn't offer itemized pricing you can always ask me and my software literally all I have to do is hit itemized pricing and it will give you itemized pricing instead. So if a company doesn't have itemized pricing, feel free to always ask them, they should be able to provide it for you.
Tom: Okay. Some great information. And that cable yeah, you don't want to cut that.
Will: Not at all. There's no video for the show. What are you doing?
Tom: We have all the projectors and everything, why don't we have video? Well you cancelled that cable. What is an AV company's biggest challenge when you're working with a planner and how can our listeners help to solve that problem or those problems?
Will: Great question. I really want to make the process as easy as possible for planners but there're definitely some things as well that make it easy on our end as well. And if you're really easy to work with, then we're obviously going to be really easy to work with. So when it comes to what you can do to make your experience a lot better is definitely being able to understand that AV is a lot about detail and has lots of little small moving parts. And if you come to us and say well here's my event, and even if you communicate your vision perfectly, even if you have a little bit of technical knowledge and you can explain these sort of things, the devil is definitely in the detail and the fact that we're going to put together a quote and usually the first quote we're going to put together for you is not going to be right. Like hardly ever is the first quote perfect. Every single time it's like [inaudible 00:19:39] out of the park, it's perfect on budget, it's perfect on every single way.
So what we always appreciate is when you come to us and we put together this first quote for you, what we'll do at Endless is we're actually going to walk you through the quote line by line so you understand exactly what is involved in the quote. Why we chose that piece of equipment. What's affecting the budget and where, and we'll even offer suggestions to say hey, for example we're doing HD projectors right now so you can do that nice wide angle look, it's the new modern way to do it.
However, we can go down a standard definition, save you a lot of money but it's not going to look as good. Those sort of things. Or let's say your content is already wide screen and HD and we're going down to SD, it might not look as good. SD as in standard definition. So we'll have that conversation. And what we hope is that out of that conversation we can then get together and based on what we initially put together for you provide you the perfect quote the second time if we haven't done it the first time. And so being able to understand that an AV company hardly ever gets it right the first time so feel free to always give us a second chance. That's something that always makes our lives really, really easy. Because we really do want you as our client and really take care of you. But sometimes us being able to bring everything together and hitting the nail on the head and hitting it perfectly in budget the first time is really, really tough. Unless you're saying, you hand us a quote from last year and say hey, we want the exact same thing but it has to stay within this budget line. Then we usually just go back and we're like okay, we can rebuild this and figure out a way to get it in budget. So that's something to really keep in mind when working with us is that feel free to give us a second chance when it comes to quotes. Because we definitely can come at that again one more time and get you an awesome quote.
Tom: It's great to know that because literally you're right. You can't necessarily get it all together on the first time and having that conversation really is going to improve things. Now do you see any upcoming trends in AV production that our listeners may want to consider for their events?
Will: Oh man. So you've got me talking about trends. So there's a lot of really great trends out there. Again technology's getting so much cheaper now. So there's a lot of really, really great things happening. One of my favorite technologies right now is virtual reality but I'm not going to jump into that one because that one's maybe a couple more years off in the distance before it becomes commonplace at every single event. But one of my favorite technologies that I think that everyone needs to take a look at that really makes interactivity at events really, really awesome is a technology called Crowd Mics.
It's basically a software that these guys created that will basically allow you to use your cell phone as a microphone at the event. And what's great about this is everyone's used to the conference where they do two Q and A mics at the front rows and say hey, please come up if you have any questions. It's very, very common at our Comic-Con events for example. And what we found is that this creates a really long line. Most people you have to adjust the microphone. It just creates a big headache. But with Crowd Mics what you can do is basically release an app at your event and say hey, if you'd like to speak on the microphone, just download this app and what it does when it's time for Q and A people literally open up the app and press talk and talk into their cell phone and it goes through the microphone system, which is really, really cool. It has some polling features and what's really cool is that I think stuff like that are going to make it a lot easier for people to interact when it comes to the event. And one of definitely my favorite apps, Crowd Mics.
But when it comes to other trends as well, I think we're definitely seeing, I guess I would say that's a good trend. I'll give you guys a bad trend. A bad trend that I'm starting to see happen more and more is the in-house companies are getting a lot harder to work with for sure. It used to be as simple as hey. The big advantage is they could beat you to the punch but now because out of house AV companies are really wanting business and in-house companies are wanting to expand even more, they're making those restrictions even more. So be very, very aware that there's definitely a huge trend in the AV company for in-house companies to be wanting to grow. In terms of things like you look at PSAV's, acquisition of nearly all the hotels. For example, in Arizona I think it's like 98% of hotels are PSAV. So you've just got to really be aware of that is that they really want to grow and the way they're going to grow is by obtaining more clients. Companies like myself, who have clients that travel around to different events and always keep bringing us along, we basically are threatening them in their sort of business so they're trying to find out ways that they can get more business. So something just to really, really be aware of is that the in-house companies are trying to grow. And those restrictions while I'm explaining hey, this is the kind of fee they might throw at you, it might change next year or the next coming months as well. So just always be aware of that.
Tom: Very cool. Now on a webinar that I saw you had on your website, you offered event planners Endless Entertainment's top three tips to ensure the production of their event goes off without any issues. Would you be willing to share those with our listeners?
Will: Oh man, I do so many webinars I have to try to remember what they are. Off the top of my head. Oh my Gosh. I usually, when I pick the top three, it's like the three I can remember off the top of my head because there're just so many of them.
So when it comes to really, really having a flawless event, I'll see if I can remember what exactly they are. One of the big things is definitely making sure that not just your AV company but your entire staff, that everyone has the same vision for the event. What I find is communication's really important. As a business owner I found that one of the best things is for you to be able to communicate your vision and being able to really talk about it. And everyone being on the same page is so important. I've seen events where for example the most successful events I see are the ones where the event planner, the director of the event, gets up on stage and has this huge crows that's all their vendors and all of their staff and everything like that, and says what the vision is and you just see everyone just be like yeah, I've heard this a million times. I know this. This is my life. This I like everything I believe in. And then that way whenever a question comes up, a lot of times there's a lot of judgment calls that have to be made at events, especially have to be very, very fast judgment calls, right? Customer service, complaints, people being able to direct people in a certain way or act in a certain way and you want your staff to be able to all act in a very unison way. If they all understand the same vision and are on the same page, it won't be a question of okay, so do I walk this guy all the way down to the hall to show him where the room is or do I just point and say it's over there? And someone comes up to them and says I'm really not happy. Do I really care or do I not care? Those sort of things are very, very important for everyone to be on the same page when it comes to your event.
The second thing I think as well is that you have to be willing to look at your planning process a little bit differently I think sometimes. And understand that every events planning process is very, very different. So for example I was talking about flipping the script. I think that's very, very important to do and look at it but however, if your event is very much about getting really, really unique venues and having a great spot for you to be in, sometimes those venues go super-duper quick, so while I'm saying book your vendors in advance, if it comes to the point where you're like I have to book this venue and I don't have time to find an AV vendor right now because if I don't I lose this awesome venue that could make or break or the event, that's where you want to change your process and do things a little bit differently. Or flip the script like I was saying. So being able to look at things a little bit differently I think is very, very important.
And then I think one of the best things to do, and I probably don't talk about this enough, is you want to have fun with it I think too. Because a lot of times we get so stressed out and we get so intensely involved in the event that sometimes we forget that we're getting to create these awesome experiences. And we are literally the event planners. If you talk to anyone and you go oh, yeah, I plan events for a living, everyone's face lights up because everyone loves events. So don't be afraid to have fun when doing your process and don't be afraid to lighten up and have a great time when doing it because while we sometimes as planners think that we are the ones that make the sacrifice the entire way through the event and then only get to enjoy it when our feet are kicked up after the tear down's all done and everything like that. Or sometimes for me it's once the show is actually running. Have fun during the whole entire process because it's definitely very, very stressful and I'm sure you're definitely stressed out but I'm sure there're lots of other people around you that are stressed out. So have fun and make people smile through the whole process. It can definitely make somebody's day and make the whole process enjoyable in the first place.
Tom: Will, your enthusiasm for this is just incredible.
Will: Thank you.
Tom: You can feel it coming through the mic. Hey listen, if somebody wants to learn more about this topic, how can they reach out to you? Can you give us your website address and the way to contact you?
Will: Yeah, absolutely. So the best way to definitely get in contact with us and learn more about Endless is just to go to our website hello, H-E-L-L-O, endless, E-N-D-L-E-S-S.com. So just helloendless.com and on there we actually have a really awesome tab called Resources. If you click on it we have all those webinars, all those e-books. A lot of the things that we've talked about are expanded upon and in text in there that you can download for free. We also have an awesome blog where we talk about more AV tips, more planning tips, trends. We do a curation article of the best articles every week. And really, really awesome. And if you guys ever want to get a hold of me, I'm all over social media so don't be afraid to tweet me, to email me, to Facebook me and everything like that. My email's really, really easy, it's just Will, W-I-L-L, @hello, H-E-L-L-O, endless, E-N-D-L-E-S-S.com. So will@helloendless. You guys can just email me any time or just head on over to our website, find me on social media. And we'd really love to take care of you guys and I hope you guys really enjoyed some of the resources that we shared with you guys.
Tom: Man, I've got to give you the nod.
Will: Thank you.
Tom: I do my research. Hey listen man, I really appreciate your time today. Will, thank you so much for talking with me.
Will: Thank you so much Tom, it was a pleasure being here.
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