What to look out for when requesting your AV Quotation
Before any event takes place various suppliers need engaging: catering, venue, speakers, entertainers and of course audio visual systems and services. For this article I’ll focus on the AV quotation or proposal as it’s what I know best!
There are a number of ways a supplier will present a quotation:
Verbally: over the phone, in a cafe or pub, at the end of the last event
Email: informal list or description in an email’s body with cost(s)
One-page document: attachment including items, costs, dates and T’s and C’s
Multi-page quotation: including with all items, nuts and bolts and technical detail
Multi-page proposal: including summaries and associated costs
Which you choose depends entirely on where you are positioned in the market and what you need from the quote and supplier. I’ll elaborate on this later but my first advice is never, NEVER agree anything verbally without written confirmation. There’s no excuse these days for not having even the simplest agreement to supply in writing.
Informal Email Agreement
This is fine if both parties know and trust each other, and have done plenty of business in the past. It also makes for a fast agreement for busy people when the contract value is relatively low, for example hiring a TV screen, booking a DJ, ordering a repeat print-run. Whilst an email is date stamped and serves legally as an implied contract it is not advisable for multiple products, complex logistical arrangement (ie anything more than “deliver it to my office at 2pm tomorrow”). If you don’t know the supplier then you should request a formal quotation. Sometimes an emailed cost is a precursor to a detailed proposal but be very wary, the devil really is in the detail for events!
One Page Quotation
One step up from the informal email this is an attachment with a more formal document detailing the supplier’s address, contact and legal status (for example Limited Company). It would usually be derived from a template and will include dates, times, items, quantities and costs. I use this for equipment hire, especially cross hiring to other AV companies or supplying exhibition stand TV screens for example. Everything should be clearly set out including any delivery and set up charges and the total price including and excluding VAT. Optional extras and suggestions should also be noted with costs. I have no time for quotations that don’t show you the bottom line price, it usually suggests a lazy author or they think you’ll be shocked by the total cost and draw you in to a commitment by using lots of small numbers. That aside a quotation document indicates a serious business rather than a “flying by the seat of their underpants” business, ie someone who runs their business from their email inbox and mobile phone.
If you hear seagulls and waves lapping the shore when you call for a quotation you may want to consider an alternative supplier
Multi Page Proposal
This can come in three forms:
Extended version of the one-page quotation (above) with multiple products listed to be provided. Beware, there is a risk the author has not allowed for the integration of all the items into your timescale. What I mean is if you order a medium projector and screen (let’s say for a 200-person event), two technicians can set this up in half an hour. Adding a panel backdrop to integrate the screen is labour intensive and will need more personnel to physically rig it. If you also want a stage platform it will double the time required for set up using the same number of riggers as the stage. You’ll be lucky to have this set up and ready for doors-open in less than two hours, especially if access to the room is via a staircase or lift! Has rehearsal time been allowed for? What if the lift breaks or there’s a queue for the loading bay?
A full technically detailed proposal suits people who are conversant with AV equipment, systems and processes. It will detail every item with its model number, accessories, attachments and even software version. It will also adjust the logistics costs according to equipment parameters so everything is covered. These can be scary documents for someone who just wants a conference system and wants it to work! You may find yourself regularly on the phone to the supplier asking for explanations of items. These types of proposal are usually generated from a hire rental software package where the user selects items that are added to both the proposal and the warehouse picker’s list. It demonstrates a serious systemised business and also means you can compare like-for-like quotes from different suppliers.
A detailed and summarised proposal will give you everything you need to know in layman’s terms. You should have an executive summary, key dates and timings and a paragraph explaining what you’ll get in each department, for example “A twin screen high definition video projection system suitable for an audience of 400 with operator including presentation playback system”. This really should be exactly what you need but of course you may need to have noted that the presentation playback system needs to be “keynote” for Mac. Again you may find yourself on the phone constantly asking for specific details but this kind of proposal demonstrates that the supplier understands your requirements and has already applied a thought process to your event rather than just ticking boxes.
My preferred method of producing a proposal for any size event is a cross between 2 and 3 above. Having a back-end template system that ensures all eventualities are covered while having the freedom to choose items from drop down lists or use language you know your client is more familiar with shows your commitment to a relationship and that you’re willing to put some effort in to the process. Look out for descriptions that repeat (or are similar to) the words you used in your brief; this proves your notes have been read and digested!
Drawings and Visuals
I’ll cover these in a separate article but for now let’s assume you either require them and there’s a fee to pay or you don’t and there isn’t!
Before we get to presentation of the cost let’s talk about logistics. From transport method to set up team and PD’s this needs to be included but how much detail?
My personal view is that, to use the old cliché, there are many ways to skin a rabbit… but the client chooses how it’s to be cooked and served! WHAT is supplied and WHEN and WHERE it’s supplied is defined specifically. HOW it’s supplied is what makes the supplier unique. It may be a large company with lots of staff technicians moving from one event to another within a city with a 40ft articulated truck following them around. It may also be a small business with 2 or 3 vans, a production manager and a load of freelance technicians and riggers. As long as the end product or service matches the proposed products or services then normally that should be enough to satisfy. Whether you choose to use 4 highly skilled technicians to set up the systems or only two but 4 more semi-skilled personnel needn’t be of interest to anyone but you. As long as it’s delivered, set up and dismantled within the proposed timeframe and quality expectation.
Finally, the low-down. The proposed fee. The bottom line.
Finally? Does it have to be at the end of a 5 page document? After all isn’t the one big item that you want to check before reading all the details that you’re within your budget? I prefer to put it on the first page immediately below the executive summary. Why make it any more complicated? Why also list dozens of costs without adding them up?
A “department” summary is useful too since this may also be budget driven:
eg Sound/Communications £x, Data/Projection £y, Logistics £z.
After that you’re likely to see “E&OE” – Errors and Omissions Excluded. Quite simply if there’s something missing and therefore not included in costs the supplier would need to adjust the cost.
This of course applies too if something has been added and costed that isn’t required – the cost is removed.
The best way to avoid errors is to read the quote. This drives my thought process that leads to always providing straightforward proposals with as little technical language as necessary. It’s far easier to read and understand!