SmartSource Rentals Blog


The Debate Over In-House vs. Outside Vendors When Renting Audio Visual Equipment
Apr 30, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan


When event planners book a hotel or conference center, they are often told that they are required or encouraged to use their in-house AV company for the meeting. The pitch goes something like this:

"We would like you to use XYZ Company for your event because they have all their equipment onsite, their pricing is available to you right now, and they are very familiar with our venue." 

Sounds good, right? Maybe yes and maybe no. Here are 6 things to consider when engaging with any AV provider, from an equipment, budget, and resource prospective. 

Check the employee turnover rate of the providers you are considering. 

If the in-house supplier has a large turnover rate, especially their AV technicians, the playing field is level with any outside provider. That in-house supplier may actually have LESS experience at the meeting facility than the outside vendor. Ask this question of all your potential providers because long-term employment with minimum turnover shows stability within the organization. 

The in-house supplier is working for the hotel, not for you.

Sad, but true. The in-house AV company is most interested in keeping the people at the hotel happy; where an outside partner is contracted directly with you, the event planner. The outside company wants you to call on them again and again for business, so they will do everything in their power to keep you satisfied. "Just because an AV company has a good relationship with a hotel (or pays them a fat commission) doesn't mean I or my client gets the best service," said James Maynard, Director at Adventure Sports. 

Send out at least 3 RFPs, including one to the in-house company. 

Merle Klein, Director of Meeting Operations at MFM Lamey Group said, "Bids from in-house companies are almost always WAY over the top." Remember, a cut of what the in-house provider charges you is going directly to the venue. 

EVERYTHING is negotiable. 
Many times the hotel or conference services staff will require you to use the in-house AV provider or pay a 25% up-charge if you do not. The truth of the matter is everything is negotiable, as long as you do it before you sign on the dotted line with the venue. For more information about this, see the blog post AV Bill of Rights.
If you have many events in a given year at multiple venues, an outside vendor makes sense. 
An in-house team only knows their venue and if you are holding 10 or 15 regional events, you will need to train the AV staff at each facility over and over again. Contracting with one event audio visual company to travel with you from site-to-site will be more efficient and cost effective. 
Know what type of equipment you need. 
Before going out to bid, know exactly what type of interactive technology tool rentals you need to make your event successful. Many times the in-house provider has a limited equipment selection. Because AV is usually a significant portion of the planner's budget and instrumental to the success of the event, having the right type of equipment is paramount. 
Are you event planning in California? Call on AV Event Solutions to provide you with stat-of-the-art technology choices! 
Looking for New Event Apps? Here are 8 that will Make Your Event Great!
Apr 25, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

Apps for Corporate Meeting PlannersFeeling overwhelmed by your technology options when planning a meeting or event? You are not alone! With the ever-changing pace of technological choices and applications, it can leave the most experienced planner perplexed about their options.

Below are a few apps that Julius Solaris, Editor of Event Manager Blog, feels are good ones to help organize, promote, and allow for maximum interaction with your attendees. 



Create an online Gantt Chart in just a few minutes with this highly intuitive system. This app allows for real-time collaboration of the event, especially if you have a lot of individuals on the committee who may be in different parts of the country. It is a web based application so it can run on either a PC or Mac platform. 


Remove the need for long email threads when planning your event. Invite all the people connected to your event to join the group, ask questions, and then make decisions. Share your event plans via Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. During and after the event, post pictures in a private gallery. 



This service allows you to create an interactive timeline about your event. It has a customization interface that allows you to change your profile information and add a background image.Every timeline automatically gets its own RSS feed and can connect to social media sites.

Allows you to post new events in minutes, manage ticket sales, and provides real-time attendee management. It also has a customizable URL for event registration, allows attendees to save eCards for new contacts, and organize the conference's event content. 



This app puts all presentations into a playlist that can seamlessly switch between PowerPoint, Word, Excel, web pages, video, images, and PDF files without the presenter having to fumble through it. It works on a Windows platform and should be a part of your Powerpoint presentation equipment configuration. SlideDog works well for meetings, sales presentations, conferences, and trainings where there may be many presenters and/or many apps within the presentation. 



Rent iPads and check-in meeting participants easily with real-time guest information.This app also has a social media element, online ticketing, and a team collaboration component. 


Social Pix

Event planners set up a photo activation area where the brand or product logo drop is behind the attendees, while they are getting their picture taken. The photographer then sends the photo to one of the kiosk rentals. Attendees connect with Facebook to upload their photo their wall and ask their friends to "like" the Facebook Fan Page of the new product. Social Pix automatically triggers a story to the fan's wall. 


DoubleDutch Flock

Rent Tablet PCs for this social app that provides an interactive experience for event attendees, organizers, and sponsors. Flock provides the entire event program on the tablet, engages attendees, and provides a gaming element. It pushes all updates about the event to social networks from the app. Flock also provides real-time analytics to the event organizer. 

AV Event Solutions is your California meeting equipment provider! They have iPad rental, Tablet PC rentals, rent computer kiosks, and LCD projector and screens. Give them a call today!

Want Your Trade Show Booth to Stand Out? Rent iPads for These 4 Reasons
Apr 23, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

After much consideration, you have made the decision to purchase booth space at an upcoming trade show in a few months. It is a costly proposition, both in time and money, and your decision was not made without thorough analysis. Now, as the date of the show becomes more of a reality, you are wrestling with the idea of how to get attendees to your booth and gain qualified leads. Utilizing an iPad is a creative and stimulating way to do just that. 

iPad Kiosk RentalHere are 4 reasons how iPads can help make your booth stand out and bring more leads your way. 

Reason #1: iPads Elevate Your Brand. 

Making the iPad a portable kiosk continuously running video, photos, and the company logo can attract people to your booth. This unit can keep an attendee busy, especially if you are already engaged with someone else. In addition, sales persons can be armed with ipad rental and show attendees whatever they would like to know about your product or service through the use of video, PowerPoint presentations, or PDFs. If an attendee is really interested in your product, you can email information to them right on the spot so they will have the information when they return home. 

Reason #2: iPads can Convey Your Ideas Faster.

If a picture is worth a 1,000 words, than a brief video is worth 10,000. Because iPad rentals have the ability to run video, slideshows, presentations, and access the web — ipad rental at trade show booththe color, vibrancy, interaction, and sound will convey the message much faster and better than your words or a printed brochure. 

Reason #3: iPads Allow Movement.

Rather than having your people stand within the confines of the booth, why not have them come up to attendees armed with a iPad? Coming out around the booth and extending a handshake and a smile can go a long way to raising the comfort level of attendees. Asking engaging questions and then going to the specific interest point of the participant, right from the iPad, allows for a more relevant discussion about your product. 

Reason #4: iPads can Save You Money. 

If you rent iPads and allow one unit to serve as a portable kiosk and arm your other sales staff with an iPad, you can exhibit in a smaller booth since you can use your space more efficiently. No more paper or tchotchkes! 

AV Event Solutions, a California meeting equipment supplier, can provide you with all the interactive technology tool rentals to make your trade show a smashing success. Give them a call today or submit an express quote for a response within 4 business hours!

5 Tips to Make Your Meetings, Trade Shows, and Events More Effective
Apr 20, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan


What is the purpose of a meeting or event, anyway? Well that depends on your point of view, but most  people agree it is to disseminate information about a product, service, policy, or provide some level of professional education. In addition, it could be to reinforce your brand, set sales objectives, team-build, or get your group of members together for the annual meeting. 

Some meetings and events are terrific while others are..well…lackluster. Most event meeting services industry colleagues agree that if the message of the meeting doesn't resonate enough with the audience member to change their actions, then it wasn't suceesful . We want that message to carry through and change the attendee's buying patterns. How can we do that? Through 3 basic methods: goal-setting, clear communication, and follow-through. 

Here are the tips to make your next meeting more effective:

Tip #1: Set Goals.

  • What is the purpose of the meeting? 
  • Where are you going to hold it? Onsite or offsite? A local or remote location?
  • When are you holding it? 
  • Who needs to attend? Employees, Clients, Members? Have a definitive number in mind.
  • How will you measure success? Goals need to be set regarding what attendees learn in training and educational conferences. Those goals can be measured through wireless Audience Response Systems. Event organizers can measure success by the number of people that come to the event, exhibitors by the number of leads generated from the trade show, and sponsors by the inquiries to their website or calls to their organization within 90 days after the show. 
  • Why is this meeting important? 

Tip #2: Get Everyone on Board.

Each meeting will be different with unique stakeholders involved, but you will potentially have 3 different ones: Attendees or Employees (always), Sponsors (maybe), and Trade Show Exhibitors (maybe). Whatever the mix, you need to get each group involved in the goal setting exercise above and then help them define measurements for their success. 

Tip #3: Put in Place Project Management.

Once the goals are set and agreed upon, a project manager needs to "drill down" with the team specific objectives that will include resources needed, deadlines, and who is responsible for what. A project management tool should be sent out to the entire group and updated on a regular basis.  

Tip #4: Make the Meeting Interactive. 

Rent iPads so attendees can communicate with each other and the speaker to ask questions or make comments about the session. Wireless microphones throughout the room can encourage attendees to ask questions or make comments during the session. Use Audience Response rentals to test employees knowledgebase before and after the meeting. Make each talk follow the guidelines of TED, PechaKucha, or Ignite. Use gaming to encourage team building. The more involved the attendee, the better chance you have that they will retain the information. 

Tip #5: Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. 

1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year after your event check and see if the goals were met by all your stakeholders. This is where most meeting planners often fall down; they rarely check-in with their sponsors and exhibitors to see if their objectives were met. 

AV Event Solutions can help you make your meeting more effective by engaging your attendees and providing you with a project manager as well. Give them a call today!

When Renting Audio Visual Equipment, These 6 Negotiating Tips Will Help
Apr 18, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan


As a meeting professional, we are often overwhelmed with all the to-do's associated with our meeting or conference, so the last thing we want to do is focus on all the technology advancements associated with AV. But let's get real for a moment, audio visual equipment can "make or break" our meeting, and we know it. From sound and lighting rentals to the Wi-Fi array to working with a reputable AV company and negotiating a "win-win" contract, it all boils down to saving money and keeping our attendees happy. 

Here are 6 tips to help you negotiate with your conference equipment rental company:

Tip #1: Establish presenter needs and budget parameters.

Make certain you have in writing what equipment your speaker or speakers need and what equipment they are planning on bringing to the conference. Encourage them to leave their Mac or Laptop at home, but to load the presentation onto a USB drive or DVD. Having all the equipment from one source makes compatibility issues non-existent and giving your vendor a budget range allows them to quote good, better, and best options for the conference. 

Tip #2: As part of the negotiations, secure a "not to exceed" final aggregate bill. 

When working with your AV partner on contract negotiations, ask that the final bill not exceed a certain percentage of the agreed upon pricing (10% comes to mind) without authorization. Engaging an AV Project Manager can help streamline this process and keep you in the loop if change orders are needed.

Tip #3: Remember, newer technology is going to cost more.

You want to rent iPads for all your attendees to replace binders? Swap out Plasma TVs for screen rentals? Implement 3D LCD projectors instead of the older technology? Everything has a price and the newer the technology, generally the higher the cost. That is not a reason to use it, you just need to be realistic.

Tip #4: Remove any AV exclusivity clause from your venue contract.

Some venues will say you have to use their in-house AV provider. Make certain to strike that clause from the contract BEFORE you sign it. For more information on this subject, read the blog post "Your AV Bill of Rights." 

Tip #5: Schedule speakers where the technology is. 

Arrange the speaker selection and timing based on WHAT technology is set up in each room. One set up. One tear down. Very cost efficient. 

Tip #6: Look hard at all your discount options. 

Here are some simple options that can yield a small, large or somewhere in between discount for your organization:

  • Ask your AV provider when their slow months, days of the week, or times are for renting audiovisual equipment. Knowing this in advance can help negotiate a reasonable discount for your meeting.
  • Secure your AV partner for several meetings and/or over several years. Knowing they are going to have business for a number of events or years allows them to plan for equipment availability and staff several months in advance.
  • Negotiate reasonable labor rates. Often times, labor can be the one item that goes out of control at an event. Working with your AV provider to minimize overtime and weekend rates, can keep your budget under control.

AV Event Solutions, a California meeting supplier, is willing and ready to work with you on your next event and help keep your budget in line! Call or click today!

10 Ways to Green Your Next Meeting or Event
Apr 16, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

earth day

With Earth Day approaching in a few weeks, many event planners are thinking of ways to green their meetings without breaking the budget. American Express recently polled meeting planners and suppliers and found that 53% of the planners polled are coordinating local meetings which will reduce their carbon footprint, 47% have green requests or requirements for their meetings, and 73% indicated their organizations are showing an increasing interest in green measures

Below are some simple tips to help make your next event more environmentally friendly:

  1. Eliminate direct mail and printed promotional pieces. Redirect the dollars that were going to be spent  for print toward an email marketing campaign, blogging, and social media. If you don't have the time to do it yourself, hire someone to create a content calendar and provide the buzz about your event. 
  2. Drop print advertising.  Shift those dollars to a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaign for your event. PPC is an effective and measurable tool that can be aimed directly to your attendee demographics. In addition, it is cost-effective because you only pay for the clicks that actually occur. 
  3. Eliminate paper registration. Manage attendee registration process through online booking engines, such as Cvent, Eventbrite, or Constant Contact. 
  4. Provide alternate transportation options. Encourage attendees to compare the cost of a flight, train, bus (such as Megabus), or subway. If it makes sense, coordinate carpooling to the event. 
  5. Don't buy AV equipment. Renting Audio Visual equipment makes a lot of sense because that equipment can be used over and over again and when sourced through a local supplier, it can save you a lot of money on shipping. 
  6. Provide session video recordings online. If attendees want to review a speaker after the session, provide a URL link or upload the presentation to YouTube. No jump drives or DVDs mean no shipping costs, no materials to be purchased, and most importantly, no hassle. 
  7. Rent Tablet PCs to replace printed programs, guides, and speaker handouts. You immediately eliminate printing, paper, shipping, assembly, and distribution costs. In addition, mobile applications can include the following: 
  • All session videos
  • Searchable database 
  • Speaker presentations
  • Notes
  • Online list of attendees
  • Sponsorship information
  • Exhibitor information
  • Trade show layout with GPS system
  1. Incorporate gaming options to bring home the green message. At Eventcamp Vancouver and GMIC games were played to resonate the sustainability message with attendees. 
  2. Nix paper surveys. By introducing Audience Response System rentals to attendees, you can entirely eliminate paper, responses are calculated instantly, anonymously, and can be reviewed on the spot and after the event. 
  3. Look hard at food and beverage options. Here are some simple ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle:
  • Reduce the use of paper products. Use china, glass, and silverware. 
  • Arrange for all left over food and beverages to be transported to a local food kitchen.
  • Set up recycling stations and encourage attendees to recycle bottles and cans.
  • Eliminate bottled water, use ice and pitchers. 
  • Ask that the local farmer's market be used as a food source.  

AV Event Solutions, a California event equipment supplier, is available to help you make your next meeting green! Give them a call today to learn more about their technology tool options.  

Why Are Face-to-Face Meetings so Important Anyway?
Apr 13, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan


Even though the economy is on the upswing and most event planners are seeing a slight increase in meeting attendance and the number of meetings, the U.S. Travel Association has come out with a "Keep America Meeting" campaign to continue to shine a spotlight on the importance of meetings to the economic vibrancy of our country's economy. Below is a synopsis of their report. 

According the U.S. Travel Association, a meeting has 3 key components:

  • It has a minimum length of 4 hours;
  • It includes 10 participants or more;
  • It is held within the United States.

Meetings are meant to educate, collaborate, or innovate. Here are two interesting statistics that put meetings in perspective:

  • According to Convention Industry Council's 2009 Economic Significance of Meetings on the US Economy, meeting participants spend $145 billion a year at local businesses including hotels, restaurants, shops, and meeting vendors.
  • 35% of all business travel is meeting related. Meetings provide the greatest financial return over any form of business marketing. For every $1 dollar spent on business travel, $10 to $15 is returned in business according to Oxford Economics USA. 

However, there are 3 things discouraging face-to-face meetings today making it harder to justify the time away from the office and the cost.

  1. Due to tight budgets, "doing more with less", and fear of bad publicity, many organizations are discouraging meeting travel. President Obama issued an executive order reducing federal government travel spending by 20% in 2013. In April 2011, California implemented a ban on non-essential travel by state employees, including travel to conferences and professional development meetings.
  2. Outdated transportation infrastructure, aging airports, and the struggling airline industry are having an impact on long-haul travel. Many cities lack mass transit connectivity to and from their airports. According to Frommers, the U.S. has 4 of the world's top 10 worst airport terminals. 
  3. With high-tech options available on a person's laptop or tablet, meetings can now take place from the comfort of an office or living room. These include online communities, webinars, and live video streaming, such as Facetime and Skype. 

So, what can we, in the event meeting services industry do to combat these challenges?

  1. Continue to communicate the value of face-to-face meetings to policymakers, business leaders, and individuals. Policymakers need to be armed with information about the economic impact, jobs, and tax revenue. Business leaders need to know about growth and individuals need to be proficent in the reasons why a face-to-face meeting makes sense when they are pitching it to their boss. For more information on the value of meetings to the U.S. economy, read our blog "The Value of Meetings, Part 1 and Part 2". 
  2. Encourage our lawmakers to support a comprehensive transportation plan for air, rail, and surface travel including completing the NextGen Air Traffic Control System and modernizing our airports.  Airlines, airports, and the US government need to invest in alternative fuels, streamline the screening process, and work toward improving the US entry process for oversea visitors. 
  3. Delineate when virtual meetings and face-to-face meetings make sense. Read our recent blog determining which format works best and why. 

Are you event planning in California? AV Event Solutions can provide you with a comprehensive offering of interactive technology tool rentals for your next meeting or event. Face-to-face meetings are still important and they can help make yours shine! 

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