SmartSource Rentals Blog


Negotiating AV: 6 Tips to Bring Your Best Buying Power to the Table
Oct 30, 2013 by DeDe Mulligan

meetingNegotiations are part and parcel of a meeting planner's daily life. While it is important to get the price you want, it is also important to remember your AV provider needs to hit certain margins in order to proceed. While you don't want to leave money on the table, you do need to know what a fair and reasonable quote consists of from the AV provider.

Below are 6 tips to keep in mind when you are negotiating


Just like anything else you can think of — from hotel rates to catering — pricing is going to vary from area to area. It isn't fair to compare a room rate in Midtown Manhattan to one in Des Moines, Iowa. When renting audio visual equipment, this same premise holds true. Talk to colleagues, check online or call one or two vendors to garner an idea of what your total expense might be. 


AV providers have slow months of the year and days/times of the week. Ask when their slowest time is and use it as part of your negotiation process. However, there is one thing to keep in mind: just because your AV partner has a slow period, does not mean the hotel or caterer do. So don't expect across-the-board concessions with every supplier you talk with. 


Many times, AV companies want a chance to earn your business, so they will offer a first-time customer discount. Don't expect it to be large, especially if you are in peak season, but it doesn't hurt to ask. 


By the time you sit down at the table with one or more AV providers, you should know the low and high end of your budget for renting audio visual equipment and estimated labor costs. Once you share this information, you want to ask one very important question: 

"Based on what you know today, will this budget range work for you?" 

Depending on the supplier's response, this should keep the negotiation going or stop it cold. Even if it stops, you will know that you can move on with another company. Too much energy is often extended by both parties during the negotiation process, only to find out that the conference equipment rental company can't do what you want for the fee you have budgeted. 


Believe it or not, there are certain pieces of equipment in your AV partner's arsenal that cannot be heavily discounted because the margins are just too small. They might be brand-new interactive technology tool rentals or ones that are in very high demand. 


This may not always be possible, but for last-minute additions you can ask for a contingency fee to not exceed 5-10% of the current contract. This protects you from a runaway AV budget and allows the AV company to remain focused on what you need. Think of this as insurance — if you need it, great and if you don't, you only gave up a fraction of your total AV Budget. 

SmartSource Rentals and AV Event Solutions can provide your organization with state-of-the-art technology and they want to earn your business! Give them a call to get the process started! 

Exhibitors-Don’t Battle the Battery! Become Charging Station Networking Gurus
Oct 28, 2013 by DeDe Mulligan

As attendees travel hundreds or thousands of miles to attend conferences, most likely they are going to have one or more of the following things affect their ability to use their mobile device for hours on end:

  1. They left their charging cord at home. (It happens more than you might think.)
  2. They forgot to minimize the 15+ applications they were using throughout the day or
  3. They attended back-to-back sessions that were video and social intensive. 

Now, they are on the exhibitor floor with 10% battery life and they see your charging station. As they make a mad dash for your unit, they start to cringe and feel a little bit like they are waiting in line for the bathroom, at the bus stop or in an elevator. In fact, does your charging station look like this?

charging station

Notice – of the 8 people around the table, only 3 are participating in a conversation. The rest are heads down just waiting for their device to charge while trying to do some work. And if you look to the far left, you will see one individual reading a book, waiting for someone to pop off the table. 

What if you could turn this "charging experience" into something more? What if you could enhance the attendee experience while letting them charge their device

My colleague, Donna Kastner who is Director of Expo/Sponsor Sales & Activation at Velvet Chainsaw Consulting has come up with the idea of a networking charge-up lounge. The premise is fairly simple: While people are waiting the obligatory 10-minutes to charge their devices, a "networking concierge", that is friendly, can engage the people charging their devices in an interesting conversation about a topic that is event-related. After the 10 minutes are over, the group will know a little more about each other and the topic. 
While this is an interesting idea, I would take it a little further and put it right in the exhibitor's booth. Here are some suggestions:  
  1. Have each member of the exhibitor's team act as a networking concierge. They must be articulate, outgoing and smile!
  2. When the attendee approaches your station, use a lead retrieval system to scan their badge. 
  3. Once the attendees are "plugged in", encourage them to exchange business cards with each other and say a little bit about themselves and why they are at the conference. 
  4. Have a list of topics related to the conference and ask which one the group would like to focus on. If possible, link the topic to your products or services.
  5. Have someone with your organization take notes about the discussion. 
  6. Before attendees unplug and leave, ask if it would be okay to follow-up with them regarding your products and services. When you follow-up, send the notes from the networking session. 

AV Event Solutions, now part of the SmartSource Rentals family, can provide you with a variety of charging stations equipped with a Plasma Display to rotate videos, photos, presentations and your company logo to boost your brand awareness. Give them a call today or request a quote to start the charging station rental process! 

The Convenience and Cost of Going Green for Your Next Meeting
Oct 25, 2013 by DeDe Mulligan


"Going Green" is something you probably talk about when conferring with your meeting stakeholders and it is absolutely the correct thing to do. However, if you are like most planners, the tried and true way of doing things seems to be less costly than the green approach. But what if I told you going green is probably less expensive than you think, when you consider the total cost of a particular item. Would you do it then?

Below are 2 ways to go green that should reduce or at least keep your budget in line. For more ideas on greening your event, check out this BizBash article entitled" 15 ways to go Green and What They Cost," from which the ideas below were originally sourced. 

1. Use LED lighting.

Light-Emitting Diode (LED) is a semiconductor light source and is increasingly being used for general lighting. This type of lighting is lightweight, offers very high brightness and has a variety of colors. 

Convenience: LEDs are cool to the touch and require roughly 80% less energy than traditional lighting options. This type of lighting falls into the light equipment rental category for AV companies thus saving you time and expense in purchasing, shipping, storing and installing these units. The lights come in a variety of colors and because they are lightweight, there is no need for film rigs to deliver multi-colored lighting, thus saving AV labor charges. 

Cost: While the actual rental cost of LED lighting might be more expensive than traditional lighting options, consider the following savings when comparing various options: 

  • Renting versus buying will save immediate dollars. For more information, check out this SmartSource Rentals article "Rent vs. Buy Audio Visual Equipment". PLUS
  • Your meeting's electricity expense will be greatly reduced if the hotel or conference center passes a surcharge onto you PLUS
  • AV labor expenses will be reduced because there is a lot less cabling involved. In addition, the fact that they are lightweight, make the LEDs easy to install and strike. 

2. Go Entirely Paperless. 

From the registration process to the conference content, everything can be digital. And I mean everything. Many planners think it will cost them an "arm and a leg" but that is just not the case. 

Convenience: When you rent iPads for attendees, everything can be on this one pound device. All the presentations, speaker bios, agenda and social channels. Individuals can network more effectively because they can connect immediately with fellow attendees through social. There is no need to print, assemble, ship, unpack and store conference binders which cost money not only in supplies, shipment and drayage but also in your staff's time assembling and correcting the materials. Attendees can be directly connected with you, the speakers and sponsors through Twitter or other social channels on a real-time basis. 

Cost: While you may say your organization can't afford to rent iPads, video walls or digital signage, it is best to look at the total cost before making that determination. Here are some of the costs associated with a paper conference: 

  • Printing and paper PLUS
  • Costs associated with:

    • Direct mail pieces and postage
    • Manual data entry
    • Programs
    • Conference binders
    • Paper surveys PLUS
  • Shipping and storage of those materials to and from the conference PLUS
  • Cost of labor associated with putting the binders together PLUS 
  • The cost of a "delayed response" (Not responding to an attendee's immediate need)  

When you add up all these costs and compare it to the iPad rental and app costs, what do you see? 

AV Event Solutions, now part of the SmartSource Rentals family, can provide you with sound and lighting rental units, iPads and much more! Give them a call today at 888.249.4903 to get started! 

3 Tech Savvy Tips to Keep Meeting Planners Looking Good
Oct 23, 2013 by DeDe Mulligan


As I work with meeting planners in the coordination of large events, it is scary how little they know about state-of-the-art audio visual and information technology. When I ask who is handling their AV, many rely on a current provider or the hotel. When I ask if the venue is providing enough bandwidth, they either change the subject or shrug their shoulders.

But all blank stares, subject changing and shoulder shrugging aside — it is vital that you know the ins and outs of what is going on in your meeting. Because when the speaker's mic goes out or the PowerPoint presentation equipment freezes, it isn't the speaker or AV technician the client is going to turn to…it is you. So, it is best that you have a plan in place to avoid any problems in the first place. 

There are 6 groups that are affected by the success of the interactive technology tool rentals at your meeting. They are the:

Below are 3 technical considerations you should keep in mind when planning your next meeting. 

Tech Savvy Tip #1: Ask a lot of the right questions. 

Attendees: What equipment are you bringing to the meeting? What apps will you be using? 

Audio Visual Partner: Can you provide AV, Computers and IT? Are you familiar with bandwidth estimation tools? 

Exhibitors: What technology will you have in your booth — computer kiosks, iPads or Video Wall rental units? Will you be using the Wi-Fi provided by the venue or bringing in your own private network? 

Presenters: What apps will you running during your presentation? Are you bringing in your own devices or renting audio visual equipment? 

Sponsors: What are your technology needs? Do you want digital sponsorship opportunities such as your logo and product information on the splash page, digital signage or video wall? 

Venues: What AV equipment do you have in house, what is the age of the equipment and knowledge base of the staff to run it? What is your Wi-Fi capability? How many access points and IP addresses can we utilize? 

Tech Savvy Tip #2: Get all the answers in writing. 

It is important that you not only get the answers, but that those responses be in writing. This will require more work on the part of each group, but in the end your event will run a lot smoother because you will now be able to construct a road map as to what you need and the budget associated with the entire conference.  

Tech Savvy Tip #3: Create a workable communication plan with an agenda. 

You need a monthly, bi-weekly, weekly and daily communication plan with all the parties listed above and you should start one year before your meeting date, if possible. (Communicating with attendees will not be on a call but rather via email or social channels). Here are some suggestions:

Monthly meeting/conference call: 6 months to 1 year before event

Bi-weekly meeting/conference call: 3-5 months before meeting

Weekly meeting/conference call: 1-2 months before event

Daily conference call: 30 days before meeting

These meetings do not have to be long in nature but they do need to be on the same day of the week and start time to ensure the greatest participation. 

AV Event Solutions and SmartSource Rentals are your Total Technology Solutions provider and have the audiovisual, computer and Wi-Fi equipment to make your meeting run smooth as silk. Fill out their Quote form to get the process started! 

Wi-Fi? Li-Fi? Transmitting Data at the Speed of Light
Oct 21, 2013 by DeDe Mulligan


Here is a truism: The more Wi-Fi networks are used, the slower they become.

Why is this true? As you may or may not know, Wi-Fi signals are transmitted via radio waves and often times three things are happening simultaneously:

1) Complex data (such as video) is clogging up the pipeline
2) Radio signals are colliding with one another, creating noise and slowing down the signal even further and
3) If you rent iPads or other mobile devices, these units have weak antennas which means you need additional access points to make the Wi-Fi system all it can be — fast, robust and secure. 

Knowing that these problems exist and anticipating more use of Wi-Fi throughout the years, researchers at Fudan University in Shanghai, China may have found a solution that is ten times faster than traditional Wi-Fi. 

Enter Li-Fi. Here is an overview of how it works: Data is transmitted through LED light equipment rentals. The light bulbs flicker on and off up to billions of times per second to a receiver on a iPad or laptop equipped with a camera that can see the light and decode the flicker into data. 

However, the practical limitation of Li-Fi is your device needs to be within physical sight of the LED lighting. Think of it like a solar calculator, once the lighting is gone so is use of the calculator. If you are transmitting or receiving data and need to walk out of the room, your data transmission stops.  

As Wi-Fi devices become ultra fast and start using a higher range of radio signals, it is quite possible that the problems of today will be buried in the past. 

According to Christopher Mims, a LinkedIn Influencer and the researchers at Fudan, Li-Fi will probably never replace Wi-Fi. They see it as a supplement to congested Wi-Fi networks. 

In the meantime, your conference or meeting needs fast, reliable and robust Wi-Fi access. AV Event Solutions and SmartSource Rentals have what you need through their offering a Wi-Fi network array that can boost your bandwidth and keep your data secure. 

Are you still confused about Wi-Fi? Here are three great "go-to" blog posts to help make your Wi-Fi decision easier: 

Meeting Planner's Basic Guide to Wi-Fi and Bandwidth Terminology

10 Tips to Make Your Event Wi-Fi Access Decision Easier

Is Free Wi-Fi Really Free? The Ongoing Debate About Access for Meetings and Events


Look to AV Event Solutions and SmartSource Rentals for all your interactive technology tool rental needs

What Will Meetings Look Like in 2030? Check Out These 5 Mega-trends
Oct 18, 2013 by DeDe Mulligan


The German Convention Bureau wants to know and follow how the meeting industry is going to change and develop over the next 17 years. So they have created an ongoing survey tool called "Meetings and Conventions 2030: A Study of Megatrends Shaping Our Industry" in hopes they will identify, analyze and evaluate trends and tendencies and their probable meaning for the meetings industry. 

"The meetings industry is an economic driver for nations all over the world. We envision this mega-trends study helping players in the industry develop a future-oriented strategy that can generate business and economic success," stated Matthias Schultze, Managing Director at the German Convention Bureau. 

Here are the top 5 mega-trends identified by the study as having a very strong impact on the meetings industry:

  1. 42% of respondents identified technology as very influential to the future of meetings. 

    What does this mean? As technology gets faster, cheaper and better, the lines will blur between live and virtual events. If you are not using interactive technology tool rentals in your meetings now, this is a perfect time to become familiar with all the offerings available. And if you have not run a hybrid meeting, perhaps it is time to plan one. 

  2. 29% said that globalization will have a major impact on the industry. 

    What does this mean? Meeting planners are going to have to become acutely aware of different country cultures, preferences and lifestyles. In addition, they will need to speak multiple languages or have access to individuals that are able to translate on their behalf. 

  3. 26% of the survey participants want to get to and from the event with the smallest carbon footprint. 

    What does this mean? Attendees want easily accessible event locations from the air, train or car. This may create the need for more regional meetings where attendees can easily get to them. 

  4. 21% said sustainability is important. 

    What does this mean? Planners want to know everything about the meeting's green practices from the hotel to the speakers. They will be focused on going local for their supplier base and try to encourage local and regional attendees to come to their event. 

  5. 18% cited understanding the demographic shift in the industry is important. 

    What does this mean? Today, and probably for years to come, we have four generations in the workplace which means four different wants and needs for each conference. You will need to pay attention to accessibility for mature workers and Wi-Fi bandwidth for Gen Yers. In addition, as more women travel as planners, speakers and attendees, it is important to address any security concerns they may have. 

SmartSource Rentals and AV Event Solutions are your Total Technology Solutions Providers! Whether you rent iPads or a Wi-Fi network array, just know that they have a wide array of AV, computer and IT tools to take your meeting into the future. 

Are Your Sponsorship Proposals “Win-Win”?
Oct 16, 2013 by DeDe Mulligan

winAs a meeting planner, I certainly understand the value of sponsorship dollars. I don't think many of the meetings, conferences or conventions could happen today without this dollar infusion into the industry. Planners could not bring in top-notch speakers, interactive technology tool rentals or expand their marketing efforts. 

But what does the sponsor get out of their investment? Hopefully the opportunity to get in front of new prospects that will turn into new clients. However, in today's somewhat difficult economic climate, sponsors want more than just a logo, 5-minute talk and an ad in your program. They want exposure in creative and useful ways. They want assurance that the conference will meet their needs. 

Here are 5 ways to build a win-win proposal that should help target the right sponsors and get the dollars you need: 

Tip #1: Keep everything in line with your purpose. 

I attended a two-day conference last month on content marketing and while most of the speakers were interesting and relevant, they decided to have William Shatner as the keynote closing speaker. Now Mr. Shatner is a fine actor who apparently has written a couple of books on the subject of content marketing. However, most people really only know him as 1) Captain Kirk on Star Trek or 2) The Price Negotiator for PriceLine. My point is, his presence was not in keeping with the theme of the event. 

Keep everything in line with your purpose. For example, if your event is for start-ups, have successful start-up speakers, sponsors and exhibitors. Get a start-up to cater your event. You get the idea. 

Tip #2: Practice full disclosure. 

Most sponsors want to know who is attending, what other sponsors have signed on or are being approached, speaker bios and exhibitor information. Give it to them. Determine ahead of time if you hare going to have exclusivity regarding classifications. If they are still on the fence, ask why. 

Tip #3: Give them plenty of time. 

One thing that cannot be rushed any longer are sponsorship commitments. It can be very frustrating, but not unusual, for you to call on the contact 5 to 7 times before obtaining a yes — especially if it is a large dollar amount being considered. I would recommend you start one year in advance of your event. 

Tip #4: Be selective. 

As much as the sponsor wants to be aligned to the attendees, make sure the attendees are aligned to the sponsor. The worst thing that could happen is for you to sign a sponsor and no one engages or pays attention to them. Invite the ones that make sense and leave the one off sponsors at their corporate office.  

Tip #5: Ditch the levels and customize your offerings. 

One size does not fit all when it comes to sponsorship opportunities. It is important to sit down with each sponsor and find out what they want and what they are willing to spend or deliver in-kind for that opportunity. It is not unusual for sponsors to ask for the following: 

  • Splash page rights when attendees sign into the conference
  • Direct mail, email and social channel listings for attendees
  • Private one-on-one time with selected meeting participants
  • Hosting of networking events

And the list goes on and on. What is valuable to one sponsor, is worthless to another. Find their sweet spot and show some flexibility in your offerings. 

For more tips on how approach potential sponsors, check out SmartSource Rentals blog post: 3 Surefire Ways to Generate More Event Sponsors. When renting audio visual equipment, remember SmartSource is your total technology solution provider! 

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