Traditionally, audio and video for an event at a conference center was always a custom affair. Hotels brought in AV from a third-party contractor, and clients selected the specific arrangement of speakers, projectors, microphones, screens and everything else they needed, whether they had a small client meeting or a large party or musical event. Of course, the rental companies had standard packages for these smaller events, but there was always an intimidation factor, because clients were never quite sure if they were getting what they needed. It’s a classic paradox of choice, where the unlimited options cause undue stress in the decision-making process.

To resolve this, some hotels and conference centers are moving toward implementing house AV systems, with pre-installed audio, video and lighting that meets the needs of the majority of events. These house systems can be lucrative for the conference center, but knowing when (or if) this is the right approach has been an issue for both venues and clients. There are benefits and drawbacks to this approach, and finding the best avenue can be tricky.

Benefits of House AV

So why are conference venues implementing house AV systems? There are actually a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it’s an additional revenue stream. Clients pay fees for the house AV systems in additional to room rental fees, creating a recurring revenue source for the venue. And since the venue sets the price for this fee, they have more control over the overall venue costs. They even have the ability to waive fees for VIP clients, something that isn’t feasible to do when dealing with a third-party rental company. The ways that a house AV system returns the investment is so varied, in fact, that it’s sometimes hard to completely calculate.

For example, there are some logistical reasons why venues prefer using house AV. The biggest one—as it has the most direct tie to revenue—is faster room turnover. Because there is little-to-no setup time for house AV systems, rooms can be adjusted to a new event in less time. More events in the space means more revenue for the venue, making this approach an attractive option. Clients also like it, because it means they can have a variety of events in the same room, without having to worry about adding, tearing down or adjusting the AV between events. This also opens up the door for more last-minute room usage. If someone wants to step into an open room and book it for the afternoon, they can do so with extremely fast setup times, as there is no waiting for the AV.

A major benefit for clients is the potential for a single entity to deal with instead of multiple vendors. Setting up an event at a conference venue can sometimes mean coordinating between several different parties. When you can limit the number of participants required, that makes the logistics of setting up the event much easier and less stressful. And this says nothing of the core, inherent benefit of any installed system—the fact that the system is, well, installed. When everything is installed in the ceiling, no one bumps the projector, trips over cables or deals with large portable lighting rigs.

Cons of House AV

Of course, there are downsides to anything, and this is certainly true for house AV systems. The first thing that a conference center should consider is its relationship with the rental company. House AV systems mean less revenue for the rental companies, and implementing a house AV system can sometimes risk damaging the relationship with your rental company.

This is especially important, because there may still be events where the house AV system doesn’t meet the needs or requirements. When looking at implementing a house AV system, it’s important to weigh that relationship and the impact an installed system will have on it. Many events require coordination with the rental system and the installed system, with the rental company using part of the installed system and adding to it with additional equipment, creating hybrid systems. Other events will have AV requirements beyond a standard setup, meaning the venue still needs to have access to rental equipment, so it’s important to consider those relationships and act accordingly.

It is that very access, and the quality of what the rental company provides, that brings up another concern for house AV. One major benefit of AV through a rental company is access to professional staff to run the event. Having a quality crew on hand can provide a lot of peace of mind to a client, as can the use of quality equipment. AV through a rental company can provide a client with assurance that they are getting exactly what they need.

With house AV, both of these can potentially be in question. If a venue is putting in a house AV system, it’s important to install quality equipment, hire well-trained staff (as you still need operators to setup the event), and then fully communicate the capabilities of your AV system and staff to your clients. This goes a long way in mitigating any concerns about using the house system.

Of course, when there are issues with the AV, the venue takes on all the responsibility. This can be a concern for both the venue (which must be capable of handling issues quickly and effectively) and its clients. When clients use a rental company, there is a contract with provisions on what happens when the AV fails, and the rental company often has a large stock of equipment they can use to replace a faulty device. The venue must have plans in place to address these issues.


All of this said, house AV is a trend that will only increase as time goes on. Having a plan in place and being aware of the pros and cons of using house AV will help you navigate these changes as they occur, ensuring the best resolution possible for those involved.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Preferences on house AV vs. rental AV for conference centers? Let us know in the comments.

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  1. Karinthia

    It’s about time sonomee wrote about this.

  2. Tina

    I volunteer for a local club and attend many annual and biannual events, from workshops to guest speaker talks and community awards.

    All use venues with house AV system & the experiences are distressingly similar. You arrive and the specialist AV person at the venue needs to be located. They finally arrive and you usually find they are simply a regular member of staff with very basic training on how to operate the AV equipment. At the last venue when we had issues setting up the expert was called and it was in all seriousness the chef! He confided he didn’t know much more than turning things on.

    The events are let down by the lack oh house AV expertise & no availability for pre-event training or setup practice.

    I was so underwhelmed after the last event that I started looking for a short course in AV training so I can be the ‘expert’ on the day but I can’t find basic AV courses. I’d love to hear any thoughts.

    Thanks for your article highlighting some of the pros and cons of house AVs.


    • Hey Tina, I agree that one of the benefits of using a rental company is the quality of the people running the equipment. Ultimately, it depends on the complexity both of the equipment and the event itself. After all, we don’t have professional AV people in corporate conference rooms every day running our meetings, but you certainly need it for large productions or other events. It really depends on the size and scope of the event. That’s why I think a hybrid approach is most likely.

  3. Derek Mcdoogle

    In your article, you stated that clients pay fees for the house AV systems in additional to room rental fees, creating a recurring revenue source for the venue. I can imagine that having a working AV system could be very beneficial to certain types of industries. How does this AV system differ from a hotel AV system?

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