AV Contracts Explained

As an event planner, you need to sign a lot of contracts and let’s face it, some of them can be confusing, particularly the AV contracts. Luckily,  Jon Trask breaks it down what you need to know to get through a long and complex AV contract. 


The first part of the event AV agreement is the quote. At the end of the quote, you will notice a deposit section. For most events, many companies require a deposit that ranges between 20-50% of the total agreement price. The deposit is due when you sign the contract and its purpose is to ensure you follow-through with your agreement. This is not uncommon. Other companies may also outline a series of deposit payments as the event grows near.

Terms of Agreement

The terms of Agreements are typically one of the first parts in the event AV agreement. As a whole, this section explains what you’re hiring the vendor to do and includes what is highlighted. Some key details within the terms of the agreement may include:


If they are traveling, the details of their transportation, lodging and per diem costs are typically outlined here.


Many times vendors state that you are responsible for the items both in and out of the contract. If you rent equipment, you are responsible that the equipment remains intact. This section will also state what things you may be responsible for that are not in the contract.

Public Fees

You may be required by your venue to obtain special permits for the AV equipment you are using. One example includes a permit from the Fire Department that states your event meets the legal guidelines for safety.

Legal Jargon

Force Majeure, arbitration and governing laws are sections in an AV Agreement that can be broken down further by a lawyer. Below they are outlined in simple detail:

Force Majeure

The easiest way to cover your butt is to review this section with an attorney. They will help you think of the possible scenarios your event could encounter and also provide clarity into the areas that are excusable.


As a whole, this section states that you agree with waving a court trial and instead of going to an arbitrator and working out your disagreement there.

Governing Laws

If you host an event outside your local province/country, you might be required to be governed by the laws within the province/country. If so, you may need to hire an attorney in the province/country that you are doing business in.


The accessibility section refers to adhering to the schedule of the event. As mentioned previously, it’s extremely important to review each section in great detail. If you don’t, you may see a spike in hidden costs on your total bill. Two areas that you will want to focus especially on are:


You will want to walk through all the times of the event, including extra time you will need for set up and tear down. Make sure these details are explicitly written out so that you are prepared for any additional costs this may incur.


Additionally, you will want to clearly define requirements. Often, companies don’t lay out overtime pay, yet are charged overtime fees due to extra hours worked. You will want to closely review the hours you will need assistance in addition to the amount of extra hands you will need.


Have you ever heard of people renting equipment that they have rented to lessen the overall rental cost? If so, they are breaking this part of the agreement. This section is often included in event AV agreements and specifically states that you cannot rent the equipment in the agreement without their consent. One example includes an event planner who rented equipment from an AV Company. Coincidentally, the event took place over super bowl weekend. The event planner thought it would be a great idea to use the equipment to throw a super bowl party since he already had the equipment. To be able to do so, he had to contact the AV Company to receive their approval. Had he not received consent he could get into some serious legal trouble.

Equipment Damage

Understandably, equipment can break or get lost during your rental period. It is important to remember that you are fully responsible for the equipment. If you break or lose the equipment, many companies will require you to either replace or fix it. If you do not replace the equipment or it is lost, many companies will charge you an extra rental fee to make up for the additional costs. Additional tips to reduce damage are below:


If your event takes place in a large auditorium or conference hall, make sure to lock all doors before and after the event. For smaller computers, cords and remotes, you might want to remove them from the room and keep in a safe or with you in a secure location.


You also want to ensure the environment in which you and the employees will be working is safe. Make sure the equipment is handled with the proper amount of labor, set up accurately, and able to withstand the elements of the event.


Indemnification is another name for insurance requirement. Some companies will require you to maintain an insurance policy equivalent to the cost of the equipment rental. Although it may seem like a hassle, paying $40 for a $1,000,000 policy will benefit you if your $100,000 set unexpectedly starts on fire. In addition to equipment insurance, you may be required to hold liability insurance to protect you, your employees, and guests of the event. Once again, it only takes one person tripping over a cord and breaking their leg to trigger a small legal headache. Not trying to scare you, just preparing you for worst case scenarios – it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Presentation Materials

You will want to connect with the presenter to review what presentation materials you are responsible for. Many times, the presenter is entirely responsible for providing all their materials. If they do, you will want to plan for the following key items below:


Is their presentation in a format that is best suitable for your setup? You will want to connect with the presenter ahead of time to discuss how you will receive the presentation (jump drive, email, etc.). You also will want to review that the presentation is in the highest quality format to maximize screen projection.


You will want to plan extra time to ensure you receive their presentation materials in a timely manner to test and practice the effectiveness. Many presenters want to practice ahead of time so you will need to account for this.


If the presentation contains sounds other than the main presenter, you will want to review these details also. Alternative sounds may include interactions with the audience, guest presenters or artists. Recording: If you are not responsible for the presentation materials, chances are you may not have the rights to record the presentation. You will want to check with the presenter in advance if you will be allowed to record their presentation. Some presenters are very strict about this policy.


Altogether, you do not want to make any assumptions. All disclaimers must be listed. I always say, no question is a bad question. If something is not listed, it is best to ask. This is especially important when booking systems and additional costs. These are outlined more below:


Many event AV agreements list out systems, but don’t include specific equipment within the system. Review the characteristics of the system. These characteristics will help you understand if the system is right for your project. For example, is the projector capable of shooting in high definition on an 8-foot tall wall?

House Costs

House costs include electricity, power, and heat. Essentially, these are the costs associated with keeping everything running. You will want to specifically review the amount of electricity, power, and heat or air conditioning that you will need for your event.


Unless your event takes place at the AV Rental warehouse, you will need to review the costs and materials needed for shipping. This also will include any labor expenses incurred while unloading the trucks. It will benefit you in the long run if you are as detailed as possible.


Undoubtedly, there are extra costs that sneak up when you least expect them. To best prepare for these costs, think about the following points below:


If you breach the contract, they keep the money. ‘Nough Said. Simply put, don’t break the contract or you won’t get your deposit back and likley will be responsible for the entire bill.


Simply put, plan to have the appropriate staff on hand. You won’t have your electrical engineer unloading trucks and vice versa. Plan for the appropriate specialized labor in advanced.

Cancellation of an Event AV Agreement

The cancellation policy is especially important to review. Many contracts do not clearly define what will be reimbursed if there is a cancellation. Similarly, many contracts do not clearly define what are acceptable reasons to cancel an event. Below are a few factors to consider:


If the event is scheduled to take place outdoors, you will want to review the probability of bad weather disrupting your event. You will want to discuss excusable and non-excusable weather events, and the amount you will have to pay if they occur.

Artist Illness

If you are hiring a band, artist or speaker as your main focal point of the event, it’s important to remember that they are human too. They could become ill and may need to cancel or reschedule an event. Discuss with your vendor the cancellation policy if this were to occur.

Union Strike

Many event companies and employees work within a union. If you hire union employees for your event and there is a union strike, will you be reimbursed for the crew? You also will want to identify further penalties of working with non-union crews if you formerly booked with a union crew (this is a no no).

After carefully reviewing what you have to know in an Event AV Agreement, you are now prepared to take on any client! Remember to pay attention to detail, ask questions, and take risks!