What does it mean to be the "in-house" AV provider? How does that help you as the customer? Are you saving money this way? Do you have a choice? What are the benefits of going with an "outside" vendor? These are all very valid questions....however, not all of them are very common. One that is almost never asked is "do you have a choice?" The answer to this question is the start of the answer to all of the others.
An 'in-house' AV provider typically has a contract with a venue. The venue brings in the events - forces the client to use the 'in-house' AV...and the AV company gives a kick back to the venue. This causes more then one mark up in the process on price and less communication between the client and the people actually facilitating the needs of their event.
Many times it seems as though you don't have a choice but to use the 'in-house' AV provider. This is false. They are not going to lose your business at the risk of losing the couple hundred dollars they stand to gain from the "kick back." That being said, they won't make it easy. STAND YOUR GROUND. Explain to them how important it is you have consistent communication with your AV partner and that this is crucial to the success of your event. The venue is important for sure, but if you are hosting a fundraiser for 500 potential donors and the guests can't hear the speaker or see the screen...your event will fail.
Outside vendors are typically less expensive and more personal as well....why? Two reasons...number one: They have to compete for your business. Number two...they have to EARN your business. So, let them. You will be excited to learn how much a vendor who has to earn your business will be willing to work with you, educate you and actually look out for what your best interests are.
Ok...so this is sounds like a no-brainer, so what's the catch? This will take a little extra work on your part. You will have to take out time to do a little research, make a few calls, and ask the same questions to a few different people. In the end, however, the result will be that you will be working with someone who understands not only your events needs...but your event as a whole, which can translate to better success for your event because everyone is working towards the same goals with the same enthusiasm.