Audio-visual equipment is always sort of a sore spot for most companies. While large companies have their own AV departments that have access to the newest equipment, small and medium companies prefer to rent; given how infrequently that they use the equipment it makes sense. However, this means that those same companies need to deal with AV rental companies on a regular basis, and that can lead to a couple of major problems. With a little bit of planning, however, those problems can be minimized and the rental company can even help you in some situations.
The biggest problem is the nature of the contract. It can only help to go over the contract with a magnifying glass in order to find areas where you can save some money. The most onerous clause present in a lot of contracts is the necessity of hiring the AV company to handle the equipment itself. While this does make some sense, especially if the renting company has limited expertise, it makes less sense if the place where the equipment will be used already has an AV person as part of the rental cost. There are other fees in the contract that can be negotiated so going through the contract may be worth looking at for other hidden fees and requirement issues.
It is also necessary to establish a relationship with the AV rental company. Not only does this mean that the company is used to your needs and can thus offer advice on which equipment is best for your particular situation, but it also means that some sort of discount deal can be established, especially for frequent use. This means that an AV rental company in Dallas can recommend an extra cooling fan if they expect the days to be extra hot that day. It also means that they may be willing to rent you some of their more commonly used gear; while it means that the equipment may have issues it does mean that the equipment will be available at a reduced cost.
The equipment should be thoroughly inspected when it is rented and when it is returned, and that someone should be there when it is inspected by the rental company. Even if the equipment is sub-par you do not want to be responsible if anything happens to it, and the easiest to ensure that is making sure that the equipment is kept in the same condition as you rented it. While most companies are willing to ignore some wear due to use it is advised that this is not counted on it and that any damage be noted when it is received. If necessary pictures should be taken of the equipment. This not only ensures that the full deposit will be returned but also that there is no cost to replace equipment.
The equipment must be delivered to the site where it will be used and secured at the location. Not only does this means that the equipment should be guarded but that only trained on it should use it. The equipment needs to have someone keep an eye on it to ensure that nothing happens to it, but an untrained person should not be allowed to use it to avoid damaging it. The rental company will not accept any excuse when it comes to its equipment being damaged, and even the slightest scuff can result in charges; treating it like the delicate equipment it is can only help.
In short, paying attention to the contract, inspect the equipment, and treating it carefully can only help to build a relationship with the rental company, and that relationship can help in a number of ways. Keep all of this mind and the rental cost will be kept at a minimum.