We survived the dreaded Y2K. The good news is that we came through with electricity, water, gasoline, and our sanity intact. But wouldn't it have been more enjoyable if we had known what to expect?

In the videoconferencing industry, I've learned that the key to forming a partnership is teaching my clients what to expect. If you are new to video events but now have a budget in hand and need to work a miracle, the next step is to find a partner that can help you through the educational process. You'll need tutoring on videoconferencing technologies, venue options, and pricing components in order to make intelligent decisions for your company. Just to get you started, here are the basics you'll cover during those critical first conversations.

Videoconferencing Options Videoconferencing quality is directly affected by the technology selected to deliver the event. The most common videoconferencing delivery options are:

Satellite Videoconferencing typically delivers one-way video and two-way audio programming. You can expect crisp, clear video and audio signals of "broadcast quality." This technology is used most efficiently in multi-venue situations, with large audiences at each viewing site.

Dial-up Videoconferencing (also called ISDN videoconferencing) delivers simultaneous two-way video and audio over digital telephone lines. The enhanced interaction available with two-way video comes at a price, since even the fastest ISDN transmission speed cannot deliver broadcast-quality video. Dial-up is typically requested for events requiring visual interaction among all viewing locations.

Webcasting can deliver one-way video, audio, and graphics to individual personal computers via the Web. Broadcasts can be delivered live or on-demand. As broadband video streaming improves, this technology is likely to be more widely used.

Venue/Atmosphere There are at least as many venue choices for a videoconference as for an in-person meeting--maybe more. You can use hotels, theaters, corporate offices, universities, home-based offices, casinos, and cruise ships. In fact, just about anywhere is plausible.

Theaters are gaining popularity for videoconferencing programs delivered during normal business hours. Theaters usually sit empty during the day, so rental prices are competitive and cancellation terms are reasonable. Theaters are also generally easy to find, have plenty of parking, and offer in-house concessions. And most participants will find the surroundings comfortably familiar.

Pricing Components Don't make too many decisions before you have a handle on the pricing. The key cost factors will be the duration of the videoconference, the number of sites, and the number of participants, but you will need to get more specific than that. Consider:

Site Costs: room rental, catering

Production: content development and transmission of signal

Technical: videoconferencing equipment and audiovisual services required to deliver the event to viewing sites

Program Management: coordination and technical support before and during the event.

When you start to plan your next event, don't let it become another Y2K experience. No one should be in the dark about what is going to happen; no extra cash should have to be on hand. Plan on getting a good night's rest, because you'll know exactly what to expect.