What to Ask

When renting or purchasing walkie-talkies to keep in touch with staff during your big events, make sure to ask about battery life and the range of the units. Some companies include accessories, such as headsets, chargers, and extra batteries, in the package price; others charge extra. Also ask about delivery and pickup costs, the availability of technical help, and, of course, price. And it never hurts to get a client reference.

On-Site Cell Reception?

It will be a long time before traditional walkie-talkies become obsolete, but cell-phone walkie-talkies are now an option in many meeting settings. A service first introduced by Nextel in 1996, walkie-talkie “push-to-talk” capabilities are now offered by most cell-phone providers. Unlike a normal walkie-talkie radio, which only operates if the radios are within a certain distance of each other, mobile phone companies offer nationwide — even international — push-to-talk plans. Nextel also has a feature that allows you to specify a group of Nextel users (up to 100) that you can connect to all at once, similar to a dispatcher's radio.

Worth 1,000 Words

Late last year, Nextel added a photo feature to its walkie-talkie service. While sending pictures between mobile phones is not new, what's unusual about the Direct Send Picture walkie-talkie service is that the image simultaneously appears on the user's and recipient's phones, so they can discuss it without changing between voice and data services. There's no need to end the call to send a picture.

Palm Retrofit

If your team stays organized using Palm mobile devices, you may have a new option for staying in touch. This summer, RaNo Software, which creates applications for the Palm OS, released a program called WiFiTalkie that lets you use your handheld like a walkie-talkie. WiFi-Talkie uses VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) technology and requires two or more compatible devices and a broadband network connection. Most Palm OS 5+ and the Sony Clie models are supported, as well as other Palm devices that can be outfitted with a Wi-Fi SD card. A free trial of WiFiTalkie v1.0 can be downloaded at www.ranosoft.net. The full version costs $14.95.

Do You Copy? Over

Your team will no doubt devise its own lingo, but the world of radio communications has a helpful vocabulary to get you started, including “over” (which means “I have finished talking and am waiting for your reply”), “out” or “clear” (I have finished talking and don't expect a reply), “copy” (I understand), “wilco” (I understand and will comply), and “roger” (information received).

WALKIE-TALKIE (noun) 1. A handheld device that provides communications between two or more people without a dial-up procedure; users communicate instantly by pressing a button and talking.

Sources: Rentquick.com, Wikipedia.com, Howstuffworks.com, www.ranosoft.net

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