How to find the third-party actors you need to produce a video conference. You engage any number of services to organize and execute meetings. If your event includes videoconferencing, you may need to fill any or all of the following roles:

Equipment Sourcing, Installation, and Main- tenance: Who will specify, acquire, and have installed appropriate equipment at all the locations?

Network Sourcing, Installation, and Management: Who will specify and order the installation of ISDN services in all locations? The telephone company needs a list of ISDN provisioning specifications that will vary with your equipment and theirs.

Room Brokering: To avoid having to source and install equipment, use sites that are already set up. Room brokers find and schedule venues that fit your requirements. Many equipment resellers will refer you to brokers and bridge operators.

Scheduling: You won't believe how complicated scheduling is until you try to organize a multipoint event in different time zones. A full-service network manager or a room broker will often handle this.

Bridging: The bridge operator alone can make your event succeed or fail. Do the sites dial into the bridge or does the bridge dial out? What about speed conversion, protocol conversion, or troubleshooting? All this happens at the bridge. The bridge often handles the director function, too.

Producer: If your videoconference is a major event, or has to fit inside a larger event, then you need to coordinate with other events and local AV production. That's what a videoconferencing producer does.

Director: A multi-point conference may be continuous presence (all sites on screen at once), voice-activated, (the speaker on screen); or directed mode. If directed, the bridge operator (usually) will "direct" which site is shown to all the other sites, working from your script or in response to participants as they speak up, or some combination.

Operator(s): Who will operate the keypad, thus controlling the camera, dialing, muting, etc.? Room brokers, storefronts, or audiovisual providers will offer a trained keypad operator. If the meeting content is confidential, an exec might need operating lesson.

How Do I Hire Them? Qualify supplier candidates by listening to how they position themselves compared to your list. An outfit that specializes in room brokerage and scheduling will say so. Likewise, bridge operators will proudly show you their network center and bridging equipment. They probably do a little scheduling and network management, too. Producers are a rare breed found in solo practices or the few videoconferencing shops that specialize in major events.

The major telephone companies and videoconferencing equipment manufacturers offer wall-to-wall service organizations and referrals to their partners.Two online resources: www.gvcnet.com and www.videoconferening.com.

Questions to Ask Vendors: * Do they know your equipment and network?

* Do they have redundant network and bridging capabilities in their facility?

* Can you meet the people who will do the work? This is a must if you are hiring a producer or have extensive scheduling requirements.

* Can they work well with AV and other suppliers?

* Can the bridge support speed and protocol conversion if required?

* What's the protocol for troubleshooting?

* How would equipment failure be handled?

* How are operators trained?

* What scheduling software do they use? If internally developed, how is it supported? Are the developers still with them?

* What will they do internally and what do they subcontract? To whom?