In this second installment, we will discuss your relationship with the key to a successful satellite video conference: the satellite company. How to choose a company. What information they need. How to ensure an effective relationship. If you missed PART 1: THE BASICS, click here.
Choosing to do a satellite video conference can be a daunting task. It is made much easier when you partner with a company that is an expert in the industry. There are many companies that can "fill orders" and are very technically savvy. There are others that provide coordination services. The ideal company, though, blends these two traits. Satellite video conferencing is inherently technical. It is important that the company of choice speaks the lingo and can be sure that all the technical elements are covered. A company that does satellite broadcasting with their own equipment, day in and day out, can best meet that criteria. At the same time, though, there are many little elements that need to be taken care of. This is where a producer or coordinator comes in handy. A company or individual that does this knows how to keep numerous balls in the air. Additionally, they often are better able to speak in layman's terms, makimng communication easier.
It's best to find a company that will blend these two attributes, offering a full package for you, the client. The easiest way to initially find a company is to Google "satellite video conference" or "satellite video conferencing." If you leave the word "satellite" out, you will get inundated with listings of IP and computer video conference solutions. Next, call the company and have a conversation with them and see what they bring to the table.
When discussing a project with a prospective vendor, find out what they do. Do they work solely in corporate television or do they do work for broadcast networks also? Do they have equipment in house or is all their work outsourced? (Note: Due to the nationwide and international aspects of many video conferences, itis reasonable to expect that parts of your requirements will be subcontracted. What you are trying to determine, though, is do they do that kind of work in house as well. ) Who are some of their clients? Find out how long they have been doing this. are you talking with a technician, a salesperson, or a coordinator? A person in each of these roles will bring a different skillset and paradim to the conversation. Is the person with whom you are speaking able to explain things and ask questions in a manner that is comfortable for you? Are they asking questions to help determine the scope of your project, and are they offering you suggestions or feedback?
Once you find a company with which you click and that can offer you technical expertise and coordination experience, you need to help them understand your project. The most basic information initially needed includes:
How many sites are involved?
Which are uplinks? downlinks? (See Part 1 of this series to learn the difference)
Where are the sites located?
What are the venues: hotels, corporate properties, etc?
Will the downlinks need to ask questions of the uplink sites?
Do you already have AV and/or video production or do you need support in this area?
How long is the program?
With answers to at least a majority of these questions (even if ony initially initial information), you should be able to get a budgetary cost and start getting down to business. It's important to establish who is responsible for what part of the project and the planning process. For instance, will you seek out venues or will the vendor? Will you coordinate with the AV company or do you need the vendor to do so? These kinds of details will help the process go more smoothly as time goes on.
And speaking of time -- I'm often asked, "How far in advance do I have to start planning?" It's advisable to start as soon as you know the project might happen. It's nice to have a couple or even a few months, but -- depending on the scope of the show -- it's possible to put it together in just a few weeks. Just remember that there needs to be time for things like site visits, venue approval, and subcontactor coordination.
When working with satellite vendors, it is imperative to keep the line of communication open. They should be able to respond to your questions in a timely manner, but you too should be open with information. Often certain steps of the planning are dependent on information that only you, the client, can provide. Lack of information can make for delays and even serious issues down the road.
As the show draws near, be sure to get a list of the satellite time inquired for you before it is "firm booked." Double check to be sure it encompasses the times you need not only for the program itself, but also for any planned testing. Satellite time is booked on the 1/4 hour in 15 minute increments. It is initially inquired, providing you with first right of refusal. It usually needs to be purchased, or "firm booked," within at least 72 hours of the start time. Once it's bought, there are no returns on satellite time, so be sure that your times are correct.
It's important to note also that satellite time is usually discussed in Eastern Time. So if your show is in the Midwest from 2pm - 4pm, you might hear your satellite compnay refer to it as being from 3pm - 5pm ET or even 1500 - 1700 ET if they use military time which is common for the industry. International shows are typically timed in GMT or Greenwich Mean Time which is -- depending on the time of year -- either 5 or 6 hours later than New York (ET) time. No matter if domestic or international, be sure that you know what time zone everyone is talking, and don't be afraid to ask for clarification. Vendors are happy to translate to local time for you if it gets confusing.
When the final information is put together for the show, be sure that your venues down who is coming and when. Have the name and phone number for any techs, and provide the satellite company with the venue contact. This exchange ensures that communication can still be made even if the coordinator or you are unavailable.
The two biggest keys to a successful satellite video conference are choosing a good satellite company and communicating effectively with them. You don't need to know everything. Hopefully, though, these couple of articles have armed you with some basics so that you feel better prepared to start the process. Satellite video conferencing shouldn't be scary. Instead, it can be a new and exciting way for your organization to communicate. Good partners can make a world of difference in the entire process and on your level of stress.
Feel free to contact the writer at email@example.com or via phone at 1-800-USA-LINK.
Dori Schmitz is the Director of Sales and Operations at Satellite Communication Systems (SCS), located in the Chicago area. She has been in the industry for 25 years and specializes in satellite video conference coordination. SCS provides satellite uplinks and downlinks as well as satellite video conference coordiation for clients around the world.