In a world where terrorist attacks and changes in world economies have reduced such things as travel for business, pulling off international meetings can be a challenge. Videoconferencing is the solution and the technology is here today. The Internet, or the Super Highway, is the current mode of travel.
As an example of how small the world is with the Internet, a look at a popular financial exchange system called PayPal shows it doing business in 55 different countries. That is 55 countries using the Internet and 55 different countries for you to do business with, interact with, and hold a videoconference.
How is this possible when there are different time zones and different languages? What about different equipment? To begin with, the major computer manufacturers like IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Macintosh provide the same computer hardware and setup worldwide. There may be a difference in language but the core equipment is the same and there has been a substantial growth in videoconferencing networks via the Internet from ISDN to Ethernet/ATM, and more.
ISO standards also guarantee network compatibility across borderlines. ISO stands for the International Organization for Standardization and preparing international standards is done by technical committees in various countries. Each country interested in a subject for whom a technical committee has been established has the right to be represented on that committee. International organizations, governmental and non-governmental, in liaison with ISO, also take part in the work.
Draft International Standards adopted by the technical committees are circulated to the member bodies for voting. Publication as an International Standard requires approval by at least 75% of the member bodies casting a vote. This means a degree of unity among Internet sources.
Time zones can be mastered with a number of time zone converters available online, like the aptly named Time Zone Converter or Time Zones for PCs which serves up a simple download. There is even the World Clock at www.timeanddate.com. All of these can tell you what time it is in your country and what time it is in another. Matching the different times can be done quite fast enabling international meetings to occur simultaneously across time and space.
As to the matter of different languages, todays technology provides a multitude of interpreter and translation options. The camera in a videoconference allows interpreters to be able to see and hear the speakers as if they were in the same room.
Body language and gestures are an integral part of any discourse and need to be taken in by the interpreter in order to fully understand a speaker as well as the reaction of an audience, the expressions on participants faces, the goings and comings in the room. All this is possible with a videoconference. All required is that attention be given to camera placement. There are videoconferencing products that can do dual audio streams so that you can have two simultaneous languages during one videoconferencing call.
Interpretation equipment available includes headphones, microphones, and control consoles. Control consoles come bundled to handle two, three, or four languages and make it easy to listen to the program directly from the computer or another interpreter while simultaneously interpreting into a microphone.
For IP international videoconferences there is software such as SYSTRAN free online translation services in 36 language pairs. This is using the same language translation software that powers the Internets most popular translation services - like AltaVista, Google, Yahoo!, and AOL. Used for instance with the Microsoft Office desktop you can get real-time translations as the videoconference is in process.
Pulling off an international meeting in this day and age is simply a matter of having a good computer, a camera, speakers and/or a headphone set, and a microphone. There are excellent headphone sets with a microphone attached.
Aligning with an internet provider service like MSN or Yahoo will give you videoconference access throughout the world and if you need additional resources, like translation equipment, you can see that such equipment is both available and in some cases even free. By exchanging contact numbers and Internet addresses you can schedule an international meeting with anyone at anytime.