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Conducting meetings via video technology used to be strictly for big business. Now, thanks to the proliferation of videoconference centers, it's almost as easy as making a phone call.CASE IN POINT

O'Halloran International Inc. in Altoona, Iowa, sells, services, and leases heavy-duty trucks and parts to clients in seven states. With expenses soaring because of rising fuel prices, Jim O'Halloran Sr., chairman of the 80-person company, needed to cut expenses. First to go was travel. Now, instead of flying to meet with customers and job prospects, O'Halloran heads to Iowa Network Services, which provides a complete videoconference setup. An in-house technician ensures the audio and video are "first rate," O'Halloran says, with no awkward delays or glitches. The cost: about $350 for two rooms and $90 an hour for long-distance charges. It's money well spent, says O'Halloran, especially when compared with the usual $5,000-$7,000 of air and hotel expenses.RESOURCES

To find a videoconference center, try a Web-based directory like Yahoo!'s ( Many chambers of commerce, libraries, and corporations rent their equipment when it's not in use. Metropolitan Interactive Video-conference Network ( lists more than 6,000 centers worldwide. Face-to-Face Communications ( and Pacific Bell Education First Video Conferencing Directory ( also have free locators.Videoconferencing & Interactive Multimedia: The Whole Picture, by James R. Wilcox (CMP Books, $39.95), compares various technologies, with 200 pages of reference material. Personal Videoconferencing, by Evan Rosen (Prentice Hall, $39.50), provides a guide to desktop videoconferencing.By Joan Raymond

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