I've been involved with PowerPoint for about seven years
and have been hosting the CorelWORLD User Conference since
1989, back when I had a full head of hair. Steve Rindsberg
(PowerPoint MVP and author of the PowerPoint FAQ site) has
periodically noodged me about doing something for PowerPoint
as we have done for Corel products. Last September, he isued
his bi-annual noodge, and I just said, "Okay." "Okay?" he
said back. "Okay, let's do it."
I posted one small item on Microsoft's PowerPoint newsgroup
and got about 100 replies almost overnight. Great idea...sounds
like a winner...sign me up...fabulous...It was clear
that this is a robust community with very enthusiastic users those
are two key ingredients to a successful end-user conference.
It didn't take long to put together
an entire team of exceptionally talented PowerPoint trainers
and experts again, a
tribute to the strength of the user community and
build a full schedule of workshops and seminars.
Why do you think someone would want to attend this event?
Because you're going to be there, of course!
Well that's part of it, to be honest. Just about everyone
on the PowerPoint Who's Who list is on our team. The learning
opportunity is unprecedented, at just about every level you
can list. Fundamental training...basic animation...advanced
automation...design and aesthetics...multimedia...all of
the bases will be covered with breadth and depth.
But even if that were not the case even if we didn't
have you, Steve, Echo (Swinford), Cliff Atkinson and several
others, and several associations and dozens of sponsors events
like these are a form of magic. When you bring 300 people
together who all share the same affinity for a software program,
it creates a chemistry and an atmosphere that simply cannot
be duplicated by any online mechanism. You have instant common
ground to meet others, you're predisposed to make friends
and approach people. You get to compare notes and swap stories
with people of totally different backgrounds who nonetheless
share a vital common interest.
Oh, and most patrons will be seeing PowerPoint 2003 for
the first time.
Does a person attending this event need some specific skills?
Skills, no objectives, yes. We
will have three tracks of seminars and drop-in technical
support, so we're going
to be able to appeal to brand new users and total PowerPoint
maniacs with equal ease. So there are no skill requisites
at all, but we expect that most patrons will be earnest users.
That despite their experience level, they use PowerPoint
in a way that makes it important to their work, career, or
How far is Microsoft involved with PPT Live?
Simple question, complicated answer.
The best kind...
We have a strong and specific arrangement with Microsoft.
We have a wonderful liaison in April Dalke and have piqued
the interest of the product developers, the brass, and even
Steve Ballmer himself. They will help us publicize the conference
and send representatives to it so that patrons can speak
directly with those responsible for the software.
But otherwise, we believe in separation of church and state,
if you will. PowerPoint Live is an independent event that
gets no financial assistane or sponsorship from Microsoft
and whose presenters are all hired to tell what they know,
with no sugar-coating added. This is direly important and
we build and stake our reputation on that point: patrons
who come to the conference must know that they are getting
the straight scoop honest advice and appraisals from
independent experts who are NOT trying to sell you anything.
If you misquote me about everything else, if you tell everyone
that I eat mice, I'll still be satisfied if people understand
that this is not a dog-and-pony show. It is a learning event
with the highest priority being on telling patrons everything
about the software, the good, the bad, and yes, the ugly.
How have you chosen the facility . I heard a rumor...
That I chose it because of a tennis tournament?
That's the one.
Well, I do have very fond memories of Tucson because our
tennis team won consecutive national championships there
in 1996 and '97. So guilty as charged as far as that goes,
but more to the point, Tucson is just a wonderful destination
in the fall. In October, it's going to be 75 and sunny every
day, it's easy to get there from just about anywhere, and
it has fantastic food.
Most important, it's cheaper and bigger than a major urban
hub like Chicago, Los Angeles, or Atlanta. We're in very
large and spacious ballrooms with plenty of space for everything
we want to do, and guest rooms are under $125/night. For
a debut event, it's just a very friendly place to be, especially
if you're looking at a foot of snow and single-digit temperatures
where you live come this October.
Is anything planned beyond the schedule available on the pptlive.com
I'd tell you but then I'd have to kill you.
Is there anything you can say and keep me alive at the same time?
I'll try. The question we get asked the most is whether
this is a hands-on event, and it's important for us to point
out that there is a significant hands-on component to the
event, thanks to our Help Center. We'll chain to desks guys
like you, Geetesh, and make them available from morning until
night for any question, issue, or problem that anyone might
have. With CorelWORLD, it has become by far the finest product
support avenue that the software has ever known, and we expect
similar acclaim for the Help Center at PowerPoint Live.
Do you foresee
Wait, also we haven't posted
all of our social events yet. We'll be heading out onto
the town every night. Can't
Duly noted! Do you foresee this as an annual event?
If PPTLive achieves even half of our goals, then yes, we
will continue it as an annual event at least. We won't dismiss
the possibility of creating regional events held more often.
We'll bend like the wind--if there is interest, we'll be
Any single experience, trivia or thought you would like to share?
Well, it's opportune that you mention "trivia." Tuesday
afternoon at the conference, we'll debut the PowerPoint Live
Trivia Contest, in which we rip off Jeopardy and Family Feud,
and with the help of a dozen PowerPoint users, we create
comic relief for the entire patronage. It's an absolute scream
and with a bit of beer and wine flowing, it will prove to
be one of the highlights of the week.
Otherwise, I'd just like people to know that we intentionally
keep the event small and homey. We don't allow the event
to become a gigantic trade show and we run it with a lean
infrastructure. In fact, we are literally a mom-and-pop operation:
my mother has been our Registration Manager for over a decade
now, and I have had sisters and a daughter work for us. Before
too long, the entire staff begins to feel like family, and
after a year or two, returning patrons are likely to think
of themselves as part of the extended family, as well.
Not exactly COMDEX.
Exactly. This is an event for users, and we keep that as
gospel across every element of our planning.