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An Interview with Patrice-Anne Rutledge

In this interview, Patrice-Anne talks about PowerPoint, her books, and her presentations.

Patrice-Anne Rutledge is the best-selling author of more than 20 non-fiction books, primarily on communications and web design. She has also contributed to numerous international publications, founded several newsletters and websites, and has created marketing communications materials, technical documentation, and web content for leading international organizations. Patrice's most recent book is Special Edition Using Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2003 (Que).

Geetesh: What do you think about PowerPoint, especially in light of the various "Death by PowerPoint" proclamations being heard these days?

Patrice: I think the problem isn’t PowerPoint itself, but the misuse or poor use of PowerPoint. Yes, PowerPoint has become rather ubiquitous in today’s corporate culture and we’ve all seen poorly designed and executed PowerPoint presentations. In some cases, PowerPoint’s ease of use makes everyone feel that they have the skills to design a quality presentation, which isn’t necessarily true. This is one of the reasons why my latest book on PowerPoint has such an extensive section on how to present in addition to how to create a presentation. Only when people start to realize that there truly is an art to creating an effective PowerPoint presentation will the cries of “death by PowerPoint” subside.

Geetesh: You've been writing books on PowerPoint since the last few versions - what's your favorite new PowerPoint 2003 feature?

Patrice: Package to CD is probably the most exciting new feature, which enables you to create CDs of your PowerPoint presentations, complete with the required fonts and all linked files. It also includes the new, improved PowerPoint Viewer on the CD.

Geetesh: Do you collaborate or exchange feedback with Microsoft on how PowerPoint evolves.

Patrice: As a PowerPoint author as well as beta tester for the past three releases, I do have a line of communication to Microsoft and provide feedback on the usability and features of the product. I believe active user feedback can and should drive the future development of software applications and that more users should make the effort to let their ideas and opinions be heard.

Geetesh: How and where do you typically use PowerPoint?

Patrice: I normally use PowerPoint either in a corporate environment or at home doing a variety of testing scenarios for my books and articles. I've created hundreds of PowerPoint presentations over the past ten years, including live, on-demand, broadcast, and trade show presentations. With all the new PowerPoint features and add-ons such as Producer and Presentation Broadcast, the way I use the product continues to evolve.

Geetesh: What possibilities and potentials do you see in Producer 2003?

Patrice: Producer, officially known as Microsoft Producer for Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2003, is a great tool for creating streaming media presentations with PowerPoint. And best of all, it’s free and downloadable from the Microsoft website. I’ve used Producer frequently since its original launch and it keeps getting better. The possibilities with Producer are numerous including creating training seminars and courses, sales and marketing presentations, and on-demand company broadcasts, among others.

Geetesh: Nowadays, PowerPoint has made inroads into home and fun stuff like slideshows, multimedia greeting cards, family trees and even screen savers - what's your opinion about these non-conventional uses of PowerPoint?

Patrice: Although I personally haven’t used PowerPoint for home projects, I think the creative use of software is great. My only advice to home users would be to verify that PowerPoint really is the most effective tool to accomplish a particular goal. I’ve seen people use PowerPoint to do things that it wasn’t originally intended to do, and spend lots of time doing so, when another software package could have done the job much faster and easier.

Geetesh: Any trivia, tips or favorite technique that you would like to share?

Patrice: I think the best “tip” I could give PowerPoint users goes back to the first question, on the art of using PowerPoint. You need to remember that there are both technical and creative aspects to working with PowerPoint -- technical meaning how to use the software itself and creative meaning how to apply design and delivery principles to your presentation. You can be an expert at knowing all the cool new features of PowerPoint and still not make a successful presentation if your slides are unattractive and your delivery is tentative or forced. People who understand this, design with both the technical and creative aspects in mind, and focus on refining their presentation techniques are the ones who will be able to deliver a PowerPoint presentation with true “power.”