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In the first part of this series we explored what MVPs do, how they are chosen, and a little introduction to the fantastic team that makes up the PowerPoint MVPs. This time we’ll cover where to find them, and what they can do for you once you do.
Of course you can find your MVPs by coming to conferences where they speak, or visiting their workplaces (with permission of course), or even sometimes at Microsoft events like TechNet or Tech-Ed. But more importantly, you can get help from almost all of the PowerPoint MVPs without even leaving your chair.
I’ll tell you up front, the PowerPoint MVPs are a terrific group of people just to hang out with and share a laugh over random PowerPoint trivia or experiences. But you’ll most likely to want to talk to them when you’ve run into a problem you can’t solve, need advice on approaching the use of a specific feature, or just need someone to walk you through some basic PowerPoint features. Once you start these conversations you may find it hard to stop, because there’s really nothing as satisfying as free advice from a professional.
One of the most expedient ways of getting help for all of your questions is to make your way to the Microsoft PowerPoint newsgroups. What’s a newsgroup? Well, newsgroups are not a Microsoft invention, they’ve been around about as long as computer telecommunications has existed. They are collections of conversations between individuals on any subject, from Star Trek to Shakespeare, from auto racing to oceanography; if it’s a topic for discussion there’s a newsgroup for it.
Microsoft sponsors sets of news groups that support our products. We learn a lot watching user conversations, both about how our products are used in the field from news conversations. Because their content is automatically archived and searchable, they provide an always expanding base of information and answers.
If you’re already familiar with newsgroups, all you need to know is that the PowerPoint group is located at microsoft.public.powerpoint. If that doesn’t make any sense to you, you’ll need to do a little investigation into the use of news readers. Here are two places you can go for help there:
The Microsoft Newsgroups is the official web page listing of all the product news groups with additional articles on how to navigate and read the online threaded discussions.
PPTFAQ: How do I join the PowerPoint newsgroup? is an MVP-written set of links and notes on how to join and use the newsgroups.
While you’re in this second page, check out the larger PPTFAQ web site. Guess what? It’s written and maintained by Steve Rindsberg, a PowerPoint MVP, with the help and contributions of many other MVPs. PPTFAQ is a great place to go and just search for answers to your PowerPoint questions.
However you get to the newsgroups, you’ll find them a wealth of information and assistance Over the years many questions asked and answered in the newsgroups have been archived here.
Once you get to the PowerPoint newsgroups, don’t feel you need to start asking questions right away. Go ahead if you want, but it’s a time honored tradition to “lurk” in the sites for a while, getting a feel for how the conversations go and who knows what about what, before you actually post a question or comment yourself. Remember, everything will be fine as long as everyone communicates respectfully and productively. Believe me, this is one of the best newsgroups you would ever want to spend time in; it’s like an extended family.
Almost all of the PowerPoint MVPs have web sites. Not surprisingly, most of the content on these sites is about PowerPoint. You can browse these at your leisure, and if you’re still lurking in the newsgroups you can read up on the various players while you’re getting your footing.
The MVP organization keeps this list of MVP sites: MVP Web Sites: PowerPoint. It is a little dated but still quite useful: As you might guess by now, just browsing these sites may answer your immediate questions, and will likely provide you with answers you don’t even know you need yet.
The PowerPoint development team keeps in regular touch with our MVPs. They have a history of providing us with good information on both the products in the field as well as providing feedback on areas we want to deal with in future versions of PowerPoint. It’s easy to run a quick questionnaire past the MVPs, and they use their contact with customers to provide valuable insights.
The MVPs occasionally escalate issues from that same customer experience directly to the PowerPoint team when they can’t find the answers elsewhere, or they believe there may be a problem we aren’t already aware of. Both regular phone conferences and mail passed back and forth strengthen this relationship creating value on both ends. If you’re talking to an MVP, you’re talking to someone who has the ear of the PowerPoint development team.
While we can’t talk about future products and what improvements and advancements are currently in development, you can be sure that feedback given to MVPs does make it back to us.
Next Up: March is the annual MVP Summit at Microsoft in Redmond Washington. Next episode we’ll discuss what happens at the summit, what the MVPs get to see and hear there, and how the whole thing feeds back into a constantly improving program.
Ric Bretschneider 2/1/2009
I've been to the MVP summit in washington. very cool