Careers: Interviews
A Pioneer of Digital Media on the PC and Respected Authority in Multimedia Presentations and PowerPoint...

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with Tom Bunzel.

Tom Bunzel is a writer, instructor, lecturer, consultant, and respected authority in multimedia presentations and PowerPoint. He specializes in knowing what other presenters need and has worked with numerous speakers on their professional presentations. A pioneer in digital media on the PC, his CPR public service announcement received the Mickey Eisenberg Award at the Cardiac Care conference in Seattle.

Also known as “Professor PowerPoint”, Tom has appeared on Tech TV’s Call for Help and has spoken at the PowerPoint LIVE conference in Arizona. He has lectured at the Teamplayers Networking Group of the Los Angeles Athletic Club, in Communicate, a multimedia facility in West L.A. and at the San Diego Computer Expo.

A “technology coach” for the Neuroscience Education Institute, he provides one-on-one instruction to physicians. As an instructor for Learning Tree International, Tom has taught courses in “Integrating Microsoft Office” and “Creating Interactive Websites – Hands On”. He trained the principals of MTA Films in Los Angeles and Todd Yamada, D.D.S., in PowerPoint and multimedia production.

A prolific writer, Tom has written several books including those on multimedia tools, and on PowerPoint. He is currently the Office Guide and regular contributor to the InformIT website (on-line division of QUE publishing). He has been contributing editor for PC Graphics and Video, Laptop Buyers Guide, Computer Upgrade and Micro Publishing News. His articles appear in the Presentation Magazine and in the ASTD online magazine.

His recent book credits include, “Easy Digital Music”, “Teach Yourself PowerPoint 2003 in 24 hours”, “Easy Creating CDs and DVDs”, and “How to Use Ulead DVD Workshop”. He updated “PowerPoint 2002/2001 Mac Visual QuickStart Guide and also wrote “Digital Video on the PC”. He co-authored “Make the most of your Digital Photos, Video, and Music” and “Get the Most Out of Your PCs and Add-Ons”.

He maintains an active website at www.professorppt.com

Discussion:

Q:  Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with us!

A:  Thanks for the opportunity.

Q:  What sparked your interest in computers and digital media and how did that lead to what you do today?

A:  I had done some video work and noticed a column in the L.A. Times on having a video studio on your desktop – the Amiga Video Toaster. I was intrigued and although I found the Amiga and Apple too pricey, I decided to see what could be accomplished on the PC, and began by teaching myself a 2D animation program from Autodesk.

Q:  As a pioneer in Digital Media on the PC, what is required to be successful in this area?

A:  It’s quite a bit easier today because both Windows and Mac have forced companies that create hardware and software to conform to certain standards in terms of drivers and also the look and feel of software. But it still takes a sense of adventure, a willingness to experiment and try new things and the persistence to find answers and solutions to complex problems.

Q: Describe your current work as a writer, consultant, speaker, educator and coach. Can you share your most valuable lessons and greatest challenges?

A: My preference in terms of writing is material that is “task-oriented” and solves a specific problem or addresses an issue, rather than focuses merely on learning a program. Often this involves creative solutions among more than one program or peripheral so it’s fun and gives me a sense of accomplishment. Similarly in my consulting and training work I try to get a sense of what the ultimate goal of the client is – it’s never learning a program.  It’s using the program or set of tools successfully in a business or similar environment to accomplish tasks. The challenge is knowing not just how to teach the tools, but to understand issues that may arise and prepare the client for them – this gives the client a sense of confidence and that’s why I also like to call it coaching.  I would say the most valuable lesson is to ask that question – what’s the end product or goal you’re trying to achieve – before diving in and teaching or learning a set of tools. The greatest challenge is working with a group, and maintaining interest among a different set of expectations and levels of knowledge. In all cases it’s important to remember that everyone started from the same place – no knowledge – and to build from there in increments that are manageable in terms of being processed.

Q: You have written a number of books, many articles and are a regular contributor to several magazines. What prompted you to start writing?

A: I was a creative writer before I got into technology. I got into technology because I discovered word processing in my creative writing. Then when I became fascinated by computer graphics, and began solving problems, others asked me to let them know through my writing how I’d done it. My how-to writing became more successful than my creative efforts so I continued in that direction. I discovered that I derived quite a bit of satisfaction in making complex concepts understandable to new users.

Q: How did you come to be “Professor PowerPoint”?

A: I matriculated at PowerPoint University.  Kidding. Before I was Professor PowerPoint I was “The Computer Chef” on a DVD project I created for a book. I went to a marketing seminar on branding and discussed it with a marketing maven Jack Barnett who asked me my main focus, and when I told him PowerPoint presentations, he suggested that from now on I be Professor PowerPoint. I went home, bought the dot-com URL and ordained myself a professor of PowerPoint.

Q:  What are your top ten tips for creating a memorable presentation?

A:
1)  Define your message clearly and decide what will be a successful result for the presentation.

2)  Create a 3-Act or easily followed story for the presentation – preferably in Outline form.

3)  Assemble a “cast” (to use the term in Macromedia Director) of the most powerful visual assets – photos, video, diagrams, etc.

4)  Set up your slides according to the outline and populate them creatively with the visuals. Learn to use other programs like PhotoShop, Visio, Flash and Excel to create creative content to strengthen your message (not for eye candy).

5)  Use animation judiciously but effectively to pace the material and deliver it more effectively.

6)  Cut the PowerPoint to its bare bones and when you practice DON’T RELY ON THE SLIDES AS A TELEPROMPTER.

7)  Learn to blank the slides and become the show yourself – have enough personal energy and information to deliver without the computer – use the computer (PowerPoint) to supplement your personal message

8)  Think about the venue and audience and what sort of hardware will hold their attention best in that environment – projector, screen, lighting, sound, etc.

9BACK UP all of your initial assets and each presentation for reuse at a later date.  Bring a version on CD or DVD separate from your laptop and have a disaster plan in case there is any sort of glitch or equipment failure.

10)  Don’t leave the presentation for the last minute and short-change rehearsal time. You must work with the material over time to make it natural and give yourself confidence. If possible present to friends or family to see whether you are conveying the message you set for yourself in item one.

Q: Provide an overview of one of your recent books, “Teach Yourself PowerPoint 2003 in 24 hours”. What differentiates it from other books on the topic?

A: The book went significantly over page count and the publisher decided to let me keep the additional material because it was comprised not of how to use the program, but rather conceptual material of why and under what circumstances to use various features of PowerPoint. I am hoping that this puts it into a pragmatic framework so that the reader is not asked to learn tasks for the sake of mastering a tool, but rather thinking about how to apply the features of the tool for tasks that they find meaningful and valuable. For example, I don’t teach how to create a diagram – I also define the messages which the diagram might help deliver to determine what sort of diagram is worth creating.

Q: Pick 3 books from the books you have written and share five tips from each book.

A: Title 1:  Easy Digital Music
a) Assemble your own music library from CDs in the best possible quality.
b) Connect your computer to the stereo to use the best sound.
c) Create and revise playlists for special occasions and private listening.
d) Share the music you have over a home (wireless) network.
e) Understand the types of music files and their locations to manage them effectively and back them us as data, as well as burn them to audio CD.

Title 2:  How to Use Ulead DVD Workshop
a) Start with a Wizard menu and then modify it to be a unique interface.
b) Use PowerPoint slides as pictures in DVD slideshows or create interactive Menus from exported PowerPoint slides.
c) Use a graphics program to create business or other private images for use in your DVD projects in slideshows or menus.
d) Don’t overuse chapters and chop up your video.  Create an interface that lets the user see chunks of video that have meaning and tell a story.
e) Use DVD workshop as a simple video editor and to create libraries of your favourite video and photo materials.

Title 3: Easy Creating CDs and DVDs
a) Create a picture slideshow with music backgrounds for special family and business occasions.
b) Label your data backups by date and content to protect your most valuable files.
c) Create autoplay CDs by using simple text files so that you determine what launches when they are inserted – including a web page.
d) Create quick and dirty DVDs using Ulead MovieFactory  by following a series of simple steps – capture – edit – menu and burn.
e) Use a disc image to reduce errors and re-burn your favourite material.

Q:  Can you share your top three “amazing” experiences in your career?

A:1) I sent a shot in the dark email to Leo LaPorte and ended up appearing on Tech TV as Professor PowerPoint.  The segment went quite well and I was invited back and I received a ton of hits on my web site – www.professorppt.com.

2) I taught myself Autodesk Animator during a stretch of unemployment and made a 2D airplane sprite fly across the screen.  I went “aha!, I can do this” and realized that I could create business video on a PC without using actors, sets or lighting.

3) I created a short demo reel of 2D animation and convinced my first client to let me create an information video that ran at the L.A. Convention Center

Q:  Can you share with us, two humorous stories?

A: 1)  I was teaching a class with a projector and went through the usual nervous preparation.  When I began the seminar I inadvertently hit the “screen freeze” button on the remote and I couldn’t do anything.  I hadn’t learned that glitch at the time and had to run out and get tech support to show me what the heck was going on. It wasn’t that funny at the time but it reminds me that the most complex problems often come down to the most simple solutions.

2) I was handling AV for a colleague during a presentation at Starbucks and he asked everyone what their most satisfying recent achievement was.  When they got to me I said “quitting coffee”. Everyone gasped and then laughed and I added how much I love their Tazo tea. Now I occasionally treat myself to an espresso.

Q: Based on your experience of working on presentations, both for yourself and for a variety of speakers, what do you think presentations will be like 25 years from now?

A:  Telepathic? While I think some amazing visual tools will continue to be developed, I have to say that the essence of presenting will still be conveying a message effectively and that will involve human creativity, not technical prowess.

Q: List the 10 best resources for technology and business professionals.

A:
1) www.informit.com
2) www.presentations.com
3) www.dv.com
4) www.zdnet.com
5) www.leoville.com
6) www.google.com – advanced search
7) www.epinions.com
8) www.powerpointlive.com
9) the Public Library
10) the nearest barnes and noble or similar bookstore

Q: What future books can we expect from you?

A: I want to do a book that is more business than tech oriented and that only uses technology tools to solve business problems.

Q: What kind of computer setup do you have?

A: I have a 2.5 ghz desktop PC running Windows XP networked with an old Pentium 150 to print individual labels, and wirelessly networked with a Sony Vaio laptop with 32MB of video memory to run high impact presentations using tools like OfficeFX. I use an ATI 9200 SE graphics card to connect to a Princeton desktop monitor and extend my desktop to a Princeton Arcadia monitor which also receives my satellite and video in the living room. Audio and video is output to my stereo system through a series of cables and switchboxes. I use multiple hard drives and devices to back up my data religiously.

Q: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

A: I would love to be teaching part time and continue writing, hopefully with a view of the ocean.

Q: If you were doing this interview, what five questions would you ask of someone in your position and what would be your answers?

A: Q1: What was the most recent program you learned and why did you learn it?
A1: I’ve been using OfficeFX and Apreso to make my presentations more visually exciting and to distribute them to places I can’t get to myself.

Q2: What do you consider the most important concept for computer users to grasp?
A2: The difference between files and programs, and what kinds of files are created and used by which programs. This leads to an understanding of the physical location of files and the ability to back them up and restore them effectively.

Q3: What is the most enjoyable and satisfying task you do?
A3: Successfully capturing video and putting it into a presentation or DVD in a way that makes other people sit up and take notice. It’s so easy today with FireWire and Windows XP but it’s still a challenge to edit it properly and present it in the most effective way.

Q4: What are the most common pitfalls for using video in PowerPoint?
A4: Broken links or old or incorrect codecs. As easy as using video has become, there is still an issue in using a capture or compression and decompression software that is registered on the machine that is playing the video. There are different requirements for capturing and editing versus playback which the user needs to understand.

Q5:  What’s the biggest mistake a new user of computer graphics can make?
A5: Fall for the hype and not do sufficient research. I am a big believer in not getting the latest and greatest but making do with last year’s model which is proven and tested, and which will probably do 99% of what you need to accomplish. This is equally true with hardware and software. This also relates to not becoming intimidated by jargon – make anyone you deal with in technology explain it in English. If they can’t move on.

Q: Tom, thank you again for your time, and consideration in doing this interview and we wish you continued success in your future endeavours.

A: My pleasure.

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