Editor’s note, Feb. 22, 2010 – Information regarding Microsoft’s support of the MVP Summit was updated post-publication.
REDMOND, Wash. — Feb. 19, 2010 — Beth Melton is a Microsoft Office MacGyver.
She might not use Word, paper clips, and chewing gum to dismantle bombs like the television action hero, but for the last 14 years, Office super user Melton has done just about everything else with the software – including teaching people how to use it and writing about it.
Beth Melton, Microsoft Office expert and MVP Award winner.
“You know how some people can remember every movie line and every actor in a movie? I can’t remember any of those things, but I can tell you when an Office feature was introduced and in what version of a program,” Melton says.
This week Melton and 1,300 other “rock stars” from the worldwide technical community are in Redmond to attend the 2010 Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Global Summit. The summit gives Microsoft employees a chance to interact directly with outside experts, and gives MVPs a chance to provide insight and feedback to the company.
“MVPs are independent experts nominated by Microsoft employees and other MVPs, and we also bump into them in various ways – at events or online, where we often see them answering a lot of questions,” says Toby Richards, general manager of Community and Online Support at Microsoft. “They tend to be the thought leaders and the influencers in different areas of technology.”
Toby Richards, general manager of Community and Online Support at Microsoft, says MVPs tend to be “thought leaders and the influencers in different areas of technology.”
Melton will demonstrate her Office skills alongside Microsoft Business Division President Stephen Elop in his Friday morning keynote at the summit, when she’ll show attendees how to use a mobile device as a PowerPoint presentation companion.
Using a Windows Phone connected to a computer with Bluetooth, she will demonstrate how to use a phone to read PowerPoint notes during the presentation, and even how to advance the presentation remotely.
“The best part of it is that I can control my presentation by phone. I don’t have to rely on that person sitting at the back of the room to advance my slides,” says Melton, who travelled to the event from Springfield, Ill.
MVP Spencer Harbar also will share the stage with Elop for a SharePoint demonstration, and numerous other MVPs will present at technical sessions throughout the event.
Melton’s love of, and high aptitude for, the Office suite started in 1986, when she took a job as a secretary after she couldn’t find a job that used her psychology degree. Upon using Excel for the first time, she was hooked and used the program for everything.
“I was even writing letters in Excel,” Melton says. She has since become a Microsoft Office specialist master instructor, and is one of the top content authors on Office.com, writing top ten lists, the Beta Product Guide, and soon-to-be-released product guides for the new versions of Outlook, Excel, Access and Office Mobile.
By taking time to explore and learn about the features, she saves herself hours down the road, Melton says. Part of what drives her to teach and write about Office is to help others do the same.
“I think it’s the most important productivity software out there. Most individuals use maybe 10 percent of what’s available, and sometimes spend hours doing something that could take five minutes,” she says. “That’s probably why I do what I do. It’s a lot of fun to have people walk in the door feeling very intimidated, and walk out feeling that they can apply what they’ve learned to their job and their lives and make it easier.”
The MVP Award Program, now in its 17th year, is Microsoft’s primary way to recognize outstanding contributions from experts who ask questions, teach, write, and discuss Microsoft products, providing a credible, independent voice about Microsoft to consumers. MVPs communicate on forums, blogs, and Web sites. Worldwide, they answer a combined 10 million questions a year.
In return for their efforts, Microsoft offers MVPs accommodations for the MVP Summit to meet with Microsoft employees and talk about how the company’s technologies are used in the real world.
“This is the largest customer event we have on campus,” Microsoft’s Richards says. “MVPs meet with employees to talk about current products, things we can do to improve, and technology futures.”
Kate Kelly, a program manager in Office Shared Services, helps organize many of these MVP-employee meetings.
“MVPs offer us great insight into what our customers are thinking. Just about everyone I know at Microsoft who has built relationships with MVPs value them immensely,” Kelly says. “Summit provides a great opportunity to make those connections.”