There is nothing inherently emotional about Microsoft Office, the suite of software that includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel (I stab at thee, Excel!) and many more productivity stables. But anyone who has ever stared bleary eyed at a spreadsheet at 3 a.m. or who has cursed at a Word format problem on a deadline knows that Office can raise your blood pressure and make you say really, really bad words.
Vickie Sokol Evans, who has been a trainer specializing in Office for nearly 20 years, describes a woman she worked with who was charged with putting together a PowerPoint presentation every quarter for her company. "She gets panic attacks. She knows she won't be home with her family that week," Evans said, describing the time-consuming task of taking slides from several people's presentation and trying to combine a giant mess of slide show.
It turns out there's an easy fix.
"Let's say this person's slides look like crap, this person didn't format anything. But there's a Reset button," Evans says. "I'm getting emotional just thinking about it."
The Reset button, a simple arrow icon with the word "Reset" next to it in the PowerPoint toolbar reformats a slide show to conform to the template. "That's the one that makes people's jaw drop," Evans says. "They say, I spent 40 hours trying to do that!"
Evans, who has an exhaustive book of advice she publishes through her firm Red Cape Company, is embarking on a set of free web seminars next week aimed at specific industries including marketing, event planning, sales, non-profits and others themed for Back To School.
Evans worked for a time at Microsoft, but these days is a certified Microsoft trainer with no official ties to the company. Despite that, she was brought on to train staff at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, including the Microsoft founder's own team, teaching them Office tips.
Evans also works with Google's apps and Apple's software, but her bread and butter is the tremendous amount of features that exist in Microsoft Office, but that most of us are unaware of and never use.
"We only use about 13 percent of the applications' capabilities," Evans said. With training, she said, she can help assistants and other nascent power users hit 60 to 70 percent.
She's also funny, a fast talker who's quick on her feet. Evans trained at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater in New York City that was founded by Amy Poehler and other UCB alumni, and performed with improv groups in Fort Worth and Austin before devoting herself full time to her training business and her two sons, 10 and 13. In Austin, she's performed with ColdTowne Theater.
In November, she'll be training World Trade Organization staff in Geneva and will continue her affiliation with Celebrity Assistants, a business with branches in New York, Los Angeles and London that provides personal assistants to actors, musicians and other famous people.
Her training sessions can last a full day, a half day (the sweet spot, she says) or even an hour, moving quickly through a sea of tricks and techniques. They're made available for review as video to members on her company's website and she also offers clients virtual office hours to answer specific questions.
She attributes her success to the comedy, which she used to compartmentalize and now uses as part of her training, and focus.
"I'm your cape and you're the superhero assistant," Evans tells many of her clients, "I'll show you the relevant skills for your role and nothing more."
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