Chantal Bossé

Office Insider Spotlight: Chantal Bossé

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By her own admission, Chantal Bossé was shy and bookish growing up. But technology—especially PowerPoint and other Office apps—turned out to be the key to her personal and professional transformation.

In a 2019 post on the Humans of IT blog, Chantal acknowledged that public speaking used to make her feel “downright panicked.” However, her early years in corporate training and growing mastery of software tools led her to eventually launch her own business, with a particular focus on helping people communicate visually with ease and confidence.

“Now,” she wrote, “I’m teaching and coaching others that need to overcome this fear, and I leverage technology to help them.”

We recently reached out to the Microsoft MVP, podcaster, and TEDx speaker coach to discuss her professional journey, what she enjoys about the Office Insider program, her favorite PowerPoint innovations from the last year, and which animated film character she relates to most.

Tell us about your career path. How did you start out in tech?

Chantal: Well for me, I call it my other life, because I have my bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. But in the beginning of the ‘90s, my boyfriend at the time—who is still my partner, for 34 years—he started his business as a computer technician. And he said, “Why don’t you have those skills?” And I said, “I don’t know. I just don’t get the hang of this.”

But by the mid-‘90s, I was already working as an instructional designer in telecommunications. I had to learn how to use Office. That’s what we were using at the time for documentation, presentations, and everything. So, I started designing courseware, and I finally got the hang of it.

I think Office 95 was when I got the hang of PowerPoint. I was that loony at the time, arguing with the instructors that, “No, it’s not OK to slap a wall of text in your presentations. I produced this thick binder for the course, I’m not republishing the binder as slides. I’m sorry.”

At the time I was already starting to do funky stuff in PowerPoint—doing some network plans and animating them—because I just loved it. And that’s when I decided, “OK, I cannot work in this field anymore.” So I started my own business in 2004, and my sole focus was visual presentations. I was always really keen on saying, “It’s visuals—it’s not a wall of text.”Chantal Bosse at Microsoft

When did you first get involved with Microsoft?

I was recognized as a PowerPoint MVP in 2013, because I had been meeting some of the PowerPoint MVPs at the Presentation Summit. I’ve been attending since 2005, so they got to know me and know my skills, and how I was contributing and everything. And some of them are really incredible whiz kids. Many of them have been there for longer than me, but we’re a tight-knit group.

That’s why I’m really grateful to be with them, because I think we learn a lot, and we share a lot. And we’re quite a rowdy crowd with the PMs for PowerPoint, because they know that we’re so passionate. But we are user focused, which is also valuable for them.

What has your work been like during the pandemic?

The past year has been very intense in terms of teaching people and just helping them. My husband has been helping them get equipped for remote working, and I’ve been teaching them, “OK, here’s how you’ll do the basics for your admin.” Because we’re focusing on small businesses, and they rarely have IT people. Most IT businesses focus on larger organizations, probably feeling like the smaller ones don’t pay as much, and they don’t want to deal with them. So that’s where we focus.   

This past year has been a lot of Microsoft 365 work, getting the hang of the licensing, and then changing the branding and getting people to understand the new branding. That was quite interesting—I’m teaching a lot and I really love it. I can collaborate and do almost everything I want in the Office ecosystem, in one spot. So that’s basically my journey from a “techno-dummy” to now getting a grasp on what we can do in the fantastic ecosystem we have to work with.

How have you found the Office Insider program to be helpful, as part of that journey? What areas does it help you in?

Basically for me, the most helpful part is getting to see and grasp all the new features coming in, because then I’m ahead of other people. And it also gives me a chance to test features—I’m always thinking about how they will help my clients and people I know. The program has also helped me get more recognition. Because of Office Insider, people have started to realize, “Well, maybe we should just get ahold of Chantal, because she might know if something can be done with this.”

Sometimes they’re trying to look at the gazillion applications out there they can use to do what they want to do. And sometimes I tell them, “Well, you already have something in your Microsoft 365 license that can do that.” So that’s why for me, Office Insider is really valuable in terms of grasping what’s coming up.Chantal Bosse's Microsoft MVP award with Mickey Mouse

It also gives me the chance where, if I’m testing something, I can give my feedback to the product groups if I find anything that’s not working. Or if I find something that is challenging, or I think will be challenging for end users—because they’re the ones in the end that will be calling me, because they don’t know what to do with it!

We definitely love and appreciate the feedback. And we do act on it!

Yes, I’ve seen a huge difference through the years at Microsoft. Maybe in the first few years there was communication, but now it’s a real collaboration between the company and Insiders and MVPs. I’m really enjoying it, because I keep telling end users, “You know what? If there’s something you don’t like, use the comments. Use them! They are reading them. I’ve seen it myself.”

What would you say is your favorite Insider feature for PowerPoint that we’ve released in the last year?

I have two. Because I was doing funky things the hard way with PowerPoint for so many years, when they launched Morph and the Zoom features, I was happy to the moon and back. I said, “Gee, I’m saving so much time!” I was already wowing people doing strange stuff, but it was taking me hours to do. And Morph gave me the ability to create a small web ad for a client for their event, and it took a fraction of the time and money that most of the video people would be charging them for it. So that was one great thing.

Since I totally love interactive presentations, when Zoom came in, I said, “Finally, I can spend my time on creating the structure, instead of creating all the hyperlinking and the triggers, and the custom shows.” So for me, those features are still at the top of my list. Even though—let’s be totally honest—Presenter Coach and PowerPoint Live, and translation for captions or live captions… all these things are putting people in charge of their own success for their presentations. That’s why I’m so happy.

And that’s why I make it my job to make sure that, “You know, you’re complaining about your presentation’s success, let’s make sure you know about the tools that will help you.” And the more I do it, the more people understand it. Even though I’m a big fan of PowerPoint, I always tell them, “You know what, that’s the last thing we will touch for your presentation. Let’s just work on messaging and structure, and make sure that makes sense.” And that wows people, because the content is really tight and precise. And then we’ll do the wowing part with the images, and sometimes a little bit of wizardry to make it a little bit more spunky and dazzling. You don’t need it all over the place, but when it’s really put in the right place, that’s when you get that really big wow effect.

Who do you look to for inspiration or somebody doing cool stuff with PowerPoint?

People should check out and follow BrightCarbon. They do a lot of add-ons and stuff like that. They have really been geeking out! Coffee mug based on "Minions" movie character.

Just for fun, what is your favorite superhero or movie character? Or what art inspires you?

I’m inspired by Mother Nature—the shapes, the colors, the smells, the sounds, the gradients. If we take time to look closely, usually that can give us so much inspiration for what we’re doing.

And of course, animation movies are a big thing; we’ve been watching them for decades, even before we had kids. And I think of Lucy, Gru’s wife or sidekick in the Minions movies, because she’s always spunky and smiling and trying to find the positive things in life. In some ways I can relate, because I’ve heard people say, “Chantal, you smile so much and you find the positive in everything.” I have my bad days, but you know, it’s so much easier if we try to focus on the positive.

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