The Professional Speaker's Checklist!

Speaking is a tough business. You get hired by meeting professionals in a heartbeat. So what goes into creating a great speaker brand?

The Professional Speaker's Checklist:

  1. Launch a great website
  2. Hire a professional speaking coach
  3. Attend annual speakers conference
  4. Have new headshots taken ✅
  5. Hire Chris West at Video Narrative to video your keynote  ✅
  6. Hire an agency to help you get found online ✅
  7. Hire a seasoned business coach to help improve your business ✅
  8. Hire a personal branding expert to improve your look ✅
  9. Attend Keynote Kamp to work on your signature stories. ✅
  10. Join a high-powered mastermind to keep yourself accountable ✅
  11. Improve your PowerPoint slides so they match the level of your speaking fee. ❌

Yes, your slides are usually the last thing speakers think of when it comes to their personal branding.  They are usually the last piece of the puzzle when it comes to raising the bar on your branding. 

If your slides look like a PowerPoint, smell like a PowerPoint and act like a PowerPoint, you are dead in the water. Audiences hate bad PowerPoint slides with a passion. 

How do you raise your slide game? Work on your slides with a professional. I love it when a speaker realizes it's time to improve their slides. That's when we partner together and I help your messaging shine through and create visual images you are proud to share on stage. Together we can create a presentation that engages your audience like never before and helps them remember the great content you shared. 

How do I know? I do it every week. Take a look at the testimonials from professional speakers I work with to make an impact on their audiences. 

In less than two weeks, you could be standing in front of your next keynote audience with visuals that match your greatness . . . slides that make you memorable. 

Are you are ready? Upload your last presentation and I will send you back a Presentation Dashboard with the top three elements that can improve your slides. 

What Meeting Professionals Won't Tell You About Your Keynote Slides!

What if you could hear what Meeting Planners say after you speak? Would it be comments like these? 

"His content was good, but his slides sucked. Was he using slides from 1998? I thought he would be more professional. We paid him a premium rate he should have professionally designed slides."

"I'm exhausted, I'm sure the audience was too. She killed us with way too many slides."

"It's so unprofessional to skip slides in a keynote. He should have planned better. He made us look like hacks. I won't hire him again."

When you stand in front of an audience and don't consider the ramifications of your presentation slide you are forgetting the most powerful aspects of your brand. I hear speakers talk about "How they show up on stage" so many times and yet, they forget that their slides are one the last visuals the audience has to remember them by or forget them immediately.  

False statements I hear from professional speakers:

"My slides are good enough."

"I don't want to invest in powerpoint, there's no ROI." 

"I don't use slides, I'm good enough on stage to keep everyone engaged."

I always come back with, "Really? How do you know?" Statements like these make me crazy. Your slides are the biggest visual extension of your brand. Literally. Nothing else that you share with the audience makes a bigger impression. 

The audience makes a judgment about your keynote is fewer than three slides. You are either worth their time, or you are just presenting the same information you did last year. 

If you haven't taken a serious look at your slides in five years, it's time. Audiences have changed, Meeting Professionals need more from you than a PowerPoint template with fancy animations. They need you to bring your "A-Game" and deliver a keynote deck that keeps an audience engaged. They need you to deliver a strategic presentation that impresses and impacts conference participants. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not mad about it. I only wanted to share the excuses I hear from professional speakers. I know what happens when my clients present after we have worked together on their keynote. They rave about how the audience was with them the entire time. It's funny but, my client list is quickly becoming a "guaranteed great presentation list" for meeting professionals.

Take Action:
If you're a speaker
and are still reading this, upload your last keynote presentation here and I will create a customized Presentation Dashboard for you for FREE.

If you're Meeting Professional, call me 303-396-4265 and we can talk about providing a FREE 30-minute webinar for the speakers at your next conference. It will transform every speaker's slides, guaranteed.

Top 5 Keynote Presentation Mistakes


Hi, everyone. It's Paul. Hey, I want to give you the top five mistakes that keynoters make when it comes to presentation slides. 


Number one, if it looks like a powerpoint, and smells like a powerpoint, and acts like a powerpoint, you are dead in the water. Keynote slides are completely different. It's more of a show than it is about a training. So make sure that your slides aren't the same template that's already out there, that you don't have large sets of bullet points slide after slide after slide, and everyone continues to look as if they're bored because they really are. The issue is that if it smells like a powerpoint, and it looks like a powerpoint, it's probably going to be a powerpoint and it's not gonna be a keynote.


Number two, there's a disconnect between your brand, the brand that we go out and search for right before you speak, and the brand that you have in your slides. If you've just pulled a template and made it your template, and you have slides that have nothing to do with your brand and have different color schemes and everything else, you're dead in the water. So, how do you change that? The other way there's a disconnect is that if you've got a great topic...I was talking to a speaker the other day and has a great topic and it's very adventurous. Unfortunately, they chose a gray background and gray template for their talk and for their slides. That doesn't fit, right? We're thinking outdoor experience. We're thinking great images. We're thinking great photos. And instead, they thought, well, it has to be a powerpoint so it must look like a powerpoint. No. It has to be matching and not disconnected from what your topic is to what your brand is. So the brand disconnect and the topic disconnect is the number two thing that I always see.


Number 3, is you did something cute in your powerpoint. There's a great GIF. There's a great video that has nothing to do with your topic. It's the cat hanging on to the side of the table without following. Stop it. What we're expecting from you is to be professional, highly professional, and cute has and no point in your keynote presentation. Stop doing that, stop listening to those that actually say that you should entertain the audience with your images. You don't. A keynote is based on a couple of things, and that is, the keynoter is number one, and you have to bring the story. We want you to share the information you want to in your keynote. Your slides are literally anchor points for us visually. They should enhance your talk not take away from your talk. 


Number four, it's a hostile slide take over. You have way too many slides for your keynote time and you know what happens usually, and you do know this because it happens all the time, you're down ten minutes of your time now because somebody ran over. The announcements, the president spoke longer, whatever it is it's your conference. You now have to cut ten minutes. Here's the issue. If you have too many slides you're never gonna make it. And if you end up skipping slides, immediately you are thought of as not quite well prepared. 


See the slides aren't for you, they're for the audience. And so when the audience has some visuals to go along with your keynote, they actually can put the information you're giving to them right into a bucket and they build a section in their brain for that first section, for the second selection, based on the images or even slides that are big number one, and the topic that you're gonna talk about. But always have something visually. You know, so many times we're used to media in our lives all the time because of our iPhones, we're consuming constantly. And so when you show up as a keynoter and expect no visuals to go with your talk, we are searching desperately for visuals. So, include very simple slides with your keynote if you're uncomfortable with having slides.


Lastly, the fifth and final mistake that I see that keynoters make is the fact that they think that they can get away with using part of their training deck as part of their keynote slides. What you need is professionally designed keynote slides. 


So when you as a keynoter stop making these top five mistakes, what happens to your brand is that it elevates from where it is now to where it can be, and it just takes a little bit of time to rethink how you use visuals and slides in your presentation. That's all I've got for you today. That's the top five mistakes that I see in keynote presentations, and it's always interesting to see what happens after you fix those five mistakes.

Rethink Your Keynote

One of the best things I like about my job is that I get to work with some of the best keynote speakers in the world. All of my clients have one thing in common . . . they believe, like I do, that the boring keynote is dead. No longer will audiences put up with a 45-minute lecture. No more will they sit through poorly designed slides and no more do they think you are relevant as a speaker if your slides contain bullet-points. It's time to make a change and rethink your keynote. 


When I work with a client we review every slide and every story in their presentation. We pay close attention making sure their talk has a natural flow and a solid structure. Most of the time we find something that doesn't belong and ore was and add-on idea that doesn't fit anymore.  I'm all about eliminating stage stress and stripping out what's not necessary. Today's audiences are highly-tuned to fluff. Eliminating fluff in your keynote can enhance how your message is received.


You've spent years building your speaker brand, yet when your tired old slides show up on the big screen you feel a little disappointed. Guess what. Your audience is disappointed too.  We all consume media 20x faster than we used to and we are constantly bombarded with images in our high-tech, smartphone world. In an instant, your slides are evaluated on how they stack up against the competition. You may think, "I have better slides than my speaking competitors." The problem is, that is not your competition these days. Your competition is with every multimillion dollar ad campaign, every visual that hits our smartphone. If your keynote slides look like they are from early 2005, your audience immediately determines that your message is irrelevant. How do you overcome this bias? No, adding your logo to every slide is not what I am talking about. In fact, It's the opposite. Build a keynote deck that is equal to your high-profile branding. Rethink every element of your brand, color scheme, typeface, animations, social media presence . . . everything your brand is, your slide deck should be equal to or heighten the keynote experience. 


Yup, I said it. Do you need slides for your keynote presentation? So many keynote speakers believe they are good enough not to use slides. I agree, great keynotes don't have to have slides. But, the slides aren't for the speaker, they are for the audience. The audience needs to have some type of visual bucket or anchor so they can store your information so it's more memorable. I like to design keynote decks that are versatile enough that allow the keynote speaker to use as few as five slides for the 45-minute keynote. Guess what, those slides have to fantastic. They have to show they've been designed and customized specifically to fit the personality of the speaker. Do your slides create an "a-ha effect"? Are your audiences taking photos of your slides and tweeting them out to the universe. If not, let's talk. 

Email Me, Let's create something great! 

Audio Visual Secrets for Speakers


When technology doesn’t work as expected, it can put your presentation in a tailspin. That’s what happened to me at last year’s Denver Startup Week conference.

My talk on creating an investor pitch deck was so popular, I was asked to do an encore presentation on Friday. The conference organizers wanted to give more people a chance to hear my talk. The encore presentation was in a different and much larger space. The venue had a large podium console, and it controlled all the technology for the event space. It was amazing—this mega-podium controlled everything: The room and stage lights, audio speakers, two high-end projectors, both screens, and three microphones. So with a little experimenting, I connected my MacBook Air, performed a sound check, and displayed my opening slide. I was projecting onto both screens, had changed the lighting, and was ready to go.

About 15 minutes before the program, I decided to play some background music to create some ambiance. That’s when the fun started. The system went haywire. Error messages started popping up, asking me to change the number of colors on both projectors. The projectors were requiring so much memory from the computer that it sent my system into a loop. I tried restarting, disconnecting, shutting down everything, but nothing worked. The laptop was still frozen, and I had just minutes to figure it out. So there I was, minutes before the start time for my presentation, and my computer’s memory was fried. Keynote wouldn’t launch, and error messages kept popping up. I was dead in the water, so I decided to go with Plan B. I pulled a flash drive from my pocket. On it was the saved version of my presentation exported as a PDF. I borrowed a laptop from someone in the audience, opened the PDF, and began my presentation. On borrowed technology, I delivered my encore presentation using the simplest form of my slides. And nearly no one in the audience knew what had happened until later. Technology can let you down, so make sure you have a Plan B in place.


I carry a tech kit (see below) when I speak locally and carry a pared-down version with me on trips. Like the Boy Scouts say, always be prepared. After years of experience and many technology snafus and mistakes, I’ve learned what to include in the bag. Some items are an investment, but they have saved me from disaster many times.

Travel Tips for Speakers

Paul: Hi everyone, it's Paul Vorreiter here. I'm here today with Angela Gaffney, author, speaker and health coach. And she's here today to give us some tips about how to be a great road warrior.

Angela: That's right. As speakers, we're always on the go and it's important to be prepared. So, first things first, have food in your bag at all times. A great tool is just have some of the raw food or whole-food protein bars. Let me tell you, you've got to do your homework and read the ingredient list because some of these bars have stuff in them that you don't want to put in to your body. So make sure you do your homework, pick the good ones, whole-food protein bars. The next thing is grab a piece of fruit. That's easy, right out of the fruit bowl before you head out the door. Easy nutritious snack. And then the third thing is, I don't travel anywhere without a handy-dandy little bag of raw sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, your choice. But have those in your bag. Great fat, protein and fiber. It'll keep you satiated and on target for a productive day. So that's it guys, just be prepared.

Paul: Sounds great. Thanks, Angela. Talk to you guys soon.

3 Ways to Improve Your Presentation

I am always amazed by how many times I see presenters and professional speakers bore their audience. It really takes a tiny bit of effort to change your presentation from boring to great. Here are three simple ways you can improve yours without spending hours in PowerPoint. Here are three ways to improve your presentation. 


1. Delete 50% of Your Slides

In the past we all have used slides as a crutch. Well, maybe it's time to rethink how many slides you need. The audience can only absorb so much in the time you have together. Are you expecting too much from them? Are you wanting to share everything you know? Stop. Right now, open your presentation and delete fifty percent of your slides. Remove all those slides that you put in to make the section longer or equal in length. You know those slides that you have to read or the slides for that case study that you spend 5 minutes explaining. The point here is you need to get lean and mean. Only deliver your best content, not all of your vast knowledge. Think of it this way. Every audience member has a bucket, when it's full, that's it. They can't absorb, retain, or keep anything more. Their bucket is full. 


2.  Practice More and Perform Less. 

There is a big shift in our world, we want real and authentic presenters, trainers and consultants. So when you tell that story, forget all those 1990 rules of stage presence. You know the ones that mandate where you stand to tell something from the past and where to stand to describe the future. Just be you. We want you, not your actor-self. The more you become natural the more we like and trust you. I once saw a well-known speaker actually conjure up tears when he told a story during his presentation. Did we believe him, of course not. And he lost credibility. Trust me, it wasn't a story that deserved tears. How do you fix the fake? Practice more in-front of some friends. You know the ones that will tell you that you are full of it. Yup, those friends. They know you pretty well and they can tell you to knock it off. The more we believe that you are being you, the more we will learn during your presentation. 


3. Include More Activities. 

Get your audience moving and talking. We can all stand and deliver a talk for 50 minutes, but studies show your audience won't retain more than 30% of the information. When you invite the audience to join in the journey. 

I recently spent 4 hours in a training session. I had high hopes for this session and was excited to see what I could learn from this "master trainer." The day started out with an amazing roll playing exercise. All the participants had parts to play in a scenario including lines in a printed script and even baseball caps with embroidered titles on them. What a great start. After the play, we debriefed and had lively discussions as a group. Everyone was engaged. Unfortunately, the next 3 hours we just listened and filled out blanks on our handouts. No discussion, nothing new or exciting, just a monotone presenter and slides filled with bullet-points. Disappointing. 

So, rethink how you can get your audience moving and talking. The more they interact, the more you help them retain information. Think science lab, not college lecture hall. 


The Challenge

What will you do right now to change your presentation? Which one of the three ideas will you implement right now? Go ahead, pick one and do it.

1. Delete 50% of your slides.
2. Practice More and Perform Less.
3. Include More Activities. 

7 Presentation Mistakes That Make You Look Like a Hack

Let me get right to the point, If you changed these seven things in your presentation, you will stand out from the crowd. Right now, you probably look like everyone else. 


If you use Calibri in your presentation, please stop. I like to call it, "the font that kills your credibility." It's too casual and from a typography standpoint it's a weak font. If you believe Calibri helps you become more relatable, it doesn't. Please use Arial or Helvetica.  We want you to believe you are an expert, but Calibri just makes you look amateurish.  


Yup, everyone uses the same template. Think out of the box a little and have a template designed specifically for you and your brand. When I design for clients it's the number one thing we change first. Create a template or buy a template that uses your brand colors and use it instead of the standard templates in Keynote or PowerPoint. 


You know what I mean, right? That fake handshake photo or the team photo where everyone is smiling and giving a thumbs up. As soon as one of these images pops onto the screen you lose all credibility with us.


Buy all of your photos and buy the higher resolution image. Stop trying the stretch that Google image you found from 300 pixels to 800 pixels. We just think you are lazy and cheap. 


Yup. If you have more than 6 bullet-points on a slide it's too much. When you that slide comes up with ten bullet-points we check out because we know you are going to discuss everyone of those bullets. Please don't we need some variety, please break them up into two or more slides. 


The 1990s called and they want their clip art back. Don't even get me started on Microsoft Wordart. Right now, open up your presentation and delete anything the is clip art or Wordart. You will be better off if you just delete it out of your presentation. 


What do I mean? The standard template in most presentation templates has all of the images as boxes inside of the slide margins. Why, because PowerPoint was designed by engineers and not graphic designers. You want to "bleed" your images off of the edge of the slides. It seems like a simple change but it makes a big difference in perception. And besides, it doesn't cost you anything. 


One step at a time. Pick one of these seven things EVERY DAY for seven days and you will have a much better presentation a week later. I know, who has time? You do. 

10 Questions and Answers About Presentations


Use the 50% Rule. Divide the number of minutes by half. This will give you a number of slides that will be comfortable to your audience. 

For instance, if you have 60 minutes x .5 = 30. 30 slides is the maximum number of slides you should try and present. Now, those shouldn’t be slides filled with 8 bullet points. They should be simple slides. The usual mistake is to try and cram as much into a presentation as possible. Less is more. 



Four lines max is a good rule of thumb. Use phrases and not complete sentences. It can be overwhelming to an audience to see a bunch of sentences on one slide. We have learned that a slide with four or more lines means we will be looking at that slide for at least 10 minutes. We also know that the presenter will be reading from the slide as well. Think about breaking the slides apart into multiple slides to keep the audience’s attention. What you don’t want is your audience to be reading your slides and not listening to your words. We can’t do both and when a slide with a list of sentences appears on screen we read first. As far as words per line, eight words per line would be the maximum. Any more than that and the font size will be too small.



The best color combo is a white background with black text. Think “high-contrast.” There has to be a significant difference between the background and the text. Here is a tip: think about your slide as a grayscale image. A red background with black text on it will be almost the same level of gray if you made it a grayscale image. A better choice would be a red background with white text.

The font style isn’t as important as size, but stay professional in your choices. Serif and San Serif work great. Don’t get cute and keep things simple. Definitely no Dom Casual or Brush Script. Use Palatino, Times, Arial, or Helvetica. Adding Multiple-colored words or WordArt isn’t professional. 

As far as size, 20-point font or larger, 30 point is better. Remember, just because you can read the text on the computer screen does not mean the audience can read it from the back of the room. 



The three biggest design mistakes I see are: 

a. Cramming too much information on one slide. What can you delete to make your message even clearer?  

b. Using the same template for every slide. Build in variety to your slides. Every slide should not look the same. If every slide has a title bar with a header and then six bulleted sentences. It’s boring. 

c. Getting too cute with your designs. Believing your information needs something to make it stand out, so the biggest mistake is trying to add five different colors to “punch up” the slide. It’s distracting. Think simple.



Finding good slides takes time. One of the best places to see good slides is You can search by industry or subject matter. You get the good and the bad, but the presentations with the most favorites or views usually have some good ones in them. Once you see something you like and it communicates the right message, take a screen capture of it and start to build an archive of good slides. The more your have an archive to look through, the more creative your slides will be. Building the archive of good slides is critical. The worst time to try and be creative is right before your presentation deadline. Set time aside every month to search out new slide ideas and to build up your archive. 



The best way to insert video clips into a PowerPoint is to download the video onto your computer and then use the “Insert Movie from file” selection inside of PowerPoint. Don’t rely on a wifi connection to play your video, it rarely works. There are several videos that can help with this step by step process. 



95% of business still runs on PowerPoint. The premise behind the question is, “there has to be something better than bullet points.” That’s what Prezi started as, “better than PowerPoint.” The problem is Prezi has a huge learning curve, it’s frustrating and it only animates the transition between slides and not the actual slides. Prezi doesn’t share well with others. The secret isn’t a software package, it’s a rethinking of how to be more creative with your slides. So instead of asking what’s next, think, “How can I communicate more effectively with PowerPoint.” The simple answer is to stop relying on PowerPoint templates to create your slides. Think if I had a blank slide what would I want this slide to say? Can you draw it? Get off the computer, use sticky notes to plan your presentation, then draw your slides on a blank sheet of paper. Think how can I build in variety into the presentation. 



The easiest way insert a spreadsheet into a slide is to use the “Save as…” command to save the spreadsheet as a PDF. Then you can insert “picture from file” and then select which page to insert.  Is it possible to summarize the spreadsheet or the findings in a chart? Charts always communicate more than data.  To insert a chart into a presentation, right-click on the chart and select “Save as picture.” In PowerPoint select insert “Picture from file.” If at all possible insert an image of the spreadsheet or chart first. The way things look in a spreadsheet can shift when you import it into PowerPoint. To be safe insert only graphics into your presentation and not spreadsheets. 



The easiest way to create a series of graphs in a presentation is to create one chart slide first. Then duplicate the slide and replace the chart on slide #2. It’s much easier to duplicate slides and use a Fade transition between slides then it is to insert multiple charts into one slide and use the animations palette to fade in and fade out each chart. What’s the easiest and fastest way? Multiple slides that are duplicated is much faster than playing with the animations palette. To the viewer, your slide series looks the same if it’s one slide with multiple charts on it or a series of slides with one chart on each slide. 

Think one graph/chart = one slide. By putting more than one graph on a slide you are just making each graph or chart unreadable by the audience. The bigger the graph the better. When have you ever said, “This chart is too big.” Never. They are always too small.  Instead of one slide full of charts, can you do a 10,000-foot level view on one slide? Then on the next can, you blow the chart up to talk about a specific area? Think 10,000-foot overview, 1,000-foot specifics, then a quick fly out back to 10,000 feet. Or in better terms, overview, specifics, then back out to wrap up. This process will keep your audience engaged. 



Think about how to simplify the statistic as much as possible. Does there need to be an x and y-axis? What can I remove to get to the meet of the statistic? Once you know what to remove, use the chart as a template and redraw the chart in it’s simplest form. Always put the full chart in your audience handouts. 

Also, can you distill the statistics down into an infographic? Find the story behind the numbers. Tell the story not the statistics. To find out more on infographics do a Google search on infographics. It will give you some ideas on how to display information in the cleanest way possible.

Better Slides for Keynote Speakers

Building better slides for keynote speakers is always a thrill. When you speak for a living it’s all about sharing your ideas. It’s why you do what you do. The better your presentation slides are at helping the audience follow your story, the better chance you have of changing their hearts. The better chance you have of impacting someone’s life. Speaking is a tough, yet rewarding business, I know because I do it too.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, I’m cursed with 25 years of design experience. That means I evaluate your slides in seconds. Even before you, the speaker, even open your mouth. Guess what, so does your audience. Like most speakers, you came from the business world. The world of PowerPoint, with its array of bad templates, 27 thousand bullet-points, and unreadable charts. There’s a better way! A different road and it’s worth traveling down. Crafting a compelling story and building slides that enhance your message is difficult. You can’t do it alone you need a trained eyes and ears to get down to your core message.

I love to get the text and emails from my keynote speaker clients that say, “Wow, the audience was in the palm of my hand! All I saw were pairs of eyes looking back at me.” Now that’s a slide deck worthy of your message. Let’s chat more.

PowerPoint Presentation Design



Why are you going to stand up and present? What's your purpose? If it's to impress everyone with your knowledge, please don't present. 


I like sticky notes for this process. They are small and you can capture ideas quickly. You can't put 10 bullet-points on a 3x3 inch sticky note. You can't think in terms of concepts. 


What is your goal? What changes in your audience's mind after they hear your speak? Speakers bore their audiences when they deliver the same presentation they always have. If you don't spend time customizing your presentation for the audience you are lessening your impact.  


A presentation built from the same slide template is boring. When I design slides for clients we use all 15 different slide layouts I've developed over the years. The point is, don't repeat the same layout. Your audience isn't reading a book. It's a presentation. Make the layouts different. Use Full-screen images, create Etc. 

5. Finally, Start designing your slides on the computer. 

The mistake most speakers make it starting to design their presentation on the computer first. If you follow the steps above your presentation will practically design itself. Getting stuck looking at a blank slide wastes your time. If you attack your presentation the way I suggest you will save hours of time.