SMART Goal Setting Tips For Those Of Us Who Give Presentations

To Improve Your Presentations You Need A BAG And SMART Goals
To Improve Your Presentations You Need A BAG And SMART Goals

So you’ve given a few presentations (or maybe you’ve give a lot of ’em). You feel relatively comfortable when you stand in front of a group of people and talk. You may not really like doing this, but you are reasonably sure that you are not going to faint or burst into flames while you are doing it. What’s next? The key to getting better at giving presentation is to dig deep down inside of yourself and find the answer to one very important question: just what are you trying to accomplish?

The answer to this question can be any one of a whole bunch of things. These include acceptance by your peers, more money, a promotion, admiration, or even simply to be seen as being successful by others. There is no wrong answer here – you get to choose what will motivate you to become a better public speaker. Now it’s time to BAG it. Yep, we’re talking about crystallizing what drives you and using that to create a Big Audacious Goal (BAG). This is some big presentation goal that you have not yet achieved but that if you became better you could. This BAG goal will serve as a constant reminder as to what you are trying to improve towards with your presentation skills.

If your BAG is where you are trying to get to, then it’s time to come up with a way to get there. You may have heard this before but one of the best ways to make measurable progress towards an objective is to set SMART goals for yourself. What does S.M.A.R.T. stand for you ask? Why that must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-lined. Perhaps a bit of an explanation is required:

  • Specific: You need to be very clear on exactly what you want to accomplish. “I want to be a better presenter” is too vague. “I want to give 5 more presentations” is very specific.
  • Measurable: Business loves metrics these days and so do your goals. How are you going to track your progress? If you want to give 5 presentations, then you need to track how many you are giving each month. If a month goes by and you have not presented, then you are falling behind.
  • Attainable: I call this the Tony Robbins syndrome. If you set a goal to be as good/successful as Tony Robbins, then you are probably going to fail (how many Tony Robbins does the world really need?). However, if you set a goal to be the best presenter in your department, then you just might be able to do this.
  • Realistic: Once again, let’s keep your goals real. If you want to get paid $1M to give speeches to your company, then perhaps you should create a more realistic goal.
  • Time-Lined: What do you need to accomplish by when in order to make this goal a reality?

There you go – with a BAG and SMART goals you now have the ability to become the presenter that you always dreamed that you could be!

Have you ever created a BAG for yourself? Are you still working towards it? Have you set SMART goals to reach this BAG? Were you able to stay with those goals? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

9 thoughts on “SMART Goal Setting Tips For Those Of Us Who Give Presentations”

  1. Isn’t there a bit of a conflict between a Big Audacious Goal and an attainable/realistic goal. I’ve never been a fan of the SMART system because I think that many of us are not very good judges of what is attainable and realistic. We tend to set our sights too low. Our goals should stretch us – even if we don’t achieve it we’ll have got somewhere – so I prefer the Big Audacious Goal. Olivia

  2. Olivia: You make a good point. This strikes me as being pretty similar to that mission statement / vision statement thing – what’s the difference? The way that I have resolved the difference between SMART goals and a BAG is that the BAG is the finish line – it’s where you are trying to get to. I view the SMART goals as really being milestones that you need to accomplish in order to get to the BAG. Sorta a combo package.

    And for the record, I’m not 100% sure what the exact difference between attainable and realistic is either. I tend to think that a goal could be attainable (I could become a singer) and still not be realistic (I would probably not be a very good singer).

    Thanks for your comment!

  3. I may have missed something here.

    The examples you used in the goals would not necessarily make me a better presenter.

    “I want to give 5 more presentations” is not going to make me a better speaker.

    “I want to give 5 more presentations within the next 3 months and ask a Public Speaking expert for truthful constructive feedback on how and where I can improve my performance” has a better chance of making me a better speaker.




  4. Andrew: ok, so I agree that my examples were rather weak. I also agree that getting feedback on how a presentation went is the best way to improve. However, with all of that being said, in the real world we often don’t have that supportive / skilled person sitting in the audience who can provide valuable feedback. If you want to become a better speaker, then you need to practice no matter what. Even if nobody will provide you with feedback, you can still critique yourself. Record your presentation and then listen to it afterwords (yes, this is VERY painful!). You’ll spot things that can be improved next time. In the end, speak, speak, speak. Oh, and try to keep your hands down at your sides while you are talking.

  5. I agree that speaking regularly is very useful to becoming a more effective public speaker – but the point about feedback is also critical.

    Practice doesn’t make perfect – it makes permanent – so getting feedback to ensure you’re practicing in the most effective way is important.

    I don’t agree that you should keep your hands down at your sides while you are talking. It’s natural for people to gesture while they’re speaking – and it demonstrates energy and passion for your topic. It’s much more engaging for the audience.


  6. Olivia: yep, as they like to say in sports – you can go hit a 1,000 golf balls, but you won’t be as good a Tiger Woods when you are done unless you improve with every swing. In speaking, we don’t always have a chance to get real feedback from others so I believe that we are responsible for doing everything that we can to capture our presentation so that we can study it and get better for the next time.

    As far as the hands thing goes, perhaps I need to be more specific. Gesturing is wonderful – it adds a whole new dimension to a presentation. However, the problem is HOW you gesture. All too many of us do “small” gestures where we flap our hands around at chest level. When presenting you need to make BIG gestures up at eye level so that everyone can see what you are doing. Oh, and don’t even think about clasping your hands, playing with rings, or sticking your hands in your pockets because we’ll start watching your hands and stop listening to what you are saying…!

  7. I have 29 years in the field of communication and teaching and I have never set a goal for myself. Maybe it’s because communication and teaching are in my DNA. How do I assess my skills? I ask my audience whether my talk was beneficial and what they got out of it. I even have discussion questions as a “wrap up,” to determine the functional aspect of it. In addition, I give them a rating scale that they use to critique me. That has been my way of getting to my audience (and it has worked for 29 years)! No whistles and bells or measurement systems — merely asking them, how did I do, what can we do to change it? Maybe others can benefit from something this basic!

    • Bob: I say stick with what works! At the end of the day, your audience is the ultimate judge. If they like you, they’ll recommend you and ask you back. That’s all the proof that any of us need that we’ve reached our goals…


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