When I first joined Toastmasters and received my first manual “The Competent Communicator” which has 10 speech projects in it. I thought I would be whizzing through it in about ten weeks. I thought a speech a week would be easy enough to do, boy was I wrong! I’ve been a member for 8 months and am currently on speech #5.

You see, each speech in the manual focuses you on only one element of giving a good speech. So the manual is designed to build your skills as you work your way through it. You don’t have to know everything there is to know about being a good presenter on your first speech. Which takes away a lot of the anxiety of ‘getting it right’ the first time.

Based on my unrealistic goals of doing a speech a week I realized I had to reevaluate them.

I remember learning the SMART goal setting method many years ago, and decided to revisit it. Basically it goes like this:


So my huge, vague goal to be the best public speaker in the universe wasn’t helping me achieve anything. In fact, it was giving me panic attacks, self-doubt, and a general feeling of failure. From now on I’m going to focus on the goals of each speech as I do them.

Let’s look at each part of the process.

First, be specific. What exactly is your goal? How will you achieve it?

Speech number five is about using gestures and body language. To help me understand what that includes I decided to educate myself about it, and I’m listening to an audio book about the topic. My goal is to use body language techniques in my next speech.

How do I make it measurable? Because my goal is about using body language, I will pick 2 or 3 body language techniques that I learn and use them when I give my speech. If I remember to use them (I get nervous) then I’ve succeeded.

Is it attainable? What do I need to help me reach my goal?  For me this means practising what I’ve learned. Have you ever tried to learn a new skill by reading a book but never actually practised it? It doesn’t work so well. I’ve read all kinds of books and articles on giving a good speech, but without practise I will never be able to give a good speech. To help me reach my goal I need to schedule the time to practise, and then do it.

Realistically, I think I can dedicate 2 hours a week to working on my next speech. I’m a slow writer and I find that it may look good on paper but once I start to practise the speech out loud, it usually needs some re-writing. Writing the way you speak is a real talent.

Make the goal relevant. This is where you give you goal some emotional weight. Why do you want this goal? Hmmmm, this is a good one. I tend to be more of a thinker and had to really reach deep to find out what was driving me to do this and here it is. I’ve always been an introvert. I observe everyone at a social gathering I don’t really know how to participate in it. I’ve been wanting to improve my communication skills (or lack thereof) for years, and years and years. and now I’ve finally taken some steps to do it. My ‘why’ is I’m not getting younger, and I refuse to be in the same scaredy-cat place this time next year. It needs to change and it needs to change now. I want to participate.

Time-Bound is a big one. I you don’t set a deadline, you don’t have a goal.  Having an achievable timeframe is a must, don’t underestimate the time it takes to get it done like I did when I first started. The deadline needs to take your life into consideration. After all, I have a husband, two young children, a business and a life. I really don’t have time to work on a speech a week. Changing my goal has taken a lot of pressure off. Learn to go easy on yourself when setting a deadline, but you absolutely must set one, or it’s just a dream.

What does my SMART goal look like all together? It looks like this:

I will do a speech every 5 weeks. (specific)  I will use 2 or 3 of the body language techniques that I am currently learning (measurable) in my next speech. I will schedule the writing time and practise time needed to reach my goal(attainable). I will keep improving my communication skills and keep moving forward (relevant). My speech is booked on _________. (Time-Bound).

Pfft! Yeah right! I can’t tell you when I’m giving my speech, I get anxiety just thinking about MORE people in the audience….   But it is booked. So if you plan on being a guest one Monday evening, you know you’re always welcome, it’s just better that I don’t know about it.

Happy Public Speaking,