How to Keep Your Expectations Reasonable

I got an email from a speaker friend the other day asking;

How do speakers know when they’ve made a meaningful impact?  I feel like my only measurement for success would be a standing ovation, people weeping at my content or maybe a parade…these things happen far less than I’d like, and any other reaction leaves me feeling deflated.”

(Been there…done that. Read about it here.)

She went on;

How do I keep my personal expectations reasonable and measurable?

That’s a great question.

Think about this;

Martin Luther King started speaking about dreams in 1960, long before his 1963  “I Have a Dream Speech.” It was a combination of several drafts, and when he gave it, he went “off script.” He also had an audience of over 250,000 fired up people.

My friend, you aren’t out there giving “I Have a Dream” speeches, you’re doing presentations, breakout sessions, and delivering keynotes.

(Stefanie Kreivins would say it like this “There’s only one MLK and you are not him.”)

When we set our expectations on delivering ovation worthy talks each time we speak, we’re setting ourselves up for major disappointment.

I’m not saying slack off.

I’m saying you can avoid the pain of unreasonable expectations by asking yourself a few questions before you talk.

1.) What’s a reasonable response from this audience?

Before you set expectations for yourself, be sure what you’re expecting from your audience is reasonable.

If you’re delivering a motivational keynote to an audience of five hundred entrepreneurs, you might expect cheering, stomping feet, and standing O.

If you’re delivering a breakout session on the importance of workplace diversity to a group of mid-level managers, you might expect thoughtful expressions, challenging questions and push back.

2.) How will I know this talk (presentation, speech, etc.) was a success for me

Here’s some examples of measurable personal goals.

Did I…

-teach what I intended to?

-make it through without nerves?

-read and respond to audience feedback?

-get back on track when I veered off?


Look, I get it, you’re out there speaking because you want to make an impact.

Keep doing it, just be sure to set yourself up for success before you start.


I’d love to hear how these questions work for you. Try them out and leave a comment below!

1 reply
  1. Sharon Van Dam
    Sharon Van Dam says:

    These are really good ways to self evaluate your success as a speaker, using reasonable goals and expectations! As always great job Alex!


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