There has been a growing interest in smart actuators typified by conducting polymer actuators, especially in their (i) fabrication, modeling and control with minimum external data and (ii) applications in bio-inspired devices, robotics and mechatronics. Their control is a challenging research problem due to the complex and nonlinear properties of these actuators, which cannot be predicted accurately. Based on an input-shaping technique, we propose a new method to improve the conducting polymer actuators' command-following ability, while minimizing their electric power consumption. We applied four input functions with smooth characteristics to a trilayer conducting polymer actuator to experimentally evaluate its command-following ability under an open-loop control strategy and a simulated feedback control strategy, and, more importantly, to quantify how the type of input function affects the dynamic response of this class of actuators. We have found that the four smooth inputs consume less electrical power than sharp inputs such as a step input with discontinuous higher-order derivatives. We also obtained an improved transient response performance from the smooth inputs, especially under the simulated feedback control strategy, which we have proposed previously [X Xiang, R Mutlu, G Alici, and W Li, 2014 "Control of conducting polymer actuators without physical feedback: simulated feedback control approach with particle swarm optimization', Journal of Smart Materials and Structure, 23]. The idea of using a smooth input command, which results in lower power consumption and better control performance, can be extended to other smart actuators. Consuming less electrical energy or power will have a direct effect on enhancing the operational life of these actuators.