Why “stage time” is overrated

One of the most popular rallying cries in the world of public speaking and stand-up comedy is “stage time, stage time, stage time, stage time… 

When I first started to focus on public speaking, that’s exactly what I did. Sought opportunities every day (almost) to get on the stage, bomb, learn and get better. Toastmasters made getting on the stage pretty easy. All I needed to do was sign up for membership with multiple clubs and volunteer for roles and speech slots.

And before I knew it, I went from being a somewhat confident speaker to a highly confident one. But only within Toastmasters. And that defied the entire reason why I sought stage time.

When I looked for speaking opportunities outside the organization, I realized that the needs of the audience and the leading buyer (the one who will pay you) had quite different objectives from that of a Toastmasters-only audience.

Toastmasters (for better or worse) seek entertainment, motivation, inspiration, some value, and humor. Which is perfect for their mission to learn in a fun and engaging manner. The world outside, however, appreciates the speaker providing high-value tactical advice without boring them to death. The purpose being moving the audience from point A to point B. That is it!

That literally change the whole purpose of stage time. It surely did for me. I think stage time is important and should be your top priority if you lack confidence in general or have not spoken in public at all or both. Getting that feel is important. But once you have a good sense of the stage you have to push yourself to other territories.

There’s a major risk of getting too comfortable with your audience (Toastmasters, Rotary or Lions) and that’s a recipe for complacency (read: disaster). And unfortunately, that’s exactly what people do.

Over time, stage-time doesn’t really add up. You can’t be doing the same things and expect to get better.

Sure, mastering a skill is a life-long journey but you cannot afford to take it literally and choose to stay at the same place. You have to push yourself to test out waters and your limits.

I know there are speaking competitions that help you to test your skills. And they do. The competitions are quite tough to crack. But then you’re competing with the same set of people who’ve been trained in the same way.

And if competitions were any good why the heck are these people not millionaires like the top 10 paid speakers in the world? Interestingly, most of these “champions” end up teaching public speaking. (WTF?)

If you want to get better at your skill. Focus on the principles and seek opportunities to apply in the different areas of your life. Or elsewhere. Be creative. Just don’t get too comfortable where you are right now.

For speakers (the wannabe professional speaker-kind.. and not everyone wants to be one), try stand-up comedy. It will push your mind, body, and skills to the limits you couldn’t even have ever imagined. For comedians, interestingly, it’s the best to stay away from public speaking. Focus on learning the craft from the best out there. Dissect routines, put them back together, be creative and refine your thinking.

As they say, the best possibilities are always outside our comfort zone.

Go and get them!

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