I was sitting in the locker room for a professional wrestling show. One of the rookies was complaining. Actually, he seemed to always be complaining. “Why am I not in more main events”? “Why do I have to wrestle in tag teams instead of more singles matches”?. It was pretty tiresome to listen to.

I remember one night we were in a place where the crowd was small. He came in complaining to the promoter. “Why are we here tonight? Do you see how small the crowd is? Don’t expect much from me because I’m not wasting my time. I’m going back home”.

One of the main event wrestlers who was also a wrestling veteran spoke up. I thought he was going to blast this rookie for his attitude. Instead, he politely said. “I understand how you feel. Going home is the easy thing. But what you have to learn about shows like this is that they are ring time. It’s great to be in front of big crowds but it’s in front of the small crowds that you learn the most. You use it as ring time and practice some new moves or new ways to work the audience. That prepares you for the big shows.”

That was one of the most powerful lessons that I learned in my days associated with wrestling. It still stays with me. I’ve seen many examples of “ring time” in various professions. I’ve seen famous comedians who go to small comedy clubs to try out new bits before filming a big TV special. I’ve read about superstar rock bands who warm up at surprise club shows before a big tour.

I had someone ask me why I attend a Toastmasters club meeting. They know that I have spoken in big venues. They asked me this because they wanted to know how it would help them. Of course, I answered ‘ring time”. It’s so I can have practice writing and delivering speeches. I get to try new topics and read the reactions on the attendees faces. I also get evaluated so that I can improve.

One of my favorite things they do is Toastmasters Table Topics. They call your name and ask you a question. You then have to speak in improve fashion for 1 to 2 minutes on that subject. You learn to be spontaneous. This has improved my audience Q&A and helped me in networking. I have also become better in conversation dialogue.

So what opportunities around you could become “ring time”. For comedians and musicians are there any open mics in your area? For speakers is there a Toastmasters club near you? For writers is there a Library writers group that you could take part in? What can you learn and improve from ‘ring time”.