I've spent the last 12 years of my life on stage. Here's the biggest lesson I've learned so far:
There's a switch on your way up to the stage. Every time you step onto the stage, the switch is there. If you flick the switch, you're safe. If you don't flick the switch, you're naked - you could die on that stage.
We'll call it the "blob switch" because once it's flicked, the people become a blob. They're not individuals, they're an item. They don't have feelings or opinions. It's just a wall of faces. Your mom's not out there. Your friends aren't out there and neither is that guy who hates your guts or your disapproving boss. It's just a blob. No one to impress. No one to disappoint. It's like the mental equivalent to performing for your stuffed animals when you were 3yrs old. And it's just as safe.
In my experience, 99.9% of performers, speakers, musicians flick that switch on the way up like it's second nature. It's insurance. Don't go up without it - you might not come back.
But I'm finding that it's the .1% of the performers who don't flick the switch who are able to do something the others can never do. They're able to be generous.
Until recently I never thought about generosity as a part of performing. But if you think about it, it makes some sense. Honestly, why do most people work their way on to a stage? They may say it's for others, but deep down they've got an agenda. They've got something to prove. They've got an unquenchable thirst for attention. That's why they're on stage.
If you're on the stage to receive something from the crowd, then flicking the switch makes sense. Protect yourself. Do your thing. Get off the stage and let the compliments and attention roll in. It works! There are enough people out there who will give attention to the 99.9% of switch-flickers to keep them on stage forever. But after a while, the compliments all blend together. You get compliments. People recognize you. But is that really enough?
Next time you step on stage, see what happens if you don't flick the switch. Show some respect to the people who came to hear what you have to say and acknowledge that they exist - as individual, important, non-stuffed-animal human beings. Stop looking over their heads as you speak. They're not here for you. You're here for them. If you don't help them somehow during your time on stage, they'd be right not to invite you back to the stage in the future.
Disclaimer: If you do this you will be in danger of being legitimately rejected. You won't feel safe. You'll leave the stage feeling emotionally wrecked. You could die on that stage. Those are the dangers of not flicking the switch. They're also good indicators of a generous performance.