For this episode, I'm interviewing Dr. Lynette Charity to tell us about her experience with keynote speaking. You'll recall that I interviewed Carmen Landrau just a few weeks ago. Each of them took a unique path to this career. You'll get a much more complete perspective on keynote speaking by listening to both episodes.
Before I get to the interview, I want to acknowledge our sponsor…
The University of Tennessee Physician Executive MBA
I'm very thankful to have the support of the University of Tennessee Physician Executive MBA Program offered by the Haslam College of Business. You’ll remember that I interviewed Dr. Kate Atchley, the Executive Director of the program, in Episode #25 of this podcast.
The UT PEMBA is the longest running, and most highly respected physician-only MBA in the country, with over 650 graduates. Unlike most other ranked programs, which typically have a duration of 18 to 24 months, this program only takes a year to complete. And, it’s offered by the business school that was recently ranked #1 in the world for the Most Relevant Executive MBA program, by Economist magazine.
University of Tennessee PEMBA students bring exceptional value to their organizations by contributing at the highest level while earning their degree. The curriculum includes a number of major assignments and a company project, both of which are structured to immediately apply to each student’s organization.
Graduates have taken leadership positions at major healthcare organizations and have become entrepreneurs and business owners. If you want to acquire the business and management skills needed to advance your nonclinical career, contact Dr. Atchley’s office by calling (865) 974-6526 or going to vitalpe.net/physicianmba.
Dr. Lynette Charity grew up in the 1950s in the segregated South. She was one of the first black students to attend her high school. She faced plenty of doubt when she announced she was planning to become a physician. But she went on to graduate with honors from Chatham College for Women in Pittsburgh, PA on a full academic scholarship. And she earned her medical degree from Tufts University School of Medicine. She became an expert in anesthesiology, working in hospitals and for the U.S. Army. But, after a 35-year career, she was ready for a change.
Learning to Speak
When she knew she was looking for something else, Lynette turned to SEAK for help, attending its national meeting in 2012. But none of the alternate career paths they set out really appealed to her. Luckily, through SEAK she met career coach Heather Fork, who was able to roll with Lynette’s unconventional dreams for her career change.
When Lynette said, “Heather, I want to be a stand-up comic, lounge singer, voiceover actor,” Heather didn’t back down. Instead, she convinced Lynette to sign up for Toastmasters, so she could take her first steps to leearn keynote speaking as a professional. Lynette was resistant at first. After all, she’d given lectures and presentations for years. But she learned pretty quickly that lecturing to a room full of other medical students and residents was a far cry from the kind of public speaking she needed to learn.
So she dove in, and started making Toastmasters speeches. She used their programs to learn confidence, communication, and the elements of storytelling. It was a learning curve for Lynette, learning to connect with audiences rather than just lecture at them. But she was excited to learn. And, as it turned out, she was very good at it.
Learning to Shine
Lynette’s mentors at Toastmasters were seriously impressed with her talent. Hence, they encouraged her to compete in speaking competitions. Her very first year, she won the competition in her district. She competed again the following year, and made it to the World Championships of Public Speaking held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
She was able to share her story about growing up in the segregated South with a completely new, international audience. And she placed third worldwide! It wasn’t first prize, but it was a huge success. And it felt good.
“I was a rock star! I felt really good walking around with my big old trophy… this was a foreign country, and I was telling a story about the fact that I had grown up in the segregated South in the 1950s… And I did it using the Wizard of Oz, because a lot of foreign people don't know anything about segregation in America. So I tried to relate it to that, and I sang, I danced. I did it all in that speech! And people came up to me later on, wanting to know more about that part of history that they didn't know anything about.”
Lynette knew she’d found what she wanted to do: speak, connect, and make people laugh. Now she needed to make it into a career.
In order to take herself from an amateur public speaker to the real thing, Lynette invested in professional speaking coaches. Starting with a coach recommended by Toastmasters, she moved up through different coaches as her skills improved. She stresses the importance of finding the right coach to effectively advance your career.
On the comedy side of Lynette’s dreams, she took the time to go back to school. Her local community college offered acting and improv classes. And that’s where she tried her hand at comedy for the first time. Her instructors always kept her on her toes. As the oldest student in the room by far, she would be given roles as kids and teenagers while her college-aged classmates took the adult roles. The contrast added to the comedic content. The classes took her out of her comfort zone, helping her to learn to think on her feet.
From there, she gained the confidence to do a stand-up routine for the first time — and she loved it! Her jokes were landing and she was getting laughs. She learned how to handle hecklers. Things went well enough to take her show on the road, and she’s performed at open mic nights and comedy shows all over the country. And Lynette often integrates comedy into her keynote speaking, which her audiences enjoy.
Finding a Niche
Lynette knew she loved to speak, but it wasn’t until a phone call came from Heather Fork that she found exactly the kind of speaking that she wanted to do. Out of the blue, Heather put her in touch with a school in Coimbra, Portugal, looking for a keynote speaker. The school was willing to fly Lynette and her husband overseas in exchange for a keynote speech to a group of young medical students. No honorarium, but all expenses paid.
Lynette said yes.
It was there that she developed what is now one of her signature speeches: “Stay Inspired, Stay Healthy, Stay True to You.” And that helped identify her niche as a speaker: inspiring physicians and physicians-to-be. From there, Lynette developed her specialty as a keynote speaker on physician burnout, depression and suicide.
Breaking into the Industry
Expertise in a particular topic is critical, Lynette says, to booking speaking engagements. Event planners don’t want to hear you say that you’ll speak on anything and everything. You need to be an expert in one particular niche to prove that you have something unique to offer.
Lynette’s first several speaking gigs (outside of her competition speeches) weren’t paid. She spoke to Rotary Clubs and retirement homes, at community events and for local chapters of professional organizations. She built a track record one speech at a time. And she began to build enough of a reputation to start collecting $300 to $500 honoraria for her work.
But how did she turn it into a real career? Lynette studied other speakers in her field. She discovered Kevin Pho, of KevinMD fame. She reached out to him for a coaching session. By the end of it, he asked her if he could promote her as a speaker to his network.
She agreed. And with Kevin Pho's support, she was quickly booked for eight speaking engagements earlier this year. Lynette notes that joining speakers’ bureaus is great way to connect with event planners.
To beginning professional speakers, she stresses the importance of having a strong social media presence, and a website of your own. It's essential to present actual video giving a speech to an audience. You must prove yourself in advance, she says, because “an event planner does not want to be embarrassed by hiring someone, and they get up there and they make them look bad.”
Lynette’s Quick Keynote Speaking Tips:
- Follow the Rule of Three! No more than three chunks of information per slide, and no more than three major messages.
- Engage your audience, don’t talk at them, and don’t read your slides, ever!
- Pick a lane! Find your niche and become an expert in it. Don’t try to be all things to everyone.
Lynette says she’s taking a break from working and speaking in November and December of this year. But in the new year, she’s going to keep speaking, doing comedy, and finding even more ways to build community between patients and practitioners.
She dreams about putting together an all-doctor comedy troupe, and taking it on the road. It’s all part of her broader mission to reach out and support other physicians. And bring attention to what their lives are really like.
“I see a mission for myself here,” Lynette says, “because we need to get the word out about who we are, what we do, and how we can help ourselves and our communities in the future. And the only way we're going to do that, is to get more of us out there speaking.”
Lynette provided great advice when it comes to public speaking, and to pursuing any new career. She serves as a role model for all physicians as we pursue the careers we love. I'll definitely keep in touch with Lynette, and update you on her speaking and performing engagements.
The University of Tennessee Physician Executive MBA Program
I want to sincerely thank the UT Physician Executive MBA program, again, for sponsoring the show. It’s an outstanding, highly rated, MBA program designed for working physicians. It might be just what you need to prepare for that joyful, well-paying career. You can find out more at vitalpe.net/physicianmba.
Thanks again for listening. I hope to see you next time on Physician NonClinical Careers.
As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.
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The opinions expressed here are mine and my guest’s. While the information provided on the podcast is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge, there is no express or implied guarantee that using the methods discussed here will lead to success in your career, life or business.
The information presented on this blog and related podcast is for entertainment and/or informational purposes only. It should not be construed as medical, legal, tax, or emotional advice. If you take action on the information provided on the blog or podcast, it is at your own risk. Always consult an attorney, accountant, career counsellor, or other professional before making any major decisions about your career.