If you have a dream of doing something out of the box, but are afraid to give it a try, take courage from Dr. Lynette Charity’s story. Read on to see how this anesthesiologist turned a negative experience into a new career.
Q: What made you decide to transition from Anesthesiology into Public Speaking?
Dr. Lynette: To be honest, I was fired! That was in 2012, and I had been an anesthesiologist for 33 years. Over that time, I’d experienced the change from physician-run practices to hospital-run practices. In an attempt to adapt, I tried being part of a hospital-employee model. I was fired from that position, which shocked and embarrassed me. What truly bothered me was that my termination had nothing to do with my skills as a board-certified anesthesiologist, but because I voiced an opinion contradictory to hospital policy. At that moment, I decided that I was done with medicine.
Q: What happened after you were fired?
Dr. Lynette: It sounds crazy, but the first idea that popped into my head was, “I’m going to be a standup comic!” Instead of being an anesthesiologist putting people to sleep, it seemed like a natural transition to wake them up being a standup comic. Don’t ask me why.
Q: What did people think of your leaving medicine to be a standup comic?
Dr. Lynette: They laughed! I guess that was the beginning of my comedy career! Seriously, as you can imagine, people thought the idea was ridiculous and that I should stick with what I knew. Then I met you at the SEAK conference, and you didn’t laugh. You were intrigued by the idea and suggested I join Toastmasters to see where things went.
Q: How did Toastmasters help you get started?
Dr. Lynette: I began going to the club meetings every week, doing speeches and getting feedback and encouragement. Before long, I was competing at the district level and just loved being up on stage and interacting with the audience. Within 10 months, having won my District’s 1st place trophy, I found myself at the Toastmasters’ World Championship of Public Speaking in Cincinnati, OH. I didn’t win that time, but 12 months later, having won my District again, I found myself competing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where I won a trophy. But that didn’t mean anyone was paying me to speak.
Q: Were you still hoping to be a standup comic?
Dr. Lynette: I had wanted to become an English-Irish-African American version of Dr. Ken Jeong, but THAT didn’t happen. And I didn’t just want to make people laugh, I wanted to share a message and help people (and get paid!).
Q: What other resources did you use to develop your speaking skills?
Dr. Lynette: I invested big bucks on different speaking coaches that promised me results, such as, “Get a Paid Gig by Next Week.” I didn’t understand this business. It was so unlike medicine, which had a defined path. I was getting pretty discouraged and was ready to give up. Then you told me about an opportunity to give the keynote address to 400 medical students—in Portugal! There wasn’t an honorarium, but they paid my way. Having these medical students want their picture taken with me after my speech made me feel like a rock star for a few moments. It was just the boost I needed to keep trying.
Q: What turned the corner for you in becoming a paid speaker?
Dr. Lynette: Getting connected with a Rainmaker!!! Dr. Kevin Pho, the founder of KevinMD. He reviewed several of my videos, and within 2 months of meeting him, I had 8 keynotes booked! He has a speakers bureau, where he helps physicians find speaking opportunities. This has been a game changer for me.
Q: What do you speak on?
Dr. Lynette: It took some time to figure out my message and my audience, but currently my focus is on helping physicians go from burnout to bliss! I share my own experience with burnout and depression, and through humor and stories, I offer hope and a way forward.
Q: What kind of income is possible with public speaking? Could this replace a physician’s salary?
Dr. Lynette: Five years ago, I began as a FREE speaker. Then I became a $500–$2,500-per-presentation speaker. Now I get paid $3,500–$10,000 per 45-minute Keynote. I had to prove that I was worth that money. KevinMD takes a percentage, of course, for the events he finds for his speakers.
If you become a “hot” speaker doing 30 gigs/year, then yes, you may earn a physician’s salary. You can add coaching, workshops, and webinars for additional revenue streams. Write a book! And with speaking, there’s no need for malpractice insurance! No office overhead! But the work is not consistent and has a lot of moving parts, so you may need to keep your “day job,” at least temporarily. Honestly, for me, it was not about money. I LOVE the “privilege of the platform.” $500 or more for an hour of speaking, which feels more like conversation, and paid hotel/travel/meals is not all that bad.
Q: Besides Dr. Kevin Pho’s Speakers Bureau, how else do you get paid speaking engagements?
Dr. Lynette: Good question. I presently have a publicist who is working to find new gigs for me. But that being said, it has to do with networking. Every engagement I have, I make sure to get testimonials and connect with potential contacts for the future. I am revamping my website and working on YouTube videos and other social media avenues.
Q: Do you still do any anesthesiology?
Dr. Lynette: Doing locums helped me finance this new direction. Now I do one shift a month, for fun. My stand-up comedy helps me cope with disgruntled patients and demeaning hospital administrators. I see them as “hecklers.” Now I know how to handle hecklers. Laughter has been the best medicine for what has ailed me in medicine.
Q: What advice would you offer to others who want to be a paid speaker?
- Have a message that you’re really passionate about, where you can leave your audience better off for hearing you.
- Hone your craft by joining Toastmasters, or hiring a professional coach, or both.
- Speak often, even for FREE. FREE with eventually get you to FEE.
What would you do differently, if you could have a do-over?
Dr. Lynette: I would have avoided the “bright shiny objects” syndrome. By that I mean, paying so much money for numerous “hot shot” speaking coaches and their programs in the hopes of getting from FREE to FEE faster. It didn’t work for me. I would find one coach who has actually been a successful paid speaker and commit to his or her program.
Q: Do you have any suggestions for those who want to overcome their fear of public speaking?
Dr. Lynette: Join Toastmasters–it’s a safe learning environment with great feedback. Their Competent Communicator Manual will give you chance to practice many skills while doing 10 short speeches (4-7 minutes each). Find other speaking opportunities, such as the Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, at your job, etc. I spoke at retirement communities on “Anesthesia and Dementia.”
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
Dr. Lynette: I’ve had my ups and downs, but I kept going. There were those who didn’t believe in what I was trying to do, I call them the Dreamsmashers, and there were times when I almost smashed my own dream. There have also been the Dreamkeepers, like Dr. Heather and others who have supported me. Find those who believe in you, but most importantly, believe in yourself.
A big thank you to Dr. Lynette Charity for sharing her inspiring story. You can read more about her at her website, Dr. Charity Speaks. She will also be mentoring at the SEAK Non-Clinical Careers Conference October 20-21, 2018 in Chicago, IL.
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