Presentation Skills

Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker Dalia Kinsey

Even if you’ve only been a dietitian for two minutes, Dietitian Speaker Dalia Kinsey wants you to know your worth. Read on as she shares how she learned to normalize asking to be paid – even when it’s hard – and how focusing on transformation is the key to success.

Dietitian Speaker Dalia Kinsey is ready to present, in a green shirt with black jacket, glasses, and a big smile.

AC: Tell us about your evolution as a speaker and how it blends with your career as a dietitian.

DK: I feel like speaking is something that constantly came up for me as a kid. Whether I was volunteering, or in different settings including religious settings, cultural settings, public speaking was a norm or a skill everyone was expected to build.

When I first entered public health, I worked for the Department of Public Health. That was where I first started working after I completed my degree. Because I wasn’t afraid of public speaking, I was always being asked to do it whenever another organization would reach out to the Department. That could be a school system. It could be a nonprofit that served families. That first job was awesome.

Right now, the focus of my public speaking is on helping providers create more inclusive practices. My overall mission is essentially to eliminate health disparities for LGBTIQA+ BIPOC people. My work focuses on the individual consumer and making wellness more intuitive for them. But then also I center the providers when it comes to creating more welcoming environments.

AC: Did you ever have to make the transition from speaking for free to asking to be paid? And was it challenging for you?

DK: I spoke without charging a speaking fee for years, not really realizing the value and that this could be a stand-alone service, because it was something that was intuitive to me, and I kept being asked to do it in the context of another job.

When I started a class, a professional speaking class with speaker and communications coach Dawn J. Fraser, that was the shift. I was working with someone who brought in professional agents who could give all of the students an idea of what the market norm is for certain services.

That was a game changer for me, because in dietetics in general, the business side is super weak, maybe not in all programs, but it definitely was in mine. I know in general that is the consensus. Dietitians are kind of primed to undervalue themselves and if we get this information from the field itself, sometimes we’re still going to be way under-pricing.

So actually working with a coach that specifically works with professional speakers from business was really helpful, rather than just working with someone who focuses on health care or health promotion. That was the game changer for me and I would still say, even though I feel clear on what industry averages are in a lot of areas, it still feels uncomfortable sometimes because I just haven’t had enough experience putting a price on what I do.

I think this is a big issue for dietitians and also for anybody assigned female at birth and socialized to be. It’s very uncomfortable to assert that you need to be compensated for doing something, especially if it’s part of a helping profession. The assumption is we just want to work for free or keep getting that 70 cents on the dollar. It has been a challenge from that perspective of just getting out of my own way.

Once someone clearly said, “This is normal, you’re not asking for anything out of the ordinary,” it was helpful, but it’s been hard getting used to the idea of being comfortable with the person saying, “No, I don’t want to pay that, I’m going to find someone who wants to come volunteer.” But I’m getting there.

AC: I think we have a lot of readers who are still overcoming those barriers as well, feeling like they shouldn’t be asking for money for whatever reasons. Do you have any advice for a dietitian who may be new and is feeling insecure about the whole idea of charging?

DK: It might be helpful to remember that it isn’t even just about you. So it feels awkward, like, “Oh, who am I to ask for this amount of money? I’m too inexperienced.” Remember that you’re not just doing it for you, you’re doing it for every other dietitian who is also going to be asked to accept unacceptable wages. It moves the entire field forward when people start to understand dietitians don’t work for free.

It moves the entire field forward when people start to understand dietitians don’t work for free.

Dietitians are experienced in really unique ways because it’s a field where your on-the-job experience creates your expertise and the way in which we continue to learn with our professional development portfolio. The person who wants to work with you might think they could find an equivalent for free, but there’s literally no such thing. In particular, the way we have to intentionally look at our professional development and say, Where do I specialize? – that is unique to us. We really need to be compensated for it, and not just for ourselves, for everyone else in the field.

AC: That’s something we don’t hear about much, that because dietitians have so much specialization, two people with the RD credentials could be completely different in their knowledge base. Thank you for that point. Switching gears, tell us what makes an excellent speaker from your point of view as an audience member?

DK: When someone has created their presentation thinking about what the audience will walk away with. What is the audience going to get out of it? Because I’ve been to talks where I’ve seen the same speaker in different settings where one presentation was so powerful and then I saw them again and at first it was hard to pinpoint why it was so boring, but it was because it didn’t have anything to do with me.

While it sounds so self-serving, that’s how everybody is. That’s how adult learners are. If you don’t tell them why they should care, I promise you they don’t care. If you can’t verbalize it, then you haven’t communicated it. Maybe somebody will still resonate with you because they just love your personality, love you as a person, but for everybody to get something out of it, you had to know as you were writing your speech what the transformation was that people were going to experience after they listened to it.

Also authenticity is important. I saw a presentation at a national conference for school nutrition that was really not good because it was not authentic to the presenter. Maybe someone else had helped them plan the presentation because it seemed like it didn’t feel natural to them. There was a point where they stood up and they sang and they danced. They are not a singer. They are not a dancer. They looked like they were uncomfortable. It really felt like someone else told them this will be engaging and the presentation was not their own. It might have worked great for someone else but wasn’t working for them.

And finally, engagement and storytelling. I went to a virtual in the early days of the pandemic. It was for a professional association here in the state of Georgia for school nutrition that had to cancel their face-to-face conference. This speaker was a master of using the chat and asking people to share their personal response to what they were saying.

They started out with their personal story and then it went straight to How does that relate to your life? They found a way to tie it into professional development and then closed with How does this relate to your whole life? So it had multiple levels of personal application, it was also really strong from a storytelling perspective, and most people seemed to be really moved by it. Because of the story element, everyone I know that was there still remembers that presentation, even though it’s been a year.

I went to a presentation last week, I couldn’t tell you what it was about. There was no story. There was no hook and it’s just hard to retain when there’s no story.

I went to a presentation last week, I couldn’t tell you what it was about. There was no story.

AC: All of these are such good components. You’ve obviously learned a lot from observing others. Any other important lessons you can share with our readers?

DK: I really think the most helpful thing that came out of my professional speaker training was starting with the transformation and making sure every element of my presentation is a necessary part of that transformation. Also understanding that your client, when you’re hired, is the meeting organizer or the person who hired you, not really the audience. So, is the person who hired you really interested in that transformation? That’s probably what you advertise.

Especially with audience participation in real life, sometimes I would be derailed by things that were good questions or were related to something I’m also very interested in but weren’t going to help me get to the transformation. I lost too much time serving the needs of one person in the audience instead of staying on focus with the whole purpose of the presentation. You can’t let a good question derail you and that’s been one of my biggest lessons.

AC: So do you focus less on the questions that are being asked in the audience or do you still tune into those If they are important?

DK: I tune into them if they’re important and part of the overall focus. You know, sometimes when people get access to a dietitian, they just have a bunch of questions. They just maybe want free time with a dietitian, they’re excited about an opportunity to ask questions about things they’ve been seeing maybe in the media lately or something about a fad diet… If it happens to be something you’re also interested in, it’s really easy to say, Oh, I actually want you to know the truth about that, so let’s go down the rabbit hole… But if it’s not related to my mission of the day, I will save it for later and say I’m available for questions afterwards. And if it was just turning into a full-blown consultation, if that’s what they’re trying to do, I would just let them know how they could work with me one-on-one.

It feels a little awkward because in most situations, the person in front of you is the person you serve, but in this case, that person is not the one who hired you. That person might not even be in your line of sight, so just really remembering who hired you and who’s objectives are the most crucial.

AC: Any other words of advice for new dietitian speakers out there?

DK: Really just that you’re probably more ready than you think you are. If you have completed your training to become a dietitian, you shouldn’t be afraid. I don’t care if you’ve been a dietitian for two days. There’s plenty of training to be charging someone for, and there are other people charging with a whole lot less training. You have to start somewhere and you’re ready.

AC: I could not agree more with that. Thank you, Dalia for sharing your advice and your time.

To hire Dalia for your next speaking engagement visit her website daliakinsey.com.

Follow Dalia on social media: Facebook @decolonizingwellness, Instagram @daliakinseyrd, LinkedIn @DaliaKinsey, and YouTube @DaliaKinsey.

 

Speaker Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker Nancy Clark

Dietitian Speaker Nancy Clark presents in front of a white board with a marker in her hand. She wears a blue top and necklace and is presenting on sports nutrition. Superstar alert! Dietitian Speaker Nancy Clark is the Jesse Owens of sports dietitians, breaking ground for the field since before it had a name. If nutrition were the Olympics, she’d have medaled in multiple events. She’s even been pictured on a Wheaties box! Lucky for us, she took the time to share some tips for speaking success from her long career at the top.

DSG: You’re well-known in our profession as the original sports nutrition dietitian. How does professional speaking play a part in your career?

NC: My job is to teach people. Speaking is a wonderful way to reach a large audience.

I started by going to running clubs and bike clubs, asking if they wanted me to give a nutrition talk. I started local and then moved to professional groups – RDs, sports medicine MDs, athletic trainers, etc. Now, I speak internationally (much easier with Zoom!), and people seek me out.

DSG: What’s your stance on speaking for free versus charging? Any advice for a dietitian unsure about how to charge?

Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook

NC: I have always charged unless no money was available. In which case I traded the free talk for the opportunity to sell my Sports Nutrition Guidebook to the audience at the end of the talk.

We dietitians have valuable info to offer. The audience wants our info. If you’re unsure if you’re worth it, offer a low price range you feel comfortable with, such as $100 to $400.

DSG: What qualities do you see as the marks of an excellent speaker?

NC: Three things: an excellent speaker speaks clearly, in an organized manner, and teaches by telling stories.

DSG: Our readers love to hear about glitches so they know they’re not alone. Any terrible snafus that you managed to survive? Or amazing speaking experiences that stand out in your mind?

NC: Several situations stand out in my mind, all for different reasons.

Amazingly nerve-wrecking: Speaking to a room filled with professional baseball players for a mandatory nutrition talk.

Amazingly great: The day-and-a-half workshops I presented for years with an exercise physiologist. The audience was primarily RDs and personal trainers, inspiring them to get involved with sports nutrition and partner with each other.

Amazingly terrible: An afternoon talk I gave to hungry high school students. I had asked for them to have a snack before my talk, but the athletic director insisted they wait for the snack until after the talk. Talking to hungry athletes is a total waste of time!

Talking to hungry athletes is a total waste of time!

DSG: Love that important lesson! Don’t speak to hungry athletes. Any other advice for dietitian speakers starting out?

NC: When giving a new talk, it’s important to practice it – particularly if you will be doing this talk on television!  Those reporters are pros – but even they practice behind the scenes.

DSG: Thanks Nancy for the wise words.

To hire Nancy for your next peaking event visit her website nancyclarkrd.com.

Follow Nancy on social media: Twitter @nclarkrd, and LinkedIn @NancyClark.

Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker Heidi Skolnik

Heidi Skolnik is no rookie when it comes to professional speaking. Having worked with quite a few heavy hitters in professional sports, she pirouetted into professional dancing and hit a homer with The Athlete Triad Playbook. Read on as she gives DietitianSpeakers.com a backstage tour of her front-row career.

Dietitian Speaker Heidi Skolnik is ready to present in a red suit jacket. She says, "Find your superpower by being your true self." and demonstrates her own superpower when a heckler drops the F-bomb this week at DietitianSpeakers.com.

AC: You’ve done so much in your time as a dietitian. Give our readers some background about your work and how it’s changed over the course of your career.

HS: My  educational background includes a Master’s degree in Exercise Science followed a few years later by a second Master’s degree in Human Nutrition. I began my career in corporate fitness, yet Sports Nutrition has  always really been my jam. I used to work with the Giants football team (18 years) and the Mets (15 years)  and the Knicks (7 years) , and at the Women Sports Medicine Center at Hospital for Special Surgery for twenty-five years. Now I work with a lot of dancers  and performing artists (Juilliard and School of American Ballet)  and bring the sports performance perspective to them as artistic athletes.

One of the things that differentiated me early on was that my approach has always been somewhat experiential. It was never that I had more knowledge than anyone else – there are a lot of people who are way smarter and more knowledgeable than me. My secret power is my ability to translate the science into usable information and accessible information for the population I’m talking to and make it sort of fun and relatable.

I always loved speaking even as a kid. I know for some people speaking is one of their greatest fears. That was just never a thing for me. I always enjoyed it. Early on, when I would go to conferences, I would choose the session on honing your speaking skills over the session on polyphenols.

But somewhere along the way, I became intimidated by the people with greater scientific knowledge, and I thought maybe I don’t know enough. I started going to everything that was very specific in science. I lost sight of what made me a strong speaker and what my skill set really was. I’ve come back to that now, which is exciting.

I believe there’s an evolution within each person’s career, and right now, my focus is on the athlete triad and educating professionals to bring the information to their athletes.

I work with Broadway, at Juilliard, at the School of American Ballet, and I’ve taken the model of sports nutrition to these performing artists who are athletes. I use performance nutrition to motivate them to view their bodies as the instrument for their performance, helping them see the need to stay well-fueled and nourished, as opposed to thinking of food and diet only through the lens of weight loss and weight management, a la the common diet culture.

AC: How would you say you made the transition from speaking for free to then being paid for speaking, and was it challenging for you in the beginning?

HS: In the beginning, I don’t know that I spoke for free; I just didn’t charge that much. Along the way I did realize that doing it for free was unfair to both myself and my colleagues and the field. We’re all in this together and all elevating the field and pushing it forward, and we’re all helping each other out. Every time someone else gets a success, they open that door more for everyone else.

Early on I would take every opportunity I could to speak. As I got better, I found that every time I spoke, I got more gigs. Putting myself out there was really worth it and taking risks early on really paid off and led to lots of other opportunities. I wouldn’t have moved forward as quickly as a speaker had I not been in front of those groups.

I also started at a time when early on I didn’t have a lot of – I don’t want to say competition because I don’t view my colleagues as competition – but there weren’t as many people out there talking about sports nutrition. So, it was really more about opportunity and ability. At the same time, the opportunities arose where people offered me more money without me even asking.

As I got busier and busier, as I got better and better, as I had more and more demands, it was easier to charge and be more conscientious about what I chose to do and how I wanted to spend my time. Having more options made me have to become more thoughtful, because there’s only so much time and the burnout would be incredible.

AC: How do you decide what to charge? Not necessarily the amount, but the process you go through in your mind?

HS: When someone asks me to speak for an hour, my fee is not for that hour. My fee is for the hours that go into preparing for the hour I’ll speak. There are years in that preparation. When I get up and speak, I’m giving you an engaging, knowledge-filled, experiential, hopefully behavior-change-prompting hour that is worthwhile of your time, and you’re paying for all of that. You’re not really paying me for the hour.

I will also say, and this is very humbling to say out loud, that I charge less now than I did at the peak of my career because demand ebbs and flows and I’m with a different population. I’m okay with that because I understand the market. There was a time in my career where lots of things were flowing to me as opposed to me reaching out to find opportunities. That’s a different place to be.

I’ve learned to understand where I fit in the market. I understand the demand from the market as well as the other demands on my time. For me, speaking is part of my income; it’s a service I offer, not just something that I do on the side. There’s only so much I can give away for free before I’m not earning a living. Sometimes I choose to speak for less money for a charity or in the community for less than I might charge a corporation or in a spokesperson situation. There’s lots of different factors that go into the fee and it has to be individual. For example, I have to keep in mind that performing arts doesn’t have the same kind of budget that professional sports do. But there’s so much that I love about working with dancers that that’s okay with me.

AC: Thank you for sharing that process. How would you suggest a newer dietitian go about the process of determining what fee to charge? Especially if they’ve been speaking for free so far.

HS: Always keep in mind that you’re selling information. It’s your product. If your product was running shoes or blouses or microphones, you wouldn’t just go out and give them out for free. You don’t have to give your knowledge away, either. You’ve worked really hard for that and deserve to be paid for your time.

With that in the background, you have to individualize. What works for me wouldn’t work for someone who lives somewhere else in the country, or speaks to different organizations, or different topics or populations.

It’s different for a local school versus on a national scale. But ultimately, I would say you need to charge for your time or recognize if it is an opportunity in which you get to hand out business cards or handouts with your name on it in a place that you could get referrals from. You might then consider a lower fee or free as  a cost of doing business; essentially the cost of that talk is your marketing budget. There’s a reason you’re doing it for free.

And it may not be about money. If you really want that gig, you can take it, regardless of the pay. But you shouldn’t ever forget that you can also always say, “No, thank you.” They can find someone who’s more of a beginner, someone who’s starting out, who may give the talk for less if the group can’t pay what you need. It’s not your responsibility to give all the talks.

With that said, I think they’re probably going to get a different product for a different budget. Somebody starting out might do a fine job, but not the same job that you would do at this stage in your career. If a client wants you, this is your fee. You need to know how much wiggle room you have before you need to say no.

However, you decide your fee, and whatever you agree to, you have to feel comfortable and confident, and not resentful. If you feel like, “Why am I doing this?”, something has gone wrong in the process. You should be speaking because you feel valued or you feel it gives you value.

AC: I love the idea that feeling valued and appreciated is a benefit. Overall make sure there’s value, whatever form that takes. And I like the comparison that speaking is your product. That’s a really good way to put it.
What about the actual presentation delivery? What do you recommend to give a really excellent presentation?

HS: That’s a tough one because there are so many different styles. I think it’s having a style and knowing your message. Engaging is really important, but there are a lot of ways to be engaging. Feeling comfortable with what you’re presenting. Showing some personality.

Something I still struggle with is finding the right amount of material for the time allotted.  I often put in too much and it actually takes away from the strength of my presentation. You need to know what material is appropriate for the population you’re speaking to.

What’s great is when you give a really great presentation and you get that immediate feedback, where you just feel like you got it right and you can feel the energy in the audience, and they’re with you and they respond to what you’re putting forth… and the feedback is good, and you’re just in your groove and you get other gigs from it, because that’s one way you do know that it went well. So that feels great.

AC: I can feel your enthusiasm through the phone! What about the glitches? Does anything stand out that you just can’t believe it happened, but you just had to keep going?

HS: Oh, gosh, yes. Talk about being vulnerable. I have had a couple of mortifying experiences that come to mind.

When I was in my 20’s I worked with the Mets minor league baseball teams. For background, like many women, my weight changes over time, but I was confident with it, it didn’t mean a lot to me. So, I walk into this minor league site, prepared to give my talk and first thing one player yells out, “Wow, you gained weight since spring training!” Oh, my goodness.

And then another one of the players said, “Hey, leave her alone.” And I’m sitting there, mortified that my body is now the center of attention thinking THIS IS NOT WHY I’M HERE. Somehow, I was able to just say, “Let’s get going,” and was professional and moved through and did my thing.

Another time, more recently, I was talking to a group of coaches, male coaches at a university, and once again I was the only woman in the room. There was somebody in the room who had been invited who wasn’t a coach. I don’t know how I knew – I guess it’s just experience – I just knew. After I gave this whole talk, I’m taking questions from the audience.

And you know how it is – usually you get these very genuine, sincere, questions, and they listen and appreciate your answers. And then sometimes there’s somebody in the audience who isn’t really asking a question. They just want to tell you that they disagree, or they think they know better, but the way they do it, they’re not really asking a question. Which is this person.

This person raises their hand and I call on him, and he gives me one of those non-question questions, telling me what I should have said. And so, I say to him, “I’m sorry, I don’t think I really heard a question in there. Is there a question that you have?” He sort of repeats himself in a really rude way. It wasn’t like a healthy discussion of, “Here’s my view, here’s your view. Let’s discuss the science,” because that’s totally legit. This is more of a challenging, demeaning situation. So, I repeated myself, and said, “Excuse me, if you have a question, I’m happy to hear it, but if you’re just telling me what I should know, I’d like to move on.”

And he says, right in front of everyone, loud enough for everyone to hear, he says, “F*** me.” And the whole room was staring, all these men looking at me and how I was going to handle this situation. Can I handle this? Was I going to shy away? And I just came back full force, and I hope you’re not sorry you asked, because somehow, I stayed totally calm and said, “Well, usually I require dinner first, but I’m happy to meet you after the session.” And all these coaches started laughing and the guy was kind of put in his place.

Looking back as I tell you these stories, I realize they had nothing to do with the content, which is more traditionally what I’d be worried about. Knowing all the science wouldn’t help someone get through it, right? It was really about confidence and being able to get through these adverse situations and keep my professionalism going.

AC: Both of those experiences could easily get anyone flustered! The fact that you were able to get through them, knowing who you are as a speaker, without letting them get the best of you is amazing.

HS: You can’t see me blushing, but I am.

AC: Any advice for our readers to be prepared for those uncomfortable situations? Well maybe not THOSE exact situations, but intimidating situations in general?

HS: Yes. One of the best pieces of advice I got along the way when I was learning different skills around speaking is that you can simply own your own experience. I think Jessica is fabulous at this, saying “This is my opinion…” or “In my experience…” without saying that everyone has to do it her way. In other words, it frees people to disagree with you without making it into a battle. Because once it becomes my experience or my opinion as a practitioner or as a speaker, you can’t really argue with that, right? So now I say things like, “This is what I have found when I work with clients,” or “This is what works for me.” That doesn’t mean it’s the right way, or the only way, or that you shouldn’t do it differently.

Learning when to give the facts versus when to put forth my experience has been helpful in being able to stand in front of an audience of other professionals, which I still find intimidating. They know as much or more than I do, but I still come to the stage with twenty-five years of experience and that does mean something.

Added to that, it’s key to remember that you’ve been asked to speak. People are asking for your experience, your vantage point, your insight into the knowledge. That gives me a little more confidence when I’m standing up there because, again, that’s not something that can be argued, right? If you want to have a discussion on the post-exercise window for muscle protein synthesis, all we can do is cite (interpret) the science. And either someone’s going to be right and someone’s going to be wrong, or we may just have to agree to disagree. On the other hand, you can’t really debate me on my experience.

AC: Wow, all great points. Any other words of wisdom for aspiring dietitian speakers?

HC: I suggest taking any and all opportunities to do any trainings or conference sessions about speaking and make it a point to hear speakers you admire if you ever can hear them speak live. It’s okay to give up going to one of the scientific sessions, because honestly, you could read a paper on the stuff you’re missing.

Being prepared can never be underrated or overrated. You have to be prepared. Practice your intro. Practice your closing. Practice, practice, practice. Because if you do, then those situations where you’re asked to speak at the last minute and there’s no time to prepare, you can take those opportunities, because of all the preparation you’ve been doing all along. You have to put yourself out there and take risks, but the preparation is what lets you do it.

And then I guess in summary, you’re going to get better at speaking by speaking. Practice makes progress and the only way you’re going to become the speaker you want to be is by speaking. Be true to yourself to find your personal style. Watch what you like about other speakers, but don’t try to be them, try to be you. You’ll find your superpower by being your true self.

AC: Amazing. Thank you, Heidi, for all the ideas.

To hire Heidi for your next speaking engagement visit her website nutritionconditioning.net

Follow Heidi on social media: Facebook @HeidiSkolnik, Twitter @heidiskolnik, Instagram @heidiskolnik , and LinkedIn @HeidiSkolnik.

Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker Sally Kuzemchak

Sally Kuzemchak shares the joy of getting paid to speak at DietitianSpeakers.com.

Wouldn’t you like to be such an AMAZING speaker that people just hand over their money??? Sally Kuzemchak tells DietitianSpeakers how it’s done.

DS: Tell us how you got your start as a Dietitian Speaker and what’s changed since then.

SK: My evolution as a presenter has been very steady. My first speaking invitations were informal – local moms’ groups asking about feeding kids and how to handle picky eating.

Then I worked with a brand to speak about the same topics but in front of larger groups. It was scary at first but definitely boosted my confidence.

Then I was invited by a blogging conference to present about writing, and was invited back two more times. I found that I enjoyed speaking about the business of blogging, writing, and social media so much that I wanted to focus more on it.

In the past few years I’ve mostly been speaking to other dietitians and bloggers about content creation and social media: how to create more compelling content, how to connect with your audience online, and how to handle ethical situations that come up in social media.

I recently joined a speakers’ bureau and will be presenting with them around content creation for a state Academy meeting.

DS: Amazing! At what point in that process did you cross the bridge into getting paid to speak? Was it an easy transition? And do you have any advice for someone feeling awkward about making the switch?

SK: I was invited to speak at my son’s preschool about feeding kids, and I was fully intending to do it for free as a promotion for a new book I had. And then they just handed me a check! I was surprised and flattered, but then I thought, “Well of course!” – I earned it, and my time and expertise are valuable.

Dietitian Speaker and Author Sally Kuzemchak smiles from the cover of Cooking Light's Dinnertime Survival Guide

After that it became more natural to ask for a fee. I definitely understand feeling insecure about it, but it’s key to remember your worth. Realize that it may feel awkward the first time you say “Here is my rate for speaking,” but it will feel more natural over time. And you can always do occasional pro bono speaking for organizations and causes you care about.

 DS: What are the aspects that make an excellent speaker when you’re in the audience?

SK: Telling stories instead of lecturing, being natural instead of scripted, and creating slides with very little text on them so your audience is listening to you instead of reading your slide.

DS: It’s such a common mistake to put too many words on slides. We need to hear that message over and over and over. Have you ever made a rookie mistake?

SK: I was asked to speak about healthy eating by the local Heart Association, and we must’ve gotten our signals crossed because I assumed it would be in front of a few dozen people. When I arrived, I realized the program was being held on stage in an enormous hotel ballroom with hundreds of people. I was so terrified, I excused myself to the bathroom and promptly got sick! Then I pulled myself together and made it through (with shaking knees!).

DS: A great reminder to ask a LOT of questions in advance! Any other lessons learned the hard way that you’re willing to share with newer dietitian speakers?

SK: One lesson I learned is to find a way to collect email addresses from attendees so you can connect with them later. I once spoke to a group of young moms who lined up at the end of my program to ask questions. They all wanted to hear and learn more. It was only later that I regretted not having a way to collect their information in some way so I could invite them into my subscriber community and stay in touch. Another lesson: Have someone take photos of you while speaking. I realized while looking for photos for this, that I never thought to do that!

DS: Thanks Sally!

For more info about Sally, check out her books: The 101 Healthiest Foods for Kids & Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide and follow her here: Twitter @RMNutrition, LinkedIn @SallyKuzemchak, Facebook @realmomnutrition, and Instagram @realmomnutrition.

To hire Sally for your next speaking event, visit her website at realmomnutrition.com.

Have you heard Sally present? Share your comments below!

Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker David Wiss

David Wiss likes to dive deep into the dark corners of his favorite speaking topics – addictions, eating disorders, and traumatic experiences – in addition to the hive mind of dietitians. Read on as DietitianSpeakers’ Alex Caljean probes the depths.

Alex: Hi David. Talk to me about how you got started as a Dietitian Speaker.

David: My speaking goes back to before I even was a dietitian, but I’ll skip ahead. I got started doing webinars, and the reason I was able to get my information out as a new RD is because I was one of the few people talking about drug addiction. I talked about substance use disorders and how dietitians can be involved in the treatment. I was also one of the few people, at least in the dietetic community, that started a conversation around food addiction. So, I had a lot of what I’d call novel information to share.

My speaking style has certainly evolved over time. I spent a lot of time in my early career trying to figure out what my PowerPoint master slide was going to look like and what kind of approach I wanted to take with my slides regarding pictures and text. Now I rely less on my slides because I’m more experienced, but I do have a long history of making my information dense, which means that I move quickly through it. It’s just who I am, I like fast information. I like fast moving slides. I like rapid fire. But I also want to acknowledge that not everyone else does. So, my initial speaking was as if I’m speaking to an audience of myself, and what I learned over time is that I need to slow down and explain things more for people that have differing levels of prior knowledge.

It’s interesting because someone else might think of it the other way – I’m just starting out so I need to talk like my audience is just starting out, too – when really there will always be a range of experience in the audience. So that’s a good way to put it, to try to know your audience before you get there.

Yeah, I’m biased towards me – I’ve been to many presentations and webinars where I thought, “This is just too basic. This isn’t helping me.” I don’t want a 101; I want a 400-level class! I’m one of those people who wants a much deeper dive.

 Alex: Jessica’s phrase is “delete slides one through thirteen”; in other words, don’t spend time on that basic information someone could get out of a book. Skip to the part they can’t get from anywhere but you.

David: Yes. I don’t like the model where speakers assume the audience members don’t know much and you’re supposed to cater to the “lowest level of knowledge.” I think that there is a room for advanced topics and times when people should get really to the nuances and get into specifics and move quickly through things. But the real thing that I’ve learned is that’s not always the case. And that for me, I’ve learned to get to know my audience. And that means I need to ask: Who’s going to be there? What are the participants like? Those are important things. Are they researchers? That’s very different than if it’s nutrition students. Those are things I find myself thinking more about now than I did at the beginning.

Another thing that’s evolved is that in the last year or two, the whole world is waking up to higher degrees of cultural sensitivity, particularly with respect to issues of gender and race/ethnicity. I don’t want anyone in my audience to feel slighted or offended or marginalized. One example is the images I choose for my slides. Things I say and show as a speaker land on people in different ways. I have learned to err on the side of cultural sensitivity whenever possible, especially when we’re talking about things like weight, eating disorders, gender… I think that it’s really, really important for me as a speaker to be sensitive to all possible audience members and their experiences and how they might differ from my own. Not making sweeping generalizations about people or groups is super, super important.

Alex: Can you give an example of what you’re trying not to do?

David: For example, I’ve heard speakers say eating disorders are all about control. Well, maybe some eating disorders are all about control, but are all eating disorders all about control? No. When people make really broad strokes, it can leave people feeling misunderstood or marginalized, and that’s not the way to bring people to the education you’re trying to provide.

Alex: How does speaking fit into the other work that you do?

David: I’m a dietitian for individuals in addiction recovery within a group practice, and I’m also a fourth year PhD student in Public Health. My focus is on trauma and the biological embedding of adversity. I have a minor in health psychology, and my research is about how early life adversity and different exposures: stressors, traumatic experiences and other forms of adversity get biologically embedded and increase someone’s susceptibility to a wide range of negative health outcomes, specifically mental health.

The way this has impacted my speaking is that I’ve moved away from classic dietetic talks and moved toward the biopsychosocial model of health and life course epidemiology. The past two years, my speaking has really been focused on trauma-informed nutrition therapy, speaking a lot to professionals in substance use disorder treatment centers.

Alex: Moving on to the topic of payment. What’s your take? Did you have a transition from speaking for free to asking to be paid?

David: I never really had to make that transition because I’ve always been comfortable asking to be paid. Especially if someone’s charging for an event and they’re making money. If everyone’s paying thirty dollars to watch me give a webinar and I’m not getting paid, that’s going to feel like I’m being taken advantage of.

Meanwhile, there are times when speaking for free is the ultimate marketing tool – as a private practice dietitian, giving a presentation to other mental health professionals and potential referral sources is a huge opportunity for me. If it’s a networking event full of therapists who want to learn more about eating disorders, it’s an honor and a privilege for me to give that presentation. When I give those talks, those people are then referring their clients to me. As a private practice dietitian, there’s nothing more valuable than marketing. Talks are the best form of marketing that exists, in my opinion, at least from the perspective of getting out to other referral sources.

But if there’s no money and no other type of benefit, I think dietitians have a long history of being taken advantage of and being assumed to be volunteers, and I think when people take opportunities to do things for free too much, it creates an expectation which is hurtful to our profession.

Alex: I think that’s definitely a common thread for most people that I hear from that it’s very easy for dietitians to want to kind of over-give and you have to take a step back and consider, “Where is this going to benefit me as well?”

David: Correct. I’m a businessman, so this is one area I’ve tried to be helpful to other dietitians who don’t feel as confident. I’ve always been comfortable charging. I remember someone asked me if I had a sliding scale once, and I jokingly said, “Yeah, I slide up.”

Alex: Do you have any advice for dietitians who aren’t as comfortable expecting to be paid, or even having the conversation?

David: Yes. If people are feeling insecure about being paid, I think it’s not an unreasonable place to start by just asking, “What’s the stipend?” or “Is there a stipend?” Just start there so that there’s no confusion and you know up front, this is the deal.

Alex: You make it sound so simple. Next question: Can you share a memorable speaking experience, something that was either amazingly great or amazingly terrible?

David: FNCE [The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics Food & Nutrition Conference & Exhibition] 2018 was an incredibly meaningful experience for me. This was the peak of the opioid crisis and I proposed a talk called Nutrition Interventions Amidst an Opioid Crisis, The Emerging Role of the RDN. The talk was not accepted and it didn’t make any sense to me, given the need and my expertise in it. I reached out the Committee for Lifelong Learning which is the branch of the Academy that plans FNCE. The response was that this topic required another presenter, given that we’re talking about the opioid crisis and it’s probably somewhat outside of the known scope of the dietitian. At FNCE the dietitian always presented information in conjunction with another professional.

I thought about it for a day or two; I really gave it some thought. I’ve always been somewhat of a renegade, so I took a chance, and I sent a letter back to the Committee.

It said I was highly offended by the fact that my parent organization did not think I could stand alone and present information, and that by saying that dietitians aren’t enough to present at our own national conference and by requiring another speaker, you’re basically telling me I don’t have enough experience to stand alone and present my work. I assured them I was an expert, I attached all my peer-reviewed articles that I had published as a first author, and I let them know the other conferences I was speaking at.

And I wrote, “if you don’t believe that I’m capable of presenting my work as a dietitian to my fellow dietitians, that’s fine. I won’t submit any more proposals.” I did a good job on the letter. I was so proud of myself. I wasn’t mean, but I was firm. I was very clear that I thought that I was “enough” to speak at FNCE on my own without needing a co-speaker. I don’t need someone else there. I’m enough. And they gave it some thought and came back and gave me an hour and a half to be a solo presenter.

The talk I gave that year was a full house and I was pleasantly surprised by the attendance and the large room and the feedback that I got. I had a chance to meet a lot of dietitians that I’ve networked with. So it was a very, very memorable speaking experience- doing FNCE as a solo speaker and most importantly, advocating for myself that I was sufficient enough to stand on my own and present this information without needing a co-presenter.

That’s a really good story and goes to show that it’s OK to stand up for what you believe in. If you feel you’re capable of something and people don’t see it, then it’s OK to take a step back and be firm with your decision about it, too.

I’d like to think it might have been the beginning of a new era where dietitians no longer required a co-speaker. You aren’t required to be a sidekick. I noticed that after that, there were other talks where there were solo dietitians. And, you know, I’m presenting again at FNCE this year as a solo speaker so I know that it’s changed.

I think that’s awesome that worked out for you. I think the substance abuse community Is not talked about enough in dietetics either. I used to work for a substance abuse treatment center, so I kind of know that community and don’t hear dietitians speak about it enough. You’re paving the road which is really cool. Do you have any last words of advice for our readers, some encouragement for aspiring speakers just starting out?

Yes. I want to encourage dietitians to be independent thinkers and to not be afraid to go against the “groupthink” in our field. Don’t just accept the popular opinion, don’t be afraid to have differing points of view, don’t just trust whatever your mentor thinks without developing your own clinical intuition. In order to advance the field of dietetics, specifically with eating disorders and mental health, we need people that have cutting edge intuition and explore the edge a little bit more, rather than just spend your whole career being safe and socially accepted. I believe in that.

Thank you David. Appreciate all that you’re doing. To learn more about David or invite him to speak, visit www.nutritioninrecovery.com

Follow David on Social Media: Facebook @davidawiss, Twitter @DavidAWiss, Instagram @davidawiss, Youtube @NutritionInRecovery, Pinterest @NutritionInRecovery, TikTok @davidawiss, and LinkedIn @DavidAWiss.

Have you heard David present? We welcome your comments below.

Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker Keri Gans

In the 1980’s, “Keri is so very…” was the slogan for hand lotion. Now it’s a statement of fact about dietitian speaker Keri Gans. She’s so very knowledgeable, personable and capable, we were thrilled to have the chance to chat about her speaking career. Read on for her take on our favorite topics.

DS: You’re not just a speaker, you’re a spokesperson. Tell us about how you got your start and how things changed over time.

KG: I originally started speaking while I was a clinical dietitian. Our hospital wanted a dietitian to give general wellness talks at a community senior center so I volunteered. From there it kept expanding. I started speaking to our outpatients with COPD [Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease], then to larger audiences and in more formal settings.

Being a public speaker is just part of my overall media communications business. As a communicator I share messages through several platforms, including social media, print/on-line media, webinars, and most recently virtual on-line conferences. My topics vary based on the client and the audience. Recent presentations have been on postbiotics and immune health for a client, debunking nutrition myths (“Read Between the Headlines”) at Today’s Dietitian, and brand marketing (“Seizing Opportunities: How to Use Evolving Science and Technology to Transform Your Career and Brand”).

One of the biggest changes for me as a speaker is that I’m actually more prepared now than I was at the beginning. As a new speaker I never prepared a script. Even though I may have done more research, I spoke more off the cuff. The longer I’ve been doing this I actually have found having a script and rehearsing comes across way more professional. Nothing is worse than being under-prepared.

DS: Speaking of the worst, our readers love to hear about glitches and how to get through them. Anything you do now that you learned the hard way?

KG: Early on a patient approached me after a hospital talk and said I repeated a certain word over and over in-between sentences. He had counted and told me the exact number of times! I don’t remember the actual word, but I do try and be aware of ANY word I might be using unnecessarily as a bridge from one thought to the next.

A different time I had a fashion disaster. Bought a new dress for a lecture at FNCE [the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference and Exhibition] and it wasn’t until I got dressed in the morning that I realized the security sensor tag was still on the garment! Had to keep my leather jacket on the entire talk even though that wasn’t my plan. Thank goodness the room was cold! Lesson learned here – check any new clothes days before packing!

DS: All I can think is thank goodness the tag was on the sleeve and not on the hem! These are both great reminders for our newer and aspiring speakers. What impresses you about a speaker when you’re in the audience?

KG: I always enjoy a speaker who tells a story and weaves something personal about their life into their talk. They don’t put too much information on slides, but rather share their messages in a more conversational way. I like a speaker who looks into the audience and tries to make eye contact rather than just focusing on their notes.

DS: Fabulous. We keep hearing this from our expert speakers. Don’t put too many words on your slides, be conversational and authentic, connect with the audience. It’s great to hear you reiterate these key points. One last question: What are your thoughts on evolving from speaking for free to asking to be paid?

KG: It’s natural to speak for free when you start, but hopefully it won’t take long to realize your worth. As I spoke more, I gradually charged more, based on my level of experience and knowledge. Now my fee is my fee. If someone wants to pay less, they should expect less and look for someone else. If they pay my fee, they get an expert who will deliver.  

Mic drop right there. Thank you, Keri!

If you’d like to learn more about Keri or invite her to your event, visit kerigansny.com.

Follow her on Facebook @KeriGansNY, Instagram @kerigans, LinkedIn @KeriGans, Pinterest @KeriGans, and Twitter @kerigans

Have you heard Keri present? Share your comments below.

 

Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker Deanna Segrave-Daly

Talking with Deanna Seagrave-Daly about her speaking career is like drinking from a fire hose – her ideas and strategies bubble up and out in a fountain of enthusiasm. Read on as she shares her best tips with DietitianSpeakingGuide.
DSG: You have so many talents! How did you whittle it down to a Unique Speaking Platform?

DS: My theme is that healthy food should always be delicious. I approach it by talking about food and cooking, weaving in good health through flavorful and delicious food. It’s sort of a stealthy approach to nutrition. We eat for flavor and with our eyes, and then P.S. there’s the benefit of it being nutritious. If it’s healthy but not delicious, that’s going to be a conflict. So whatever I recommend, whether it’s Healthy Kitchen Hacks to speed cooking or nutritious ingredient substitutions, everything I recommend either maintains or boosts the flavor.

I wrote two cookbooks on the Mediterranean Diet, so when I speak to dietetic associations I talk about the diet and the research behind it, and I really dive into actionability. How can people implement this in the kitchen? Not just the messages – eat more fish – but how do you physically do that? What are specific ways you can buy fish and store fish and cook fish so it tastes delicious, even if you think you don’t like fish.

DSG: How has your speaking career evolved?

DS: It hasn’t been a straight line at all. In the past I’ve done the more traditional sort of speaking to audiences in person, through television, radio and print. And then as nutrition communications moved online, I had to get good at blogging, SEO, food photography, every new social media platform. Whatever I learned, whether it was my formal education or on-the-job training, I figured someone else needs that information, too, so these new skills then became speaking topics.

It’s good to keep adding new topics because with tech, things become obsolete. I used to teach food photography to dietitians. Now smartphones can take really pretty pictures without even trying. Once I built my skill set, I put together presentations on how health professionals can use live streaming to promote themselves and their business and reach consumers, how restaurants and caterers can utilize Facebook live for marketing. Now I do a lot of live streaming, speaking to people through social media.

I have a Facebook page where my business partner and I speak directly to consumers from our kitchen. Whether it’s certain recipes or a health topic or promoting a new healthy cookbook or a seasonal vegetable, the focus is always how to prepare the food so it tastes great and is nutritious.

DSG: You seem very business-savvy. Did you ever have an issue charging for your services?

DS: I was lucky – I started speaking in a salaried position working in PR for the dairy industry, so I didn’t charge separately. I know lots of dietitians don’t have that option, so starting out locally and via webinars is great because you don’t have the travel expense even if you’re not getting paid much. Ask for an honorarium, because groups tend to have a little something to offer, and in addition to volunteering and giving back, you get your face out there to more people. If you speak in person, staying afterward for a meet and greet can be really beneficial for future opportunities.

My other suggestion is to think about the equity. Maybe at the beginning you’re not getting actual cold, hard cash for speaking, but are you getting your foot in the door? As in being exposed to people you might be able to work with down the line, or for pay? Or to promote your private practice or something else on your end? Speaking is a way to promote yourself and your brand, and that’s equity.

My cookbook is a great example of that. I may not get paid my standard rate, but they’re buying fifty of my books that will circulate among these people and potentially sell more books. With that said, also take in mind how much time it would take to create a presentation because your time is money in the long run as well. And when you get to the point where you’re pretty seasoned but the honorarium is still small, ask if you can bring a sponsor in in exchange for a little plug at the beginning. Is there a business out there that might want to be in front of the audience you’re speaking to? Pitch it to the sponsor as a win-win, to get their information into a new territory, or in front of their target audience.

It might not be a product. It could be another organization that has money put aside to reach either consumers or other health professionals. The better the match between your sponsor and the audience, the more you can name your price. The biggest thing with all this is full disclosure. My sponsors are usually food commodities or producers that I know from working together, and always a food I believe in. I’ll explain why I really I love their products, why I recommend them or use them.

DSG: That’s such a cool way to maximize your opportunities – speak on something you’re passionate about and help a product you believe in get more publicity.

DS: Exactly. And that’s why you should never go after sponsorship from a product you wouldn’t work with. Think of a product you love, that you use all the time, and approach them: “I love your product so much! Do you have money in your budget for a speaker? You could be exposed to this many people…”

Keep in mind that if the group you’re speaking with is also advertising your speaking, that’s even more exposure for your sponsor than who attends the event. It comes naturally to me because that’s what I do all day long, but you may not realize how much credibility you bring to a sponsor. As a dietitian, you have a leg up over a lot of other speakers because you have those credentials. It gives a product or organization credibility.

DSG: You’re amazing at putting out these ideas! Any suggestions for someone who’s struggling with this?

DS: It can be tempting to say a price and then try to justify it, and you don’t need to do that. You just say, hey, this is what I charge. Worst case scenario, they say they can’t afford it, and then you come back with what can you afford? It’s smart to ask for more so that you can negotiate downward if needed. But nine times out of ten they just say sure, and I think, What if I had not asked?

My advice is to say your price and shut up. Stop. Imagine you’re a lawyer. You’d say this is my fee. You don’t say here’s why, because I have to do all this extra work, and then I have this other work… just say your price and worst case scenario, they say no or no way. Then you can decide, do I want to do it for less or is there something else they can give me that’s not monetary to do so.

DSG: That’s a great way to think about it. Ok shifting gears, what makes an excellent speaker when you’re in the audience?

DS: It’s so much easier to talk about what makes a speaker terrible! Like not knowing the skill level of the audience. The worst thing a speaker can do is start talking without knowing who they’re talking to. I’m sure I’d cringe at my first speeches – I probably had my whole presentation on the slides. Now I’m definitely a believer in less is more.

It’s always fun to have visuals, a cartoon, infographics, or just the bullet points. You put a couple of words up and then you enhance them personally. I can’t stand when the speaker reads from their slides because it’s such a waste of time! You have to make sure whatever you’re saying is something they couldn’t get from just reading a PowerPoint alone. The less on a slide, the better.

You can always email very specific things after the fact, but you want to use slides more to engage and kind of give a map on where you’re going with the presentation. If the person is up there reading the slides word for word, why are they even there? I always appreciate having expectations set up front, so I know where we’re going. I like when speakers repeat the main points to drive them home; when they say a couple of times during your talk, “If there’s anything you take away from this talk, I want you to walk away with this nugget…”

If you’re an audience member and you can be engaged somehow, that’s huge. So interactions as much as you can, even if you’re virtual. Having a moderator, show of hands, opinion polls. Then to be accessible. I always appreciate the speaker’s email or contact info. I think if you’re speaking, you should be open for audience members. You should want them to give you feedback, whether it’s constructive or positive. That’s the whole point.

If you were there talking about something you’re passionate about, I would hope you want people to reach out to you afterwards. Then lastly – and it’s something I’ve learned over the years and I haven’t always done it -is getting that feedback. I would love your feedback, whether the good, bad or the ugly. You’ll never improve if you just do a talk and you have no one tell you anything. I’ve had to cringe over the years about a few things people said, but it’s always been in a way that has helped my next presentation. That’s my long list compiled over the years, learning, both speaking and sitting in many, many, many talks over the years.

DSG: Those points will be super helpful for our readers. Now let’s get even more personal. Will you share one of your most memorable experiences as a speaker?

DS: I was doing this fun TV spot about cheese on Valentine’s Day instead of chocolate. It was on CNN and I thought it was going really well, and then towards the end, the anchor said, “I got to tell you, Deanna, I hate cheese, I can’t stand it. I think it smells gross. I’m not lactose intolerant, I just don’t like cheese.” I’m thinking, are you kidding? I just talked to you about how it was sponsored by the Dairy Association. You’re sitting here saying how much you don’t like it, oh my God.

I said, “I think you’re in the minority because I reported that 1.5 million people voted that they would rather get cheese than chocolate on Valentine’s Day,” and I moved on from there. But it still shocks me to this day when I think about it.

DSG: How did you learn not to let unexpected things like that throw you off?

DS: I think it’s my media training. It helps me remember I may have one person in the audience who disagrees with me, but they’re only one person. I realize I’ll never please everyone. I’m speaking to many, many, many people and the one person who disagrees is not my target audience.

DSG: Well said. What other advice do you give to new and aspiring speakers?

DS: There are so many more opportunities than ever before to get into the world of speaking! I’m from the dinosaur age when you could do a talk in front of people and that was it. Now you can podcast, live stream on social media – you can create your own platform instead of waiting for someone to invite you. It’s amazing what you can do on your own! And if you don’t think it was great, just delete it.

DSG: This has been absolutely fabulous. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Interested in booking Deanna for your next event? Visit her website Teaspoon of Spice!

Follow her on Facebook @TeaspoonOfSpice, Twitter @tspbasil, Instagram @tsp_basil, LinkedIn @DeannaSegraveDaly, Youtube @DeannaSegraveDaly, and Pinterest @TeaspoonOfSpice.

 

Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker Robin Plotkin

As a teen scooping ice cream, Board Mama founder Robin Plotkin was already setting the stage for a decades-long career in food marketing, business coaching and culinary nutrition. Read on as she dishes about her family legacy of entrepreneurialism and serves up the ingredients for successful professional speaking:

DSG: How did you develop your Unique Speaking Platform?

RP: This is one of the biggest challenges for dietitians – figuring out how to separate yourself from the pack of everybody else. My uniqueness is in the fact that I come from a family of entrepreneurs and a family of risk takers, and everyone in my family has started their own business. So talking about how to start your own business, how to handle what feel like failures along the way, and what to do, what not to do is a natural fit for me.

It took me a while to look outside the culinary sphere where I was working and recognize that dietitians need to learn these skills, because they came so naturally to me. So over the years, my platform and topics have changed. These days my speaking platform is oriented toward business-focused skills for dietitians – marketing, branding, finding the job you want, the career you want, those types of things. It evolved from the kind of coaching I had been doing at lot of over the last several years – coaching newer dietitians, or those who are looking to change their focus mid-career, looking for something new. I was doing a lot of coaching on those topics so it was a natural progression to build those into speaking topics.

DSG: This seems to be a common thread among dietitians – it’s easy to gloss over your special talents without realizing that the same skills don’t come as easily to everyone. As your platform evolved, has your speaking style evolved as well?

RP: Yes, definitely. My idea of a great presentation has changed over the years. Just by the nature of being a dietitian, we’re so used to throwing information at people as fast and furiously as we can. So initially when I started out, that’s what it was – very, very heavily word-based slides, lots of information, lots of words. I might have had a hundred and twenty slides and I would struggle to get it down to eighty. It’s morphed into something much more visual with much more storytelling. The slides are just my triggers, to get me to the next concept I want to talk about. I think because of the way I’ve changed, today I’m a more effective speaker.

DSG: What advice can you give to a dietitian who’s not comfortable without those data-packed slides?

RP: I certainly think statistics and hardcore book facts are important and there’s a place for them, but the storytelling aspect really helps get your points across. Use real life examples, lots of optics and visuals and photos, or maybe don’t even use slides. Of course that depends on how comfortable you are speaking. As a coach, I feel obligated to say that speaking is not for everyone, and that’s OK. If speaking isn’t in your wheelhouse, or it’s just too uncomfortable, or you’ve tried to improve and it’s not working, it’s okay to not be a speaker. You can find other outlets to share your knowledge and your information and your passion. Because the world needs writers and podcasters and bloggers and teachers, too.

DSG: That’s such a good point. What else have you learned the hard way?

RP: Well, I’ll tell you, one of the first talks that I did was to a group of dietitians and dietary managers, and it was the largest audience I’d had at the time – probably 150 people. There was a dietitian sitting in the front row who would shake her head “no” at me every time I brought up a new concept, like I was saying something wrong. She had her arms crossed and was really giving off a lot of negative feedback, and it really started to rattle me,  I was able to get through the presentation but for more than half of my talk, I had built up in my mind that this person was going to come after me and attack and disagree with everything I had said. So to nip that in the bud, I went up to her afterward and asked her what she thought about the talk. I told her I had noticed she was shaking your head in earnest when I was talking and I was wondering if she disagreed with me.

She said, “Oh, no, I was in total agreement with you.” I was floored. She literally said, “Absolutely everything you said, I completely agreed with you. I couldn’t believe all these people were doing all these different kinds of diets that got so out of control.” So she was shaking her head about the things I was talking about, but not at me in the way I had assumed. Can you imagine thinking someone is hating every word you say, and in reality she was in 100% agreement. That is something I will never, ever forget. It was early in my speaking career and I didn’t have the confidence that everyone doesn’t have to agree with me. But I learned that you can never know what your audience members are thinking unless you have the conversation with them. It’s tough to read them. So I would encourage other speakers, if you think that somebody is in disagreement, go up and ask them, because in my case, it would have eaten me alive had I not done that.

DSG: You’re full of good advice. What about getting paid? What’s your philosophy of charging to speak?

RP: If you want to get paid, you’ve got to be a good speaker. It’s not enough that I’m a business owner and entrepreneur and that I’ve done all the things that I’m talking about, it’s the delivery as well. Not everybody is a good speaker starting out, including me. I knew the information, but to be a credible speaker I needed the experience and the feedback to improve and so on. It took some time to become a good speaker, and only after that did I feel comfortable charging. Initially, I put a lot of sweat equity into my talks. I was interested in building my speaking career and building up my speaking resume, so I took any opportunity to speak. I didn’t feel comfortable charging for my talks until I became a proficient and confident speaker, and then I had no problem charging at all. The best advice I was given is to give your price and shut up. Don’t say anything else. If a client can afford you, then great. If they can’t, then that’s an opportunity for you to either negotiate or walk away. And there’s nothing wrong with either one of those things.

DSG: I think we may have interviewed the very speaker who gave you that advice! Do you have a tried and true approach to evaluations, too?

RP: Early in my career, I used to look at evaluations to make sure that people liked me, and liked what I was doing and what I would say. As the years went on, what I looked for more was when someone would say, “Here are the things I’m going to do after Robin’s talk,” or “She taught me these three things and this is how I can apply the information she gave me today, tomorrow.” Anytime someone says, “I can apply this immediately to my life, my career, my goals,” that is really memorable to me because that is MY goal – to be able to give somebody tactical, practical information that they can use tomorrow to make an impact.

DSG: Any other advice for readers who want to develop their speaking skills?

RP: I would say buy A Dietitian’s Guide to Professional Speaking, obviously. It’s great. And I would also encourage people to go to as many presentations as they can so that they can see all of the different styles of presenters that are out there. Don’t just watch TED talks online, go to actual live presentations, see what you can expect at a free talk versus a paid talk, and spend some time honing your own presentation style by seeing what else is out there.

DSG: Thank you for sharing your best tips with our readers.

Interested in bringing Robin to your event? Learn more at her website, RobinPlotkin.com.

For info on Board Mama charcuterie and barkcuterie, including virtual groups and classes for kids, visit BoardMama.com.

You can also find Robin on Facebook @robinplotkinrdld , Instagram @robinsbite, Twitter @robinsbite, and Pinterest @robinsbite.

Have you heard Robin present? Share your comments below.

Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker Alexandra Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Dietitian Speaker who knows how to pivot. From growing her speaking niche to adapting to covid life, read on for her take on professional speaking and why it’s good to feel uncomfortable.
DSG: Tell us about your Unique Speaking Platform and how it developed.

AC: I love speaking! I know some people say public speaking makes them nervous, but being in front of an audience has never been difficult for me. I’ve always enjoyed performing and feel like speaking is an extension of that. I did a lot of small group presentations when I was a Sports Dietitian for a D1 [NCAA Division 1 College] program and evolved from there. I moved into webinar presentations for various companies and national magazines and then eventually to conferences.

I’ve also diversified my message over the years; I started out speaking on sports nutrition and eating disorders in athletes and have moved to pediatrics and plant-based nutrition as my interests evolve.

DSG: How did COVID-19 affect your speaking career?

AC: In 2020, my speaking focus completely changed to podcasts instead of live events and conferences. I’m really loving the podcast landscape and getting to tailor my message to various audiences without a lot of prep work like I would if I was presenting for a webinar or conference. Podcasts are much more conversational and being able to do them without travel has allowed me to speak much more often than I had in the past.

DSG: It sounds like you’ve really found a silver lining. Fabulous. What about the financial side of speaking? How did you make the transition from speaking as part of your job to paid speaking?

AC: I’m thankful to have had great mentors early in my career that allowed me to understand my value and my worth. That’s not to say that I didn’t cut my teeth doing plenty of low-pay and free gigs; there’s a certain freedom that comes from not being paid and continuing to evolve and become better. Once I realized that my message was unique and my experience had value, I became more comfortable in addressing payment. I know money can be tricky, and that’s usually a larger gendered issue. My husband also speaks at national conferences and the conversations he’s able to have around payment are much different than mine. You’ll get more comfortable as you go. As one of my mentors told me early on, if you’re a little uncomfortable with what you’re asking for, that’s a good sign.

DSG: That’s an amazing statement. It fits in with Jessica’s idea that discomfort isn’t the same as incompetence – even excellent speakers need to grow our comfort zones. What about speaking skills? What do you admire in a speaker when you’re in the audience?

AC: Someone who can read the room as they speak, making adjustments as needed. Canned speeches that are too rehearsed are boring and don’t take the unique audience into view.

DSG: That’s really a sign of excellence, isn’t it? The ability to shift in response to the audience or the environment. Have you ever had an unexpected situation while speaking that you had to adjust to?

AC: I’ve had too many technical failures to count! The most memorable was when I was speaking at a popular dietitian conference and my presentation couldn’t load on their computer. Nothing like winging it when the props and media you were relying on were gone! It wasn’t the best speech, but wasn’t the worst either– the more comfortable you are with the material, the easier it is to go unscripted.

DSG: That’s great that you were able to press on without your tech – and it really hits home your point about being able to adapt on the fly. Any other words of wisdom for newer dietitian speakers?

AC: Do things that make you nervous. I’ve done a lot in the past decade and I attribute that to not being afraid to put myself out there. I apply for a lot of speaking opportunities that I don’t get, but I keep going. With the current media landscape, you don’t have to wait to be invited to become a speaker. Start practicing with IGTV, IG live, IG stories, etc. Host a FB live on a topic! Gone are the days where someone else decides that you get to speak on something you’re passionate about. Audiences are everywhere; find yours and speak to them.

DSG: That’s a great message to end on. Thank you!

Interested in hiring Alexandra for your next speaking event? Contact her through her website Delish Knowledge !

Follow her on social media: Facebook @DelishKnowledge, Instagram @delishknowledge, and Twitter @delishknowledge .

Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker Leslie Bonci

Leslie Bonci has a signature style that’s easy to spot: she hits home-runs with her puns and rhymes at the right times. Read on as she shares her favorite speaking topics and tips with DietitianSpeakingGuide.com.
DSG: Your way with words is one of a kind. When did you realize you were going to be a speaker?

LB: In graduate school we had to present as part of the course requirements. I found that I just loved being in front of an audience. I am all about performing and providing the edutainment. My goal is to get people engaged and be entertained while informed.

Communication is an art. Not just what we say, but how we say it. I spend a lot of time with athletes and it’s all about communication with demonstration for optimal application. I find speaking to be a natural extension of that one-on-one work: identifying a problem, brainstorming solutions and resonating with relevance.

DSG:  You’re excellent at blending engagement with your info. I bet that makes you a tough critic. What gets your attention when you’re in the audience?

LB: The things I find engaging are humor and authenticity, and a speaker who creatively uses props, soundbites and their voice to tell a compelling story.

DSG: What have you been speaking about recently?

LB: Some of my recent favorite sports nutrition talks have been Feed the Need, Fuels of Engagement, Sideline Guidelines (fueling during the pandemic), Fake News/Real Views, and then for RDs, Bites of Insight.

DSG: You never disappoint with your titles! How did COVID-19 change things for you?

 LB: I love to present in person, but 2020 was different. Luckily speaking can be done virtually – the key is to inform no matter the platform! But as a speaker, I thrive on eye contact and heads nodding. It’s impossible to gauge interest – or disinterest – virtually, so I have to find the way to keep myself engaged, inspired and excited when presenting on a virtual platform.

DSG: What are your thoughts on speaking for money versus as a volunteer? Any advice for someone who’s trying to make the transition?

LB: I think we all have done and need to continue to do pro bono work, but we also need to be remunerated for the services we provide. Doing presentations for free is a great way to practice, get some experience and also exposure, but typically it is a one and done for an organization. I won’t do free more than once to the same organization. Ask if the organization is willing to pay before you accept. Do ask other RDs what they would charge for similar types of presentations. It is also ok to say no.

DSG: You seem like such a positive person. Does anything about speaking get you down?

LB: It’s important to realize that not everyone is going to love you all the time. I did a talk for the sports medicine staff of the Ironman in Kona. Even though it was engaging and informative about nutrition for recovery, there were several members of the audience who called me a shill because it was sponsored by MilkPep for chocolate milk. Not cool. I focus on the victories – getting a standing ovation, the time someone came up after a presentation to invite me to speak in South Africa.

DSG: You’ve spoken around the world and had amazing experiences. Will you share some advice with aspiring speakers who want to emulate your career?

LB: When I was in grad school, one of my advisors told me don’t be funny – people will never take you seriously. Happy to say that I ignored that advice, because I do think humor has served me well in procuring and securing speaking engagements. Perseverance and patience are admirable traits. If you’re rejected the first time, ask why and try again. Constantly evaluate and make it better. Don’t give the same talk over and over again. It will show in your presentation style. If it’s not fun for you, it won’t be for the audience either. It’s all about the sell in your speak and tell!

DSG: Said in classic Leslie Bonci style! Thank you for these great ideas.

For more about Leslie and where and when she’ll be speaking next, visit…

Website ActiveEatingAdvice , Instagram @bncilj , Twitter @lesliebonci, and Facebook @LeslieBonci.

Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker Christine Palumbo

Christine Palumbo went from cheering for her high school and college to cheering on dietitians who want to work in communications. She’s also an energetic supporter of consumers in improving their nutrition habits. Plus she’s the only dietitian speaker we know who’s been a guest on Oprah. Read on as Christine shares her inspirations with DietitianSpeakingGuide.com.
DSG: You’re known for your enthusiasm when presenting. Tell us how you developed your Unique Speaking Platform.

CP: People like to be entertained during a presentation. While I’m an introvert, speaking to a live audience makes me feel alive. I’ve always enjoyed being on stage – during my ballet days, as a cheerleader, serving as a lector. During college I enjoyed doing demonstrations in class and later enjoyed teaching classes in my clinical nutrition positions. It’s important to make a talk enjoyable so that the audience leaves in a good mood.

DSG: What do you like in a speaker when you’re in the audience?

CP: I like a great speaker that hooks the audience right away and reels them in. The first thirty seconds of a presentation need to arouse interest in the topic, otherwise, there’s a risk the audience will be hunched over their phones. I like it when the speaker is authentic, humble and relatable, and the audience learns something and leaves with a smile on their faces. I don’t care for typical keynote presenters; usually they seem overly practiced and canned. A great presentation is like a great movie – when it’s over I haven’t once looked at the time or gotten the wiggles.

DSG: What a great analogy! What about pricing and fees? How do you navigate that aspect of speaking?Dietitian Speaker Christine Palumbo stands behind a podium presenting enthusiastically.

CP: Because every presentation is preceded by time for preparation, I’ve never felt shy about charging for them. After all, I’m delivering a great value! However, there are many instances when it feels like my expertise and ability to educate and entertain is not compensated adequately. Way too often, I’m expected to deliver for little or no compensation. When a cause is near and dear to my heart, I’m willing to waive my fee or charge a token. But I do find it challenging to wring out serious cash from organizations and companies that are being too stingy. When we cannot come to an agreement, I suggest they contact the local university for a dietetic student or a dietetic intern who is looking for speaking experience. I hope they get the message!

DSG: You’re an extremely experienced speaker, I imagine you take almost everything in stride. Does anything surprise you anymore?

CP: About 10 years ago an evaluation took me by surprise. While speaking at the Academy Food and Nutrition Conference & Expo, one of my slides depicted the White House vegetable garden that First Lady Michelle Obama had created. One evaluation read, “Promoting the First Lady as the Chief Nutritionist and showing her photo was inappropriate. I can think of many more appropriate examples of the love of organic gardening and well-toned biceps that would not have been so blatantly partisan. FNCE is not a political convention.” I was and am still stunned as I did not consider the slide political at all, simply a statement of fact. I didn’t voice my approval of it or put it down; I only stated that it was something new.

Dietitian Speaker Christine Palumbo presents to a group of dietitians.DSG: Wow. As Jessica says, evaluations often reflect more about the writer than the presentation, and the negative ones really stick in your mind. Let’s end on a positive note – what’s your favorite compliment?

I’ve had some delightful comments from the public, including “I lost weight just watching her.”

DSG: That’s quite a testimonial! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with our readers. For more about Christine, follow her on her social media: website ChristinePalumbo.com  Instagram @Christine_Palumbo, Facebook @ChristinePalumboNutrition, and Twitter @PalumboRD.

5 Times Speakers Must Speak Up Instead of Being Flexible

If you’ve read A Dietitian’s Guide to Professional Speaking, you know I’m a firm believer in going with the flow and making an impression as a flexible speaker. After giving a fantastic performance, being easy to work with is the next most important way to polish your reputation and be invited back.

The hotel elevator broke? You’ll hoof it up the stairs. The previous session ran long? You’ll tailor your remarks to whatever time remains. Flexibility without complaint endears you to your host, your audience, and especially the person who messed up.

There are a few notable exceptions where you have to either speak up and ask for what you need or refuse a request from your host, even if you’re afraid of seeming demanding or uncooperative. In these specific few cases it’s not just your option, it’s essential that you stick up for yourself, even at the risk of making waves. 

#1: The Situation Will Make You Sick

Your hotel room reeks of smoke and it’s making you nauseous; your salad has something on it that gives you stomach cramps – when something is going to make you ill, it should be super easy to ask for what you need. But the desire to be accommodating and not diva-licious can interfere with even common sense.

If you’re hesitant to speak up, channel your inner caregiver and imagine you’re asking for a friend. With utmost politeness, meet the task at hand. Ask for a different room, or could the kitchen please remake the salad. If at first you don’t succeed, ask to speak to someone else.

Once I arrived at a ballroom to check out the scenario about an hour before an all-day event. I walked to the dais where I would be presenting and realized the placement of the screen meant intense projector light was shining right into my eyes. Light and glare are my migraine triggers, and this was a definite recipe for pain.

I mentioned this to my host who suggested this was a molehill not a mountain. Not wanting to go over her head, I was immediately tempted to just let it go. But I knew that even if I got through the day, there would be hell to pay when the migraine hit. I found the hotel AV staff who figured out a set-up that worked much better.

#2: You’re Going to be Uncomfortable or Distracted

Your success as a presenter relies on giving your full attention to the task at hand, not halfway being distracted by the music in the background or worrying that someone can see up your dress. 

For a panel in a convention center, I walked into the ballroom and noticed the table on stage wasn’t draped. If I sat there in my dress, the audience would have an awkward view. Although my co-speakers encouraged me to just go with it, I knew I’d stress about keeping my legs and knees constantly crossed. I asked to speak with the person in charge who obtained a table covering from conference center staff.

I’m easily distracted by noise, so even soft piped-in background music will distract from what I’m trying to say. I’ve noticed this in smaller hotels where they’re more used to social functions than speaking events, and in restaurants with private rooms. Usually a waiter can turn the music off, but on occasions they tell me it can’t be done, I just ask for a manager. Sometimes “It can’t be done” is code for “I don’t know how” or “I don’t have the authority.”

I’m sure there are situations that can’t be changed. But you owe it to yourself to make the effort and at least a little way go up the chain of command.

#3: It Seems Potentially Unsafe

It’s not an emergency, but it’s a worry. You notice an emergency exit is blocked, someone potentially suspicious is lurking around, there’s a noxious smell of unclear origin. It’s bothering you but you’re not sure it’s important. 

Go ahead and bring it up to your host or staff and let them investigate. Explain you don’t want to ruffle feathers, but you’ll feel better if someone could look into it. You don’t even need them to report back, you just wanted to tell someone. This isn’t demanding; it’s detail-oriented, and sets the stage for a successful talk.

#4: Boundary Violations or Feeling Pressured

Any situation that feels inappropriate or triggers your internal warning system is a situation you should leave. The reason you give is less important than just getting out. You can make an excuse, offer an alternative, or simply say, “I’ve got to go.” If someone else’s feelings are hurt, that’s about them.

Interpersonal boundary breaches can be slippery and hard to spot until you’re right in the middle of them. You often don’t detect them up until the very moment they cross the line. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve agreed to already. Once you realize you want out, it’s time to make your move.  

Going out with colleagues the night before your talk can be a welcome distraction. If you feel pressured to stay when you’re ready to go, it can be tempting to go along with the crowd. Don’t. Either take a stand or just slip out, but don’t risk being grouchy or tired because you drank too much or stayed out all night. 

Meeting with the conference organizer to go over the schedule is routine. When you get to their hotel room and they’re waiting in their bathrobe, Houston, we have a problem. As you walk away, say you must have mistaken the meeting time and you’ll wait in the lobby until they get dressed. Alternately just walk away.

Your number one job is take care of yourself. Anyone who puts that at risk is someone you don’t need to worry about offending, but it doesn’t always feel that way. Your professional side wants everyone to like you. Not just in the sense of wanting to fit in; also because good relationships with peers and people in charge lead to recommendations, referrals, and ultimately more work.

Experienced perpetrators exploit that fact and are ready to take advantage of it, and you. Peer pressure is often easier to deflect than the person who makes you question your own judgment, professionalism or morals. They may try to rewrite history, or tell you you’re in the wrong. I hope this never happens to you. But if it does, please, PLEASE speak about it with someone you trust, someone who can assure you that it was not your fault.

#5: An Unexpected Change You’re Unwilling to Accommodate

Anything that deviates from your written agreement requires a discussion rather than a unilateral decision.

Let’s say you’re scheduled to speak at 1pm and you find out you’ve been moved to 4. You potentially could make your flight, but it’s going to be tight, especially with traffic. You’re tempted to roll with the punches to keep everyone happy, but internally you’re stressing out.

Consider your options to the extent you can. If you’re willing to stay later than planned, check online or call the airline to see if your flight can be changed, and if there’s room on a later flight (if there even is a later flight). If it means spending an extra night, ask the hotel if there’s a room available. Consider talking through your thoughts with a friend or colleague on-site or at home to determine if a) the change is feasible and you’re just annoyed, or b) if it’s actually a no-go and you need to push back.

Once you’ve determined which options you can live with, find your host or the person in charge and ask to discuss the situation privately. Let them know what you’ve learned about alternate travel plans and what they will cost the organization, or explain that you simply can’t take the chance of not making your flight. Stress that you’ll be happy to present at the original time if that’s still an option, and let them know what time you would need their decision.

Hopefully in most situations, it will be clear what route you want to take, and the majority of the time small changes will work out. But you are ultimately the captain of your ship and need to be consulted about things that affect your performance.

There are lots of things you can tolerate as a speaker, and several things you shouldn’t have to. You may be tempted to grin and bear an unsatisfactory situation or “Make it work!” as Tim Gunn would say. But that endangers the whole reason you came. Don’t take a chance on muddling through your talk when something is wrong that can be fixed. If it’s a choice between seeming demanding and doing a bad job, you simply can’t take the risk.

Have you had a speaking situation where you mustered your courage to rock the boat? A time you look back on and wish you had spoken up more strongly? How did it turn out? I’d love to read your experiences if you’ll comment below. And if you have a specific situation you’d like to talk over, send me a message at Jessica@DietitianSpeakingGuide.com and let’s set up a time to talk.

4 Free Ways to Make An Online Audience Feel Welcome Before Your Presentation Even Starts!If you thrive on the excitement of public speaking, presenting online can feel impersonal and even lonely.

You don’t have the instant feedback of audience reactions, you can’t gauge the energy in the room or make eye contact, and it’s a challenge to recreate the enthusiasm you feel in front of a live crowd.

Attendees of a virtual event can feel equally detached. Instead of trading their daily routine for a live, attention-grabbing event, they’re watching a screen with all the distractions of home or office or coffee shop around them. There’s no excited buzz of anticipation from other attendees, and if it’s a large group, they’re probably painfully aware of their status as a tiny square on your screen – or even worse, just a number in your head count.

Next time you’re prepping an online presentation, consider how you can bring warmth and personality to the technological aspects of the event. I pooled my ideas with suggestions from Rebecca Morgan, who does coaching and master classes on enlivening virtual meetings. Each of the ideas below can help attendees feel valued and welcome from the get-go, and none of them costs a cent.

Pro Tip #1: Personalize the Passcode

Using the random password auto-generated by your platform sends a message – the message that no one cares.

Instead choose a code that sets your desired tone – a word or phrase that relates to your topic, your business name, the sponsor, or something inspirational like “ExcitedToBeHere!” or “RDsRock”.

Pro Tip #2: Invite Information

In your confirmation letter, ask participants to email you back a photo with a few lines about their work experience and what they hope to learn from the event. Compile the responses and print them to review in advance and refer to while you present. (An easy shortcut: send a blank slide template with space for a pic and prompts for the information, then compile the responses into one document.)

Of course this will help you target your talking points, and it benefits the general vibe of the event, too. It sends the message that you want to know more about your attendees than just their screen name, and that you’re interested in meeting their needs.

You’ll be able to call on participants by name during your talk, or refer to something they mentioned, both of which increase the relatability of your speech versus using random examples or pleading for volunteers.

If your presentation is a longer-term event, such as a week-long workshop or ongoing course, or alternately a short event where they need to get comfortable with each other ASAP in order to be productive, consider asking participants for permission to share their bio and photo with others. (Set a deadline for submissions so that you’ll have time to compile the doc and send it back out before game time.)

The ability to review this info in advance and refer to it during your presentation will ramp up familiarity between participants, help them feel more comfortable sharing their challenges out loud, and improve productivity in partner activities and breakout rooms. It also saves all the time and annoyance of asking people to introduce themselves live when they’d really rather hear from you.

Pro Tip #3: Make Waiting Welcome

Insert a slide at the very beginning of your presentation that includes:

  • The title of your event and your name
  • A welcoming message from your host or you personally
  • A list of materials the participants need or might want to have handy (with links to where to get them if appropriate)
  • Instructions on how to submit questions and how/when they will be answered
  • Instructions for getting technical help during the call
  • Tips that will help them use the platform
  • Any prompts or questions you’d like your audience to be thinking about

10 minutes before the official start time, load your presentation to the first slide, share your screen, mute your computer, and click Start.

Now participants who log on early will know they’re in the right place at the right time, instead of seeing the generic “The meeting will start when the host arrives” message and worrying about it. You’ve rewarded the early birds and even encouraged others to log on early for your future events.

Pro Tip #4: Don’t Take Privacy Personally

Accept that there are many reasons people don’t turn on their cameras, and none are about you:

  • Embarrassment about a modest or messy living situation
  • Family members or housemates with poor interpersonal boundaries
  • Didn’t feel like getting dressed just to sit in bed and watch you talk
  • Simply wanting to keep home life private
  • And yes, sometimes multitasking while you speak.

Let it go, and definitely don’t judge or nag. Criticizing an attendee who just wants to listen is a sure way to make them feel unwelcome.

It’s so worth it to spend a few extra minutes warming up the typically sterile virtual environment. I’d love to hear what you do when you present online to help your audience feel welcome.

Presentation Perfect Timing - Foolproof Steps & A Secret Weapon to Always End Your Talks On Time with an image of a woman holding a clock

Keeping your presentations to their allotted time is crucial to your reputation as a professional speaker. It’s too important to leave to chance because it affects your credibility, your ratings and your chance of getting hired.

Whether it’s preschoolers or diplomats, every audience has a limit and eventually resents a speaker who overstays their welcome. You never want to choose between racing to the end, taking extra time, or squeezing out the Q&A to fit in your remarks, because you’ll alienate the crowd, distress your host, and irk any panelists onstage with you.

Luckily you can prevent all of this when you right-size your remarks for any session length.  Use these seven steps and bonus strategy to prepare, plan, and most importantly, end on time, EVERY time.

Pro Tip #1: Clarify Expectations

Before you even plan your talk, find out the time you’ll have to actually speak. Ask your host/the event planner what to expect, such as:

  • Do the sessions typically start on time, or is there usually a grace period while people file in?
  • Are there perfunctory announcements (“housekeeping”) before you jump in?
  • Will you be introduced by an emcee, introduce yourself, or just begin with your speech?
  • Will there be questions from the audience at the end of your session? At the end of the event? How much time is allowed?
  • Is there anything else on the session agenda that you need to expect or allow time for?
    • Introductions of VIPs or officers?
    • Scheduled or unscheduled breaks?
    • Remarks from a sponsor?
    • Giving of awards or thanking volunteers?
    • Handing out evaluations?
    • Anything else?
    • And most importantly, has the time for these things already been accounted for in the session, or do you need to deduct them from your own speaking time?
  • If there are other speakers in the session:
    • What if they run long? Are you expected to compensate by shortening your remarks? Or do they deduct from Q&A time?
    • Will there be a moderator keeping track of time?
    • Can you speak with them in advance or practice together virtually?

You can’t control every variable, of course, but covering what you can in advance leaves your headspace free to handle anything that comes up last minute.

Pro Tip #2: Cover Less, Accomplish More

Even teaching a year-long course, you’ll never cover every detail. It’s even less realistic in a half-day workshop, hour, or even briefer session.

Make your peace with it and prioritize. Choose only the most essential talking points – those you’re known for or like best, the most immediately useful, or whatever you’re required to present.

If you’re not sure which areas to highlight, ask your host to choose. List five topics and ask which three to touch on lightly, or if they prefer you can focus on one.

If they want all the info and you know it can’t be done, don’t get frustrated, get excited! Can you add a second time-slot? Meet again next month? Divide up into workgroups? Just don’t agree to an impossible task and try to make it work.  Imagine your speech is a suitcase. If you stuff it to the gills, there’s a chance of overflow. And no one wants to see your underwear all over baggage claim.

Speaking of things everyone will see…

Pro Tip #3: Streamline Any Visual Aids

Audiences HATE when you don’t cover your material. And how do they know? Because you put it on your slide. Be prepared to cover every single line that you put on the screen, or face the harsh evaluations that tell you how you failed.

The best way to keep the peace? Design your slides to send a general message, not show your entire speech onscreen.  Use images or words that relate to your theme and reinforce your words.

When you’ve made your point, move on without anyone feeling robbed. Include references (or even better – links to your books and other products!) for anyone who wants to learn more.

Pro Tip #4: Allot Time Per Section

I’m sure you rehearsed your speech to see how long the whole thing takes and whittled it down if necessary. Now practice it section by section so you can time each topic, part or slide.

Jot down on your notes or make a separate card that tells you where you need to be at each 10-minute mark, or divide and allot a number of minutes to adequately cover each topic.

Then on presentation day, you can keep your eye on the time and slow down or speed up depending on when you hit your marks. This will also help you pace yourself if you tend to rush or go off on tangents.

Pro Tip #5: Plan to Be Delayed

Plan to have less time to talk than you’re officially given, even with the modifications you’ve already made. Everything takes longer than planned, especially when other people are involved. At both live and virtual events, there are often snafus that deduct precious moments from your time in the spotlight.

Whether you’re speaking in a venue or online, check when you arrive that the agenda is on schedule (or not). If anything has changed, it’s your job to make it work, even if it has nothing at all to do with you.

Be prepared for unexpected but manageable delays by underfilling your time. That way when the host waits a few minutes for attendees to settle, the previous speaker keeps yammering too long, or tech support takes time getting everything online, you won’t be panicking or hurriedly crossing out your notes.

(Note: Significant delays require Plan B. See Someone Stole My Time – Now What?)

Pro Tip #6: Try Out Your Tech

Dress-rehearsals are helpful for ANY live event, whether it’s on-site or on-bedroom. Take every opportunity to run-through the schedule, check your sound, test a new camera, install a new app – everything down to your new slide-clicker – before your presentation day.

You’re trying to eliminate anything that could slow your pace, distract you, or derail you while you talk. You’ve already put in so much time to keeping your talk on track; it would be a shame if something preventable kept you from covering an essential point.

And yes, I know, there will often be glitches you couldn’t foresee – sun flares, auto-updates, your cat threw up in your special chair – but anything you handle in advance can’t drain drops of precious presentation time or throw off your timetable.

Pro Tip #7: Bring A Timepiece

Lots of venues have countdown clocks or timers, and sometimes volunteers to flag you down with hand signals or flash a “Wrap up!” sign. But there may not be a clock where you present, and you can’t assume it’ll have the correct time.

Can you imagine halfway through your talk realizing the clock hands haven’t moved? (Actually happened. I lived through it. But still. Lesson learned.)

With your own clock, watch or phone, you’re in control of where you put it, it’s the same as when you practice, and there’s no chance your volunteer will get distracted and forget to wave. I prefer a timepiece over a countdown app, simply because the most important data for me is the time I need to end. As with everything, use the method that’s best for you.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 = Success!

There’s one final thing that can interfere with all of this: worrying you’ll be SO efficient that you’ll finish too soon, with excess time to spare. No one will have questions, so you’ll stand there on the stage, alone and super awkward, clasping your hands together, shrugging in a “What do we do now?” gesture. In the perfect silence you’ll get the clear message: everyone’s disappointed.

I suspect this is unlikely. First of all, when was the last time you were upset a lecture ended early? I mean as great of a speaker as you certainly are, everyone else has places to be. But more pertinent, people typically have more questions than time to ask them, so they’ll probably be delighted to have extra Q&A.

But if you’re even a little worried that underfilling and over-planning will leave you on stage with time to spare, you might be tempted to put in extra slides. It’s classic overpacking to make sure you have enough; a reverse kind of stage fright, and equally upsetting.

To help you fight that urge, I present you with:

The Foolproof Secret Sauce of Perfect Presentation Timing

All you have to do is plan and prepare one (or more!) secret things – i.e. they aren’t on the official agenda – to keep in your back pocket that no one will miss. For example:

  • A true story from your life that reiterates your major point
  • A funny anecdote that relates your topic to current events of the day
  • An invitation for an audience member to role-play a situation with you, or with another participant
  • A demonstration of how you’d do something you talked about
  • Lead the audience in an experiential activity
  • A case-study where you describe a situation and audience members share how they’d handle it based on what they learned from you today
  • Pair off and discuss a topic you assign, or exchange emails with your neighbor and agree to recap in a month on how you utilized this information
  • Breakout groups to each solve a different problem and report back their ideas
  • Ask audience volunteers how they’ll take the info presented today and use it back at work
  • A surprise presentation for your host or someone in the group, or a raffle of your book or product
  • A game of charades or pictionary using prompts related to your topic
  • A jeopardy or trivia game related to your topic (always nice to bring prizes)
  • A special poem or reading or demonstration of your special talent

or anything else – LITERALLY anything else – that won’t be missed if you don’t have time. If time is short, you just exclude it, and no one ever has to know.

That way if you need to fill some extra time – unlikely as it is, but you really never know – instead of feeling stressed you’ll feel excited to reinforce your message with the extra activity and end your session on a high note.  Who knows, maybe you’ll plan such a meaningful or fun activity that you’ll decide to plan it in to your next presentation! 

I’d love to know how you’re doing with timing, and what you come up with for your secret bonus activity. Let me know in the comments below.

And if you do better with one-on-one advice, email me to set up a time that we can talk.

Jessica Setnick is the author of A Dietitian's Guide to Professional Speaking: Expert Advice for Pitching, Presenting & Getting Paid

Making Dollars and Sense of Nutrition News: Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker Neva Cochran

Dietitian Speaker Neva Cochran says Being paid has become more the norm than the exception.

Combatting nutrition misinformation is dietitian speaker Neva Cochran’s cup of tea. Read on as she shares with DietitianSpeakingGuide how she infuses media communications experience into her presentations.
DSG: You’re such an experienced speaker, it’s hard to picture you starting out. Tell us your origin story.

NC: I was the first dietitian in a new hospital where the staff were excited to have a nutrition expert devoted to patients. They invited me to speak to the Breathe Easy Club for chronic pulmonary disease patients, then cardiac rehab and diabetes groups, Internal Medicine staff, an ICU nurses training workshop, a cardiovascular nurses’ seminar, and others. As I became known in the area, I was invited to present to students at the two neighboring universities and to a variety of community groups.

DSG: How did you settle on your Unique Speaking Platform?

NC: It depended on the work I was doing and interests I had at the time. I became a state media representative for the Texas Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, and that led to my first professional presentation to colleagues, “Moving Your Media Message” at the 1986 Texas Academy Conference. That created more opportunities to speak about dietitians working with media which continued after I became a national Academy spokesperson. Combatting nutrition misinformation is a topic I’ve been passionate about over the years, so I keep updating it. I’ve had three distinct presentations: Nutrition: Sense and Nonsense; Nutrition News You Can Use: What’s Hot, What’s Not; and Eating Beyond the Headlines: Sorting Evidence from Emotion.

DSG: How did you transition from volunteer to paid speaker?

NC: The first presentation I recall being paid for was about 10 years into my career at another state Academy’s conference. I don’t recall the amount, but they offered it to me as the standard rate they paid speakers, and I accepted. That set the stage for being paid for presentations to state Academy groups, but I still presented without compensation for local dietitian and other community groups. Over the past 10 years, being paid has become more the norm than the exception. Once I began consulting with food, nutrition and agricultural organizations, they were willing to sponsor me to speak before professional audiences. Now I’m comfortable asking to be paid because I have a track record of success and am well-known as a good speaker.

DSG: Do you have any advice about charging for a dietitian who hasn’t gotten the hang of it yet?

NC: My go-to colleague for pricing advice shared his thoughts with me about getting paid adequately for speaking. When he’s offered an honorarium or fee less than he believes is appropriate, he tells the meeting planner, “That’s the fee for an entry-level dietitian. I’ll help you find one.” If they really want HIM and not just any dietitian, they will rethink their fee. My advice to new dietitian speakers (and I just had this conversation with one last week!), is to remind them that the organization is not just paying for them to regurgitate facts and information. They are paying for your knowledge, reputation and ability to inspire an audience in their field of expertise. They have to think beyond just an hourly rate to the value their presence on the program brings – things like drawing in attendees and lending credibility to the organization putting on the conference.

DSG: Yes! There’s much more than just the time on stage. The other side of the coin is delivering the value to back up that fee. When you’re in the audience, what differentiates the excellent speakers from the so-so?

Dietitian Speaker Neva Cochran films a cooking demo in her kitchen.

NC: The ability of the presenter to capture the attention of, engage with and keep the audience’s attention. Might I even add, entertain them! Telling stories about your own experiences and those of other RDNs or clients (of course, observing HIPAA regulations!) helps bring a topic and concepts to life. In addition, really knowing your topic and being able to deliver it in a confident and relatable way is essential. Finally, fielding questions well is crucial.

DSG: That’s a great subject right there – how do you handle questions from the audience when you don’t know in advance what they’ll ask?

NC: I make sure I know my topic really well so that I can answer most any question about it, and my media training helps me define the most important information and distill it down to the key messages.

DSG: You seem to be ready for anything. How do you handle when things go wrong?

NC: Travel delays even within the state can be an issue. I’ve become adept at walking in right at presentation time and getting started. Audiovisual problems are the most common – audio from another session coming through the speakers, projector incompatibility, video won’t play, there’s no screen to project onto. Once in a restaurant I took a painting down and projected onto the white brick wall. I just persevere and make it through.

DSG: What has been your most memorable speaking engagement?

Professional Dietitian Speaker Neva Cochran presents to the Texas Woman's University commencent

NC: I was so honored to be invited to be the commencement speaker for the Texas Woman’s University College of Health Sciences in May 2016. My topic was “Make Opportunities, Take Opportunities, Walk through Fear.”

DSG: Wow, a true career highlight, and what an inspiring title. Thank you for sharing your path with us.

Have you heard Neva Cochran speak? We’d love to read your comments below.

To learn more about Neva, visit www.NevaCochranRD.com.

Follow Neva on Twitter @NevaRDLD, Facebook @NevaRDLD, Instagram @nevardld, LinkedIn @NevaCochran, and YouTube @NevaCochran.

Recipe for Presentation Success: Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker Liz Weiss

Dietitian Speaker Liz Weiss says People can only absorb so much. Focus on what you really came to say. More from Liz in this week's speaker spotlight at dietitian speakers dot com.

Dietitian speaker Liz Weiss blended culinary training with a love of family meals into a smooth speaking career. But there have been a few lumps in the batter. Read on as DSG gets the scoop.
DSG: You have a great reputation as a dietitian advisor on family-friendly recipes. How did you develop that niche?

LW: Family nutrition and family meals are the topics I’m most excited about as a dietitian, so I created my niche in the family nutrition space by utilizing every form of media I could think of – a blog, cookbook, podcast, coloring books and presentations, both to consumers and professionals. I cover the benefits, barriers and strategies for making family meal-time happen more often. My other expertise is in the world of the culinary arts. I’m a graduate of the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and I love cooking. I give a lot of cooking demonstrations on television and videos that are broadcast in doctors’ offices, and my signature professional workshop is How to Give a Culinary Demo, including do’s, don’ts, and how-to’s. Blending these two topic areas into all areas of media and speaking is very rewarding. It’s a lot of fun but it’s a lot of work, too.

DSG: Knowing how to charge for presentations isn’t intuitive for lots of RDs. How do you make your decisions about fees?

LW: Charging for giving a lecture really depends on who the audiences is. If I’m speaking to a group of dietitians, say at an annual dietetics conference, that’s going to be a different fee compared to, say, giving a lecture to a group of parents at a pre-school. Therefore, the first question I always ask when I’m approached to give a talk is, “What’s your budget?” Sometimes a school district or pre-school or cooking school might already have a budget for speakers, and it’s either you take it or you leave it. But in the example of the dietetics conference, I might not even expect to be paid by the conference. I’ll bring in an organization that I’ve teamed up with, for example the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, and when I’m pitching myself, I’ll include that I’m on that organization’s speaker’s bureau and they’ll cover my fee and my travel expenses.

DSG: It sounds like you’re really comfortable with the process. Any advice for a newer dietitian speaker who’s still working on their pricing strategy?

LW: There are certainly different ways to get into it. It really depends who you’re talking to, whether you have a sponsor, and what are the other kinds of value that you’re looking for at this stage in your career. Start with, “What’s your budget?” and go from there. Sometimes you want to give a talk in your local community because you’re trying to build your business and your reputation, so even if they only offer a nominal fee, it’s going to be worth it to you because there’s another kind of value. If you’re speaking to a group of dietitians at an annual dietetics conference, there are other kinds of value to giving the talk – building your brand, gaining more clients, gaining more customers. You always have to weigh that in.

DSG: You and Jessica have that in common – looking for value beyond the financial transaction. Now let’s turn the situation around. When you’re in the audience, what qualities do you like to see in a presentation?

LW: Three things. I always like a presentation that’s framed more like a story. Storytelling is so much more interesting than just sharing facts, figures, graphs and complicated slides. I much prefer getting a story, hearing about patients, hearing stories from patients, hearing success stories, hearing stories from the road. I was recently at a really interesting presentation about pork: how pork is raised, how pork has changed over the years, sustainability. What I loved about the session is that the person giving the presentation was a farmer, not a scientist. That personal element made him relatable. And I thought, “This guy’s really the expert because he’s the farmer and he lives this every single day, personally and professionally.” So, weaving in your stories, letting people get to know you and your work is really important because we want to make our talks relevant and reliable.

The second thing is it’s fun and interesting to break things up, so you’re not just showing slide after slide after slide. I like breaking things up perhaps with some video or interesting Q and A, sharing with the audience, or just really fun visuals. You just don’t want to be boring people with too many slides.

That’s my third thing that makes a good presentation: minimal slides. As dietitians, we want to get every fact and figure across to our audience, but people can only absorb so much and there’s nothing more annoying than a slide that’s got tiny, tiny print on it. Researchers are notorious for showing those tiny graphs, and in the time it takes an average person to read it and understand it, they’ve moved on. You really can’t emphasize it enough. If you’re going to have slides, you’ve got to have the right number and they’ve got to be easy to read. So, keep the slides to a minimum and focus on what you really came to say. That’s what makes a good presentation.

DSG: So you know what you like and don’t like in other speakers. How do you implement those three things when you’re on stage?

Dietitian Speaker Liz Weiss

LW: In How to Give a Culinary Demo I talk about cooking on television, and I talk about bloopers, because those stories weave in a personal perspective. In a presentation on the benefits of family meal-time, I’ll frame it as a story, weaving in my personal perspective as well as other people, so it’s not just “Here’s what research shows.” What was it like when I was growing up? What was it like when my husband was growing up? What was it like when I was raising my boys? What kinds of feedback do I hear about from my blog readers and my online community? Weaving in all those personal answers and anecdotes gives life to the research that shows when families eat together, they X, Y and Z. Research is important, but I also want to give the audience the practical piece, and then shake it up and have some fun.

DSG: Speaking of stories, tell us a juicy one about a memorable presentation.

LW: Well. I had a snafu once where I was traveling from Atlanta to, I believe Minnesota, and I was speaking at the annual conference for the American School Food Service Association. I was giving the keynote, and I was speaking first thing in the morning. I had a connecting flight from Atlanta through Chicago to Minnesota, and I got stuck en route. I was on the last flight out of Atlanta – this is the night before the presentation – and my flight from Chicago to Minnesota was long gone. I had to sleep at the Chicago hotel airport and get up in the morning, fly to Minnesota, hop in a taxi and hope and pray I was going to get there in time. I barely made it. I can remember literally changing my clothes in the back of the taxi, pulling up pantyhose, because we all wore pantyhose back then, and running in to the venue. I don’t even remember a lot of what happened, but I remember very clearly, I was wearing an orange jacket, because when the curtain opened and I looked out, first of all there were a thousand people in the audience, and secondly the backdrop behind me was orange, so I basically blended right in! I was so rattled. I don’t know how the talk even came out, I just made it happen.

DSG: You are a true professional if you can give a talk under that scenario. Anything you do differently now, based on that experience?

LW: Definitely. First of all, I had no idea how many people were going to be in the audience because I never even asked. Sometimes we get so caught up in everything – we’re so busy – we don’t ask those basic fundamental questions. Had I known I was going to be on a giant stage with a thousand people, I might have asked a few questions, and I probably wouldn’t have taken the last flight out of Atlanta. Never take the last flight out and never travel the same day! So that was a big snafu. When it comes to planning, give yourself plenty of breathing room. Your presentation will be so much better because you won’t be putting your pantyhose on in the back of a taxi.

DSG: Oh Liz. Talk about lessons learned the hard way! What about evaluations? Do you have a memorable one, or any advice on how to handle a negative evaluation?

LW: Once I did a session at FNCE with another dietitian on how to give a culinary demo in person or on television. We both showed some clips of us doing cooking demos on TV. My co-presenter’s clip was a pretty big deal – a high-profile segment on a major TV network. I loved it. I thought she just knocked it out of the ballpark. Then when the evaluations came in, someone criticized her for having a French manicure. Something like, “If you’re doing a cooking demo, you shouldn’t have nail polish on.” It just goes to show you that people will be critical of you no matter what. You can be the best presenter, the most professional ever, and you’re always going to get one or two negative comments and you have to let go because people are people. People have opinions and you just have to do the best you can do. And certainly, if you were getting lots of comments like “she wasn’t prepared” then you’d want to reflect and change and learn from that. But you’re always going to get a few snarky comments and you have to just move on. Move on. Move on.

DSG: It’s great for our readers to hear that even as experienced as you are, it’s not all a bed of roses. What do you think is the biggest challenge for dietitian speakers overall?

LW: I think the biggest challenge is always how to take this huge body of information and then just narrow it down to 45 minutes, which is often how much time you have to speak, because you should always leave time for Q and A. So how do you take all of this material and streamline it? That to me is always the hardest part about giving a presentation. There are just so many directions you can go in. Another big challenge is really keeping the slides to a minimum. Because if you’re giving a 60-minute lecture and you have 60 slides, you’ve got a problem. You really have to time it out. My pet peeve is, whether I’m sitting on a webinar or listening to somebody in an actual session, if those slides and that presentation does not time out correctly, then I say to myself, that speaker is not prepared. That speaker didn’t time it out, practice to go over it. And when that happens, and the speaker is frantically now rushing through those slides or skipping slides and it starts to feel very frantic, then to me, that’s a big distraction. And it’s really unprofessional. Practice makes perfect, practice many times. Time it out. If you’re doing a webinar, type up a script, you can always go a little bit off script, but you have it in front of you and you know exactly what you’re going to say. You’re going to stay on target, stay on message, and you can stay on time because people’s time is really valuable. And so you need to respect that.

DSG: That’s great note to end on, THANK YOU for sharing all this great advice.

Have you heard Liz present? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Want to invite Liz to your next event? Contact her through her website, lizshealthytable.com.

Connect with Liz through her Facebook @LizsHealthyTable, Twitter @LizWeiss, Instagram @lizweiss, Pinterest @LizsHealthyTable, YouTube @LizsHealthyTable, and listen to her podcast @LizsHealthyTable.

You could find her products linked here: https://www.lizshealthytable.com/cookbooks/ 

 

From Fearless Feeding to Fearless Leading: Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker Jill Castle

Dietitian Speaker Jill Castle says There's an Art to Speaking. It's a craft to be honed.

Jill Castle’s recipe for speaking success? She mixed her expertise as a children’s hospital dietitian with her experiences as a mother of four, folded in a heaping helping of top-notch communication skills, and blended it all into books, courses, a TED talk, and a podcast. Read on as DietitianSpeakingGuide.com interviews our first Spotlight Speaker!
DSG: Tell us about the evolution of your Unique Speaking Platform.

JC: My speaking platform reflects my perspective on childhood nutrition on a larger, thought leader level as well as in micro-expertise areas. The Nutrition Prescription for Healthier Kids, which I presented at TEDx, is my signature talk, introducing what I call my “trifecta” of child feeding principles. My workshops and breakouts take thFearless Feeding: How to Raise Health Eaters from High Chair to High School By Jill Castlee main concepts of The Nutrition Prescription to a more experiential and specific level. For example, Nourished: A New Model for Raising Healthy Kids takes a deep dive into the same trifecta in either a half- or full-day workshop. My breakout sessions include the trifecta in the context of a specific topic update, like Attention Deficit Disorder or Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. And even when presenting on nutrition communications and speaking, I always weave in examples related to child feeding.

DSG: Pricing and payment are uncharted territory for dietitians starting to give talks. Do you have any advice for making the move from volunteer to professional speaker?

Dietitian Speaker Jill Castle

JC: I think with anything around asking for compensation, you need to wrap your head around a few things: what feels like a right price for the effort and expertise; what would be too low and not worth it; and what the market will bear. Then you make a decision to ask for what you want (and promise yourself you won’t back down). Prepare yourself for a “no” and be okay with that. For me, I initially wanted the experience of presenting, and that was worth doing my first one or two or three without compensation. After that, I charged something I felt reflected my value, and I worked my way up to my current rates. Understanding what speakers outside of healthcare get paid can help you move forward with your fees.

DSG: What inspires you as a speaker?

JC: I think there’s an art to speaking. It’s a craft that should be honed and worked on, from your style of presenting to how you connect with the audience and the stories you tell. My goal is to be a speaker who can make the audience sit on the edge of their seat, have an Aha! moment, and leave ready to take action. I think this requires being fearless with your thoughts and weaving stories into presentations so that the research/techniques/tips come alive. I watch TED and TEDx talks to get inspired.

DSG: What experiences as a speaker have forced you to learn and grow, whether you wanted to or not?

Eat Like a Champion by Jill Castle is pictured. The book cover shows four teen athletes dressed in their uniforms.

JC: Early on, I had a situation where my slides didn’t work, so I had to go solo and mostly by memory. It was a good lesson on not only knowing your stuff, but your talk structure and how you are moving the audience to transformation. Fortunately, most of my evaluations have been good, but like most of us, I focus on the negative ones! I’ve learned over the years that you cannot please everyone, and when you choose to put your own ideas and thoughts out there–particularly when crafting your thought leadership–you are open for criticism. I think you have to grow a thick skin and be convicted in your ideas. I think the biggest life skill I’ve learned is how to connect with any audience through storytelling. I’ve always inherently been a storyteller in my one-on-one practice, but to bring stories to the stage is an art I keep working on. When you tell stories, particularly personal ones, the vulnerability connects you with the audience deeply and they become more invested in what you have to say, they remember you, and they take the actions you want them to take. I love when people come up to me later and tell me their stories or ask questions about my stories! It’s truly changed the way I speak, and I’ve learned to mine stories from my own past and my interactions as a dietitian to enhance my messages.

DSG: It’s so eye-opening to hear that even as an accomplished speaker you’re still trying to learn and grow. Jessica is going to love what you said about vulnerability connecting you with the audience – she often says that one of her big surprises as a speaker is the more she shares of her authentic (and authentically imperfect) self, the more enthusiastically people respond. THANK YOU Jill for sharing your path with our readers.

Have you heard Jill present? We’d love to read your comments below.

Interested in booking Jill for your next event? Visit her speaking page or email her directly at jill@jillcastle.com.

Follow Jill on Twitter @pediRD, Facebook @TheNourishedChild and Instagram @i.am.pediRD, and on her podcast, The Nourished Child.

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