Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker Julia Cassidy
Julia Cassidy’s lovably authentic vibe shines through in everything she does, especially presenting. Read on as she gets real with DietitianSpeakers.com about armpit sweat, comfort pants, and why people like when things get messy.
DS: How did you develop your Unique Speaking Platform?
JC: I mostly speak to dietitians and at eating disorder conferences which have medical doctors, therapists and dietitians. I did the same two talks for two or three years over and over again until I really felt 100 percent confident. And it finally became, OK, I need something new. I can say this in my sleep. Time to branch out. It took a lot of time for me to develop as a speaker. When I first started public speaking, I was terrified. I know the audience could tell because one of my first evaluations said I had a look of terror on my face during the presentation.
DS: Oh dear.
JC: Yeah, it took some time to get past that and find the right approach. I taught myself to relax and just speak to the audience as if I was having a casual conversation. Over the years, I realized the more conversational and interactive I am, the more comfortable I am, and that comes across to the audience.
DS: What are the ingredients of your most successful presentations?
JC: I think laughter and conversation and interaction with the audience make for a great presentation, plus sharing experiences and personal stories. When I present about food exposure and response prevention, I don’t just talk about the five different interventions I’ve created. I give an example of how each one works really well, and then I’ll give another example of how it didn’t work at all. I think by being humble and being real in my stories, the audience is more engaged and can really take in the information. Nobody’s perfect. They want to hear the messy stories.
DS: What’s your philosophy of charging for speaking?
JC: I haven’t always been comfortable charging for my talks. It took a bit of self-reflection. I’m putting in my time and my expertise, and I know I’m worth it, but yeah, I’m still mixed – a little uncomfortable, a little bit more at ease. My biggest piece of advice is don’t overshoot or underestimate your value and your worth. Be fair in what you charge, depending on if you have many years of experience or you’re well-educated and you know the topic. A dietitian I was supervising was going to way overcharge. The conversation I had with her was about what expertise, what experience do you have to warrant that number? We don’t want to underestimate ourselves, but at the same time, be realistic about your knowledge base.
DS: How do you handle unexpected glitches while presenting?
JC: At iaedp this past year, my good friend, Megan, and I were presenting and the projector and laptop suddenly didn’t want to work. Luckily we had printed up the presentation beforehand and had it with our notes, so for the first half of the talk, while IT was trying to work on the laptop and the projector, we continued to give our talk based on our printed slides. We were holding up the paper slides and we just kind of made it into a joke. Like, “Well, if I had a slide, this is what it would say.” And halfway through the presentation, the projector worked again, and we were able to get the slides back up. It was really embarrassing, but at the same time, it just kind of worked.
DS: This is an ongoing theme in our Spotlight Series – stay positive when things go wrong. I think new speakers really appreciate knowing that speaking isn’t a bed of roses, even when you do it all the time. Are there other challenges you face as a speaker?
JC: The biggest challenge for me, it’s a blessing and a curse, is the traveling. I have two small boys at home, so the challenge is balancing being gone all while having a family. My travel has actually slowed down over the last couple of years, which has been amazing. My time away depends on the conference. Usually I’ll fly home the day that I speak, like that night or the next day. It just really varies, depends where I’m at. I love going to FNCE, the big conference, so my family knows I’m gone for a good chunk of time. If it’s somewhere I’ve never been, I usually like to stay an extra day to explore and do a little sightseeing. I love the time by myself for a little while, the self-discovery, so I’ll take advantage of it when I can. And my travel also goes along with my boys. If they’re in sports, then I’m gone the shortest amount of time possible. If they don’t have any sports going on, then I’ll add on the day. Also, to be honest, humility is a challenge, and nobody’s perfect in that. What I have to say is important, and other people are learning. I love doing supervision, hosting my CED supervision, teaching, but I still have humility in my experience as an eating disorder professional. Confidence of who I am as a person and the knowledge that I have are my biggest ideals.
DS: Any advice that you wish someone would have told you when you were starting out?
JC: I feel like there are so many things I wish I had learned sooner about speaking. One thing is dress or attire. Not that I don’t know how to dress, but what to wear and what not to wear. I like to dress comfortable. I like to wear clothes that I’ve worn before – pants or slacks that I feel the most comfortable in. I refuse to wear anything brand new. Nothing too tight or restricted. And I always have to wear short sleeves, because when you’re speaking, either from the lights or just from nerves, you sweat, you get really nervous.
So my biggest advice is wear an outfit you’re familiar with and that you’re super comfortable in. If you’re not comfortable, which I learned the hard way, it’s distracting while you’re trying to present and be focused. Also, when you’re first starting out, zero in on one topic or area of practice that you have a high interest in and you have the education and the expertise to speak on and then with more experience over the years, broaden that with other topics. I think that would be my advice. You know, everyone does things differently.
DS: Thanks Julia. It really helps to hear how you think things through.
For more of Julia’s down-to-earth advice and to find out where she’s speaking next, find her on her website at Thriving Nutrition.
Connect with Julia through Facebook @JuliaCassidyRD, Instagram @juliacassidyrd, LinkedIn @JuliaCassidy, and Twitter @thrivingnutri.
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