Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker Connie Diekman
From television reporter to Academy President, Connie Diekman’s speaking savvy has taken her far beyond the St. Louis Arch. Read on as she shares her best tips for staying confident about charging, plus her unusual connection to two US Presidents!
DSG: Tell our readers how you got started speaking professionally and how it fits into your career now.
CD: My local Dietetic Association and then the local Heart Association were my main speaking opportunities starting out. Probably the main growth was after I was a television reporter here in St. Louis. Those years on air increased my comfort with speaking and of course my visibility to the public. My 6 years in television and 17 years doing radio certainly improved my style. I learned the beauty of pacing, voice fluctuation, how to “hit” important points with voice, and confidence.
My time as ADA (American Dietetic Association, now the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) President opened lots of doors to excellent training on presentation styles as well as future clients. Being trained by two different speaking professionals – both of whom had coached US Presidents – really enhanced my delivery and manner.
At this point, my speaking generally falls into three areas: professional issues and ethics in practice; nutrition for health and performance; and nutrition and cardiovascular disease. Currently speaking, teaching, and writing and consulting are each about a third of my practice. Speaking was a bigger part of my practice pre-COVID, and I hope that will return as we slowly resume conferences.
DSG: Did you ever have to transition from speaking for free to speaking for pay, and if so, did you ever find asking for a fee to be a challenge?
CD: Always a challenge! Speaking for the Dietetic Association or the Heart Association was always for free, so shifting to getting paid took a bit of time. What I found worked was sharing honestly with those who invited me that one, this is now my business, and two, I’ll be giving your group some of my time (more than just the presentation) and that has a value.
DSG: Do you have any advice for a dietitian who is feeling insecure about asking to be paid to speak?
CD: Yes, two personal tips. First, do enough talks for free that you have a resume that shows you’ve been a speaker, and if possible, have those free talks provide a review about your excellent performance. Showing you’re worth the fee does help.
Second, force yourself to look at how much time it takes to prepare a talk, go to give the talk, and the talk itself. Once you put a dollar amount to all of that, you may feel more comfortable asking for the fee. When you know how much time you spent, it’s easier to want – and ask for – payment.
DSG: What makes an excellent speaker from your point of view as an audience member?
CD: I look for speakers who engage the audience and who look at the audience to read if they’re connecting in a positive way. I also look for speakers who talk to us, not at their slides, and definitely who do not read their slides. Talk to us! Speaking is about connecting, developing a relationship with your audience so that they feel welcomed and they learn.
DSG: Out of all of your speaking engagements, do you have a memorable experience that stands out, either because it was amazingly great or amazingly terrible?
CD: This is really a hard question; I have had so many great opportunities. I have talked to Academy affiliate members throughout the country… I have spoken to international groups in Thailand, Korea, Japan, The Netherlands, Argentina, Brazil, Canada and more… I’m not sure I can choose one!
The good news is I do not recall a terrible talk; I found something positive in all of them. Whether I learned from the audience, or whether it was a self-learning of how to be more impactful, I do not recall an awful talk.
DSG: Any lessons learned that you wish you had known sooner?
CD: People will pay us to speak! I wish I had known that sooner!
People will pay us to speak! I wish I had known that sooner!
DSG: A great note to end on. Thank you Connie!
To hire Connie for your next speaking engagement visit her website cbdiekman.com .