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.
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.