Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker Lauren Swann
Lauren Swann is a pioneer in our field, presenting to national audiences for more than three decades. Read on as she shares her experiences and what she’s learned.
DS: How did you get started speaking and how has your speaking evolved over time?
LS: When I established my consulting business in 1990, public speaking was a highly recommended means of marketing specialty and expert advisory services. I’m a B2B [business to business] consultant and my clients come primarily from the food industry, so I identified the local food industry groups with members who were also prospects and either joined or attended their events, eventually getting to know board members by working with them on committees or suggesting relevant topics for meetings, seminars, workshops, conferences, etc.
My public speaking tends to be about what I specialize in as a consultant – it was primarily related to food labeling up until last year when I started getting more requests for another specialty – cultural foodways.“Cultural Foodways” are about the food customs, culinary practices and dietary habits relating to or influenced by cultural heritage, family legacy, nationality, history, traditions, and ethnic ancestry.
DS: We love to talk about the amazing highs and lows of being a dietitian speaker. Do you have a memorable speaking experience?
LS: Perhaps a peak public speaking accomplishment for me happened early in my career – I was a keynote presenter at the first public forum to discuss the Nutrition Labeling & Education Act of 1990 after the proposed graphic format regulations published in the Federal Register. At the time, that gathering (that had been in the works before knowing when the proposed regs would publish) drew lots of industry attention. I’ve also presented at major mega industry conferences like the Food Marketing Institute. Online advancements have changed so much of how we connect and share info now that such annual association gatherings are no longer as meaningful as they once were, but at the time, this was big!
DS: Amazing! You’re a pioneer of dietitian speakers. What was it like transitioning from free speaking to paid events?
LS: I actually accepted very few (if any) free speaking events when starting out; several of my first offers came with a fee or honorarium and although some were modest, I was also often asked up front what my fee was and came to expect some compensation – even if it was only free registration for the remainder of the conference or event and complementary meal/reception attendance where mingling and networking happens; if travel was involved I expected reimbursement outside of a local radius. I’ve actually come to evaluate pro-bono requests differently now that I’m established – I consider the organization, their mission, purpose of the presentation, audience and reason for not having a speakers’ budget.
DS: That’s an interesting evolution we haven’t talked about on this page before – going from paid speaking to free, once you have more flexibility to evaluate those opportunities. Have you noticed other changes in the way you look at things now that you’re more established?
LS: I once belonged to the National Speakers Association which has some steep membership requirements – I had a good momentum of public speaking credits and their annual conference was taking place locally that year. I attended but discovered I’d really rather keep public speaking as one of the services I offer and a means of publicizing my consulting specialties. I observed that there is a whole different energy and effort that goes into professional public speaking as a core and primary income-generator.
DS: I’m sure you’ve sat through a million presentations. What do you like to see in a speaker when you’re in the audience?
LS: An excellent speaker is engaging, grabs your interest from the start, makes good use of visuals, stays on topic and truly covers whatever the description said, especially the promotional description about the session used to get registrants – an excellent speaker delivers and leaves the audience feeling empowered with information, insight and perspective.
DS: Wow. That’s a great summary. “An excellent speaker delivers and leaves the audience feeling empowered with information insight and perspective.” Love it. Thank you.
If you’d like to hear more about Lauren, visit her website at foodsfactswork.com