nutrition speaker

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 Amy Goodson

Dietitian Speaker Amy Goodson leans forward in her chair as if to share something special with her audience. She's wearing a green patterned top and a bright orange necklace, plus a big smile.

Dietitian Speaker Amy Goodson radiates personality – enough to light up a room when the power goes out in the middle of her presentation. Read on as she illuminates us on her path to star status, how she turned a green screen into gold, and tips for igniting YOUR speaking career.

AC: Tell our readers how you got your start speaking and how your speaking has evolved.

AG: I’ve always loved speaking in public. Growing up I was in pageants at church and plays. My original degree is in communication, and then I stayed in school to get my master’s degree in sports nutrition and become a registered dietitian.

I’ve always done a lot of public speaking in my career. Right out of school I immediately got hired by a sports medicine facility where I really got a ton of opportunity to speak because I was being used as a marketing person for the facility. We worked with tons of high schools and sports teams, so I would go out and do talks to schools, parents, coaches, athletic trainers. So speaking was built into my job. It was such great experience.

And even though a lot of speaking was built into my job, I did a lot of over-and above stuff, too. Like speaking to a nine year-old’s baseball team at seven o’clock at night. So a lot of my speaking wasn’t just baked into a nine-to- five job. I took every opportunity I had to speak, whether it was popping up to a company at seven a.m. or talking to a little baseball team at nine o’clock at night or doing stuff on Saturdays or whatever it was. I just said yes to everything.

I also worked with the executive health program in the same facility. We contracted with companies to see their executives, kind of like concierge physicals. And I was able to do a lot of speaking at some of those companies. I really got to include a ton of speaking through that job, which allowed me to really develop a name for myself, I would say, in the speaking world.

AND I started speaking for some larger groups outside of work like the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, Verimark, the National Security Council.

When I started working for myself at the end of 2017, I already had so many contacts from the first 11 years of my career, especially here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I also will apply to speak at conferences or whatnot, but a lot of the way it’s really evolved in my own business is from my experience and past experiences of speaking where people are referring to me and people are reaching out to me to speak. Those same people I had spoken for through my job kept contacting me. And then, of course, I just evolved because more and more people get to know you, especially when you speak at conferences and those types of things.

Speaking is now about a third of my business, and it’s really my favorite thing to do. I still do a lot of speaking in the sports nutrition role, whether that’s with teams or at conferences or to school groups or whatnot. Another speaking area is general health and wellness to the everyday person. And then I do some speaking about the entrepreneurial side of being a dietitian, based on some of my experiences and creating my own business.

AC: Amazing. You said you got paid to speak as part of your job – was there a transition when you started your own business and you had to specifically ask for a payment?

AG: Now the outside of work speaking that I did, Gatorade and Dreambox – I was already getting paid for those. Those large companies just naturally pay speakers.

With the speaking I did as part of my job, it was more interesting. Here I am with this salaried, full-time job, getting paid as part of that job to speak, but we weren’t charging the companies or schools I spoke to. It was more me marketing, representing our business. Over a decade, I was speaking to them – from their point of view – for free.

I had to explain to a lot of the schools that I can’t speak for free anymore. There wasn’t really an option. If I was going to speak after I left that job, I had to get fees for my business. Luckily my reputation preceded me, so to ask to be paid wasn’t that big of a deal because they already had a point of reference for me as a speaker. A lot of them were people I knew or people that had been referred to me by someone who recommended me. I found they were pretty understanding.

I had to explain to a lot of the schools that I can’t speak for free anymore.

AC: What about now? How do you decide what to charge, and do you ever speak for free anymore?

AG: Back in the day I said yes to everything, but at this stage it’s different. I remember someone wanted me to do a cooking presentation with recipes and cooking demonstrations. And they said, we have one hundred and fifty dollars. I can’t do it because that’s hours of work. If it’s me doing a virtual talk and I can do it for free, I will.

There’s a high school boys and moms’ service organization I speak to for free. And I spoke for the American Heart Association off and on for years for free. There’s an aspect of that that’s community service. But for the majority of the time, I would say 95 percent of the time, I now get paid.

As far as how to charge, I had to evaluate what am I going to charge to speak at a conference versus a company versus what am I going to charge locally versus what am I going to charge schools… Because schools by default are not going to have the same funds as a big company. So that was a little bit of a stretch in my way of thinking.

I live in Dallas, Texas. There’s big companies that are going to pay. But I also evaluate my benefit analysis, There’s times that I might be willing to speak for a little bit less because I want an opportunity to speak with that company. I might be willing initially to accept a little bit less because it’s going to open up more doors for me.

There’s a group that flies me to their conferences and I speak five times in one day. Typically I would charge more than what I charge them, but that’s all they can pay. And they call me every single time they do one of these events, so while I might be making a little bit less, I’m doing it almost every month now. I have such a great time seeing that the participants are so interested, it’s a great experience, and very organized. I weigh those things out as well.

The Sports Nutrition Playbook by Amy Goodson

I also found another way to get paid for sports nutrition talks when schools don’t have the money to get me out there in person. I created four presentations and recorded them in front of a green screen. I paid to have them well produced, and I sell them on my website now. It’s way cheaper than bringing me to a school. And they have access to that presentation for a whole year.

And of course, there was an investment up front to get those made and produced and on my website, but long term, it’s a great way for me to make passive income and get to still make my mark without me actually having to be there.

AC: Do you have any advice for a dietitian who’s feeling insecure about expecting to be paid to speak?

AG: My initial reaction is I feel dietitians should get paid to speak. If you have experience, then you should be able to ask for payment. You need to be charging. But you also need to weigh things out.

I don’t do a lot with clients, but if you’re seeing clients on a regular basis, you might speak with a goal of getting clients, where you volunteer or charge less. If you walk out of there with ten people contacting you to be your client, your ROI [Return On Investment] was much bigger.

For people that have a book to sell, are they going to let you sell your book when you’re there? That might be a whole other avenue to make more money or to make up for what you’re not making from a speaking fee. Those are things I would consider.

If you’ve never really spoken before, you need to get experience, like with anything, to get good at it. You have to have somewhere to practice. If your kid or niece and nephew has a soccer team, or if you’re in a church group, could you talk to them about nutrition to gain that experience? To build your experience, take all the opportunities regardless of pay. Volunteer to speak at your local dietetics group, other small groups, and branch out from there.

If you think you should automatically be paid but you have no reputation or experience, that’s going to be more challenging. When someone’s paying you they’re expecting you to be good at what you do. Putting in some time, whether it’s volunteering or presenting as a part of something else you’re involved in, would be helpful.

People only see what I do now. They weren’t there for the hundreds of talks I did on Saturday morning and at eight o’clock after baseball practice and going to church group crockpots. I mean, I just said yes to everything. I was not getting paid but it built my experience and I got good at talking to all different types of groups. I happen to love speaking. And so it didn’t really bother me because I knew I was building a resume and my goal was to say yes to everything so that one day I could say no to what I didn’t want to do.

My goal was to say yes to everything so that one day I could say no to what I didn’t want to do.

AC: It sounds like you’ve reached that goal. You’re very inspirational. Switching gears, tell us what you think makes an excellent speaker from your point of view?

AG: Excellence to me is if someone who knows their information so well that they’re not really thinking about what they’re saying, they’re thinking about how to say it best to the audience in that moment. Those speakers don’t just provide information, they make it really relatable. That’s where I think you get the biggest impact because people are more likely to connect to you when you’re speaking. I’ve noticed it the most with younger speakers and interns, that they focus so much on what they’re saying and what the information is, they’re not paying attention to the audience or adapting if the audience isn’t responding.

Being a good speaker also means being a clear communicator, not using filler words, and being able to communicate concisely. Dynamic speakers resonate with people; they’re more engaged with you. All of these things you can develop over time.

But the biggest thing is being able to connect with people, with the information that you’re providing them, and giving information in such a way that they can relate to it and apply it. Because it’s one thing to have information, it’s another thing to feel like the information is applicable to you.

…it’s one thing to have information, it’s another thing to feel like the information is applicable to you.

AC: Any suggestions for how someone can develop those skills?

AG: Absolutely. There’s no other way to do that but to practice, by just doing it over and over and over again. The further along you get in your career, whatever you speak on, the more you know your information. It becomes easier to present that information in a different light based on who you’re talking to, and the more the more experience you have, the better you’re going to be at answering questions, the better you’re going be at giving examples.

In the meantime, it’s great to watch other speakers and think about what engages you as a listener, then check to see if you do that or not. Challenge yourself to see if you can get through an entire presentation without using a filler word. You can also record yourself presenting on your phone and watch it to see what you want to improve.

If you ever have the chance to do any media-related trainings, do that, because a lot of that translates over to public speaking. Media is a like a two- or three-minute presentation. That training can overlap. But honestly, the main thing is repetition. Because anything that you do over and over and over again, once you know that information so well, you can start to manipulate your presentation of the information in the best possible way for your audience.

AC: Is there anything that stresses you out as a speaker? Do you worry about things going wrong?

AG: I’m not a nervous speaker by default because I like speaking and it’s something I’ve done for so long. I’m confident in my knowledge of the information. I think people can sense when you’re not being confident in the information that you’re providing.

Newer speakers might be nervous about what they’re saying or how they’re saying it, or what someone is going to ask them. I’m at the point now that normally I know the answer to the questions that I’m being asked, but if I don’t, I can just say, “I’m not really sure about that. But if you’ll share your email, I will find out for you.” In my earlier days, I may not have wanted to do that.

AC: Out of all your speaking engagements, is there an experience that sticks out in your mind?

AG: The most interesting speaking experience I’ve ever had was a few years ago I was invited to do a sports nutrition training for a company in the Middle East. I went to Beirut, Lebanon to do two trainings and there were two days in between where I was on my own. I would have never thought I would go there and stay at a hotel by myself!

I spoke to one hundred dietitians, I think all women. They all speak English, but English it’s at least their third language. If you go to college in the Middle East, you pretty much speak Arabic first, then you may also speak French and English. So here I am speaking to a group where English is not their first or second language, and none of the examples I use make sense over there. A lot of my gestures don’t make any sense because they have no connotation or reference for them. None of our slang makes sense. They had no clue what I was referencing when I said you hang carrot in front of someone.

And I’m talking about sports nutrition, but they don’t really have sports teams there.

So it was a big challenge to translate the information – not literally translate, but explain – to people in the country that I’ve been in for twenty-four hours, that I really don’t know a ton about the people or their totally different experiences, that can’t relate to the things I usually say…

On top of all that, in Lebanon the electricity cuts out every single day, no matter what. At least one rolling blackout every day. It might be for 10 seconds or it might be for five minutes. One of the days I was speaking, the electricity went off for three minutes so I had no projector, no PowerPoint. They’re just used to it, like, “Oh yeah, the electricity goes out every day. No big deal.”

But even with all those barriers, the dietitians were all so involved, so hungry for the information. They would question, question, question. I would really have to think through how I should answer that for their situation. It challenged me more than usual because speaking is generally pretty easy to me.

I’ve now been to the Middle East six times, in five different countries. After that first experience, every time I went to a different country I knew to ask questions about their experience to help my frame of reference. And I noticed each time knowing more about the culture helped so much in making my points. So that’s got to go down as the most interesting. They’ve all been interesting, but that first time was so unique, it was a phenomenal experience.

AC: I can’t even imagine going and speaking in another country and how exciting and challenging that was for you. You’ve shared so much great information – thank you so much, Amy.

To hire Amy for your next speaking engagement visit her website amygoodsonrd.com.

Follow Amy on social media: Facebook @amygoodsonnutritioncounseling, Instagram @amyg.rd, LinkedIn @AmyGoodson, and Twitter @amy_goodson_rd.

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 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 .

Follow Connie on social media: Facebook @ConnieDiekman, LinkedIn @ConnieDiekamn, Instagram @cbdiekman, Twitter @CBDiekman.

Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker Bonnie Taub-Dix

Media guru Bonnie Taub-Dix has mastered multiple forms of communication – including speaking to live audiences large and small, on-site and online. Read on as she shares lessons learned about leaving room for spontaneity and things that matter more than money.

Dietitian Speaker Bonnie Taub-Dix is ready to speak to the media on a moment's notice! She's wearing a read leather jacket next to her quote: "Help your audiences think and feel and dig deep into their own personal experiences."DS: You’re a very accomplished speaker in addition to your extensive media work. Tell us your origin story.

BT-D: I started speaking to small groups when I was a clinical dietitian. From patients being discharged to dietitians in my department to doctors at grand rounds.

Around that time, I received the Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year Award from the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics and that led to an opportunity to present to 1,500 people at FNCE [The Academy’s Food and Nutrition Conference and Exhibition].

I remember hearing advice from others to help squelch my public speaking fears like, “Make believe you’re speaking to only one person,” “Picture your audience naked,” “Just talk to the clock in the back in the room,” and so many other tips that I have grown to find useless.

Since then, public speaking has helped me immensely in my career — it is a skill that is so worth honing and perfecting. Speaking helped me build my reputation so that brands, organizations and clients requested my services to enable them to get their particular messages across in an impactful, effective manner.

Today, I’ve evolved to be a presenter who speaks to an entire audience, looks around the room and pictures audience members wanting and needing to hear my messages…fully clothed!

DS: How have things changed for you in the COVID-19 era?

BT-D: The past year has brought unpredictable and atypical speaking opportunities. SpeakingDietitian Speaker Bonnie Taub-Dix sits at her home office desk about to give a video presentation. She is wearing a green and blue long-sleeved dress. engagements that were scheduled pre-pandemic morphed from in-person appearances into Zoom calls, webinars, Radio Media Tours and Satellite Media Tours — all challenging in their own ways.

Pivoting from speaking in TV studios to speaking from home required acquiring new lighting and audio and video equipment as well as rearranging my home environment to welcome video viewers.

As a media trainer, I counsel others to know that whether you’re presenting on a stage to a group of 2,000 or you’re sitting in front of a screen talking to 10 people, you still need to be engaging, informative and available to your audience. So that’s what I continue to do, no matter the setting.

DS: Take us through your process of deciding how to charge or whether to speak for free.

BT-D: Let’s take a look at “speaking for free.” These days I get paid well for my speaking engagements, but there still are times when I may give a presentation without being paid for it — but that doesn’t mean it’s “free.”

Whether it’s speaking in front of an audience or writing for a publication, these days, I consider “free” work as part of my marketing budget. For example, when speaking to a group of journalists or brand managers, or to RDs who are interested in working with the media, the value of the opportunity to get in front of those audiences could be worth more to build my brand and my business than the amount I would have been paid in cash for that engagement.

Dietitian Speaker Bonnie Taub-Dix presents on stage with a remote control in her hand wearing a floral print sleeveless dress.As dietitians, we deserve to get paid for our worth, and there are many RDs that need to embrace their importance, but it’s not only money that has value.

DS: How do you know when you’ve done a great job as a speaker?

BT-D: Although it’s important to be prepared, including practicing a seamless presentation, it’s essential to leave room for some spontaneity. Excellence in speaking doesn’t mean making people listen to you – it’s essential to help your audiences think and feel and dig deep into their own personal experiences. There’s a tremendous sense of satisfaction knowing that you can move scores of people with just your words…all at one time.

My best presentations include those when the audience laughs when I want them to, shakes their heads in agreement with what I’m saying, asks questions that show they understood what I was talking about, and wants to learn more about me and my topic. I also love when people come up at the end of my sessions to tell me how much my words and my work has helped guide them.

DS: Any regrets, looking back?

BT-D: One of the worst presentations I ever gave was for a group of businessmen at a country club that was preceded by a happy hour (including too much alcohol for the attendees). The group was rowdy, and the hecklers of the bunch made me feel like my presentation couldn’t end soon enough!

In the past, I wish I put less information on my slides and just relied on pictures and clever sayings to allow for more spontaneity and to allow the audience to hear what I’m talking about instead of reading while I was speaking.

Dietitian Speaker Bonnie Taub-Dix peeks mischievously over the top of her book, "Read It Before You Eat It." She wears a red leather jacket with a zipper. And although I still get the jitters when I speak in front of certain groups or when I talk about certain subjects…I wish I had felt more confidence back in the day. Confidence comes across in your voice and it helps to boost credibility and expertise. I’ve found that when I coach RDs about how to work with media, it’s confidence that they lack more than anything. After being in this profession for decades, sharing my personal and professional evolution with RDs is perhaps the most rewarding role I play.

DS: Thank you Bonnie for sharing your journey. To learn more about Bonnie and her services as a media coach visit her website at BetterThanDieting.com.

Follow Bonnie on social media: Instagram @bonnietaubdix and @BTDmedia (specifically for RDs), Twitter @eatsmartbd, Facebook @BonnieTaubDix.RDN and @BTDMediaGroup, LinkedIn @BonnieTaub-Dix, and Pinterest @BonnieTaubDix.

Better Than Dieting News Digest: bit.ly/BTDsubscribe

BTD Media Makers News Digest: bit.ly/BTDmedia (specifically for RDs)

Master Course: bit.ly/BTDMediaCourse

Have you heard Bonnie speak? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker Jennifer McGurk

Jennifer McGurk knows what it’s like to pursue a dietitian dream till it becomes reality! With enthusiasm, courage and lots of laughs, she’s built an empire helping others do it, too. Read on as we hear from the brains behind Dietitian Business School and the Pursuing Private Practice book series.

DS: Tell us about your speaking path.

JM: I got started presenting on eating disorder recovery and Intuitive Eating in my local community when I was growing my private practice. To spread my message, I started to apply to some conferences and events for dietitians. I love to speak to dietitians!

I was so nervous for my very first FNCE [The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics Food & Nutrition Conference & Exhibition] conference as both an attendee and speaker! I remember feeling a mix of excitement, anxiety, happiness, and dread all at the same time. I want to normalize all the emotions that happen when a dietitian is first starting to speak! Now I speak as a regular part of my career and in many different ways.

DS: How do you decide whether a presentation will be free or paid?

JM: Speaking for free was a great way to get started. It was amazing practice and really helped increase my confidence when I was just starting out. But when resentment slowly started to creep in, it was time to charge accordingly.

I’ve learned that my time is worth a lot and that speaking takes up more time than just while I’m presenting. Dietitians deserve to be paid well for our time and expertise. But when someone is already paying for my services, like in Dietitian Business School, I don’t charge them additionally for those presentations.

I’ve also made speaking without being paid into part of my marketing plan to introduce my services to other dietitians, especially on my podcast Pursuing Private Practice. I present workshops in my paid group all the time. I also speak at conferences and events, sometimes paid and sometimes as part of my marketing plan.

DS: What do you look for in a speaker when you’re in the audience?

JM: Someone who can weave in storytelling and not just read words off their slides.

DS: How has the past year impacted your speaking?

 JM: I’ve recently realized that speaking doesn’t have to be in person anymore. Some of my most successful presentations have been virtual due to COVID. I want to continue to speak virtually, even when COVID is over.

DS: Thank you Jennifer!

To learn more about Jennifer and hire her at your next speaking event, visit her websites eatwithknowledge.com and pursuingprivatepractice.com.

Follow Jennifer on social media: Facebook @JenniferMcGurk, Twitter @JenMcGurkRDN, Instagram @pursuing.private.practice, and LinkedIn @JenniferMcGurk.

Have you heard Jennifer present? We’d love to read your comments below!

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 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 

Follow her on social media: LinkedIn @LaurenSwann, Twitter @LaurenSwann, and Facebook @ConceptNutrition.

 

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 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.

Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker Julia Cassidy

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.Dietitian Speaker Julia Cassidy stands behind a podium presenting on eating disorders.

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.

Dietitian Speaker Julia Cassidy stands behind a podium presenting on eating disorders.

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.

Have you heard Julia speak? We’d love to read your comments.

Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker Tori Schmitt

Dietitian Speaker Tori SchmittDietitian speaker Tori Schmitt surfs a wave of positivity encouraging clients to say YES! to nutrition. So when does this Queen of YES! strategically say NO WAY? Read on to find out…

DS: How did you develop your Unique Speaking Platform?

TS: A lot of the conversation around food and nutrition has to do with the word “no” or “don’t eat this.” I aspired to help people live more healthy, balanced lives with a more inclusive approach – focusing on the positive, and promoting the foods, strategies and behaviors to say “YES!” to more often.

In 2014, I began YES! Nutrition, my nutrition communications and counseling company in Ohio. YES! Includes one-on-one nutrition counseling, partnering with food companies to develop online content, and dynamic speaking engagements. The YES! message stuck as my platform because it’s simple and direct. It resonates with patients as well as every kind of audience, from corporate wellness to conferences, high school students and health fairs.

I’ve made YES! my brand and include it in every presentation title. “YES! You Energize Smartly: Getting the Most Energy Out of Your Day with Enhanced Nutrition” and “YES! You Encounter Struggles: Navigating the Hardest Parts about Eating Well” are just two examples.

DS: Your enthusiasm is contagious, Tori. I’m already feeling like I need more YES! in my life. Say more about how you apply this positive attitude when presenting.

TS: The YES! message is more than just the word. My philosophy of presenting is that the audience isn’t just a stationary presence to talk to, they’re a group of interactive participants who are there to speak with you. Sometimes a speaker can get so focused on what they’re planning to say that they forget about the audience as individuals and what they want when it comes to nutrition.

For example, after I gave an open-to-the-public presentation on sports nutrition tips, one evaluation said it was very basic information and another one said, “I would have preferred a more basic explanation.” I realized that to accommodate the wide audience I had made the presentation too general to meet anyone’s specific needs. I used it as a learning experience and decided to host events with more specific topics to a more targeted audience in the future.

Before I agree to speak, I ask the organizer all about the audience. If it’s a company lunch-and-learn, I’ll ask about trends for employee lunches, what food is available on-site, are there vending machines? And I want to know the top nutrition needs of the employees, whether that’s healthier snacks at breaks, microwavable meals for lunch, high energy foods to support their physical labor, etc. Understanding the audience helps me make the most use of my time with them.

DS: An enthusiastic YES! to customization. A generic lecture is just not going to keep anyone’s attention in the smart phone era. What makes you say YES! to a presentation when you’re in the audience?

TC: I like Maya Angelou’s quote that “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” Dietitians have important and useful facts and ideas to share, and to make those details unforgettable we need to package them in a way that also delivers a feeling.

For instance, someone who comes to a lunch-and-learn presentation might forget the fact that protein and fiber can help keep them fuller for longer. But they might remember that I praised their chickpea salad as a super satiety solution during my presentation. Perhaps they can relate to the feeling of afternoon hunger pangs on the occasion they didn’t have any protein or fiber earlier in the day, or maybe they’ll laugh at the story of what happened when I didn’t include protein or fiber in my lunchtime meal. Feelings from compliments, stories and humor make facts more memorable.

DS: This is such a good reminder to newer speakers that it’s okay to be real and interact, crack a joke here and there, respond to your audience. But it’s hard when you’re nervous about being perfect. Do you have any advice to a dietitian speaker who’s just getting started and is stressing about doing it “right”?

TS: YES! I encourage patients and audiences that the healthy way doesn’t have to mean the “perfect” way, that “mistakes” are merely learning opportunities, and that small changes make a big difference. I think the same goes for speaking, too. Just get out there and say “YES!” You’ve got this!

But – and I know I am all about YES!, but hear me out – there are times it’s important to say no. Say no to opportunities that don’t value you or aren’t the right fit for your skillset or preference, say no to the audience person who is challenging you on nutrition philosophies, and say no to the person who wants to use your proprietary slides.

DS: The Queen of YES! says it’s okay to say no?

TS: Well, when you say no to those things, you’re actually saying YES! to the work that values you, to the opportunities that are the right fit, and to the protection of your integrity and intellectual property.

DS: Enthusiastic YES! to the right kind of NO! Love it!
Have you heard Tori present? We’d love to read your comments below.
Want to contact Tori for your next speaking engagement? Connect with her through her website, YES! Nutrition
Tori would love to stay connected on Facebook @yesnutritionllc, Instagram @torischmittrdn, Twitter @ToriSchmittRDN, Pinterest @ToriSchmittRDN, and Youtube @YES!Nutrition.

Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker Jennifer Neily

Dietitian Speaker Jennifer NeilyLike Madonna and Elvis, this famed dietitian speaker needs only one name: Neily. During their internship at Texas Woman’s University, with several Jennifers in the class, our own Jessica Setnick started using last names. For Jennifer Neily, it became her calling card. Read on as she tells her story to DietitianSpeakers.com.

DS: Your catchy titles are fabulous! My favorite is Supplement Sense…or Nonsense: The Truth About the Pills People are Popping.” How did you develop your Unique Speaking Platform?

Neily: My USP evolved over the years along with my private practice and coaching business. I’ve honed it to the point where I can sum it up in one sentence: My focus is to help women make peace with food and their body.

DS: Ah, the coveted elevator speech! Well done. Could you sum up your best speaking advice in one sentence, too?

Neily: Stories, stories, stories.

DS: I know I said one sentence, but now I’m intrigued. Say more about stories.

Dietitian Speaker Jennifer Neily stands poised and ready to answer a listener question.

Neily: People may not remember the facts, but they’ll remember the story illustrating the facts. Have you noticed some of the best presenters do NOT use PowerPoint? Look at all the TED talks. And speaking of TED talks – none are longer than 18 minutes.

Sometimes I hear a presenter at a conference drone on and on for over an hour on what could be said in 20 minutes and be much more impactful! Jess made a great point in A Dietitian’s Speaking Guide about the days of yesteryear when presenters had to cram lots of info onto their slides due to cost. Why are people still doing it? Unfortunately I think it’s indicative of the health field. If a presenter says, “You might not be able to read this slide,” then why is she using it?

DS: Wow, great points. I love how fiery you get when talking about speaking! What else stands out in your mind when you think about your speaking career?

Neily: I think lots of speakers hone in on that memorable awful eval that easily blows away the hundreds of good ones. I know Jess talks about one that she remembers word for word. I have a favorite one like that, too.  “Your presentation is like being hit by a tidal wave. No build up. Your voice inflections at times were similar to a 19-year old sorority pledge and it was annoying as sin and undercuts credibility.The funny thing about the evaluation is that he recommended a place for me to speak! Go figure!

Dietitian Speaker Jennifer Neily stands ready to present in front of a screen that reads Brain Training for a Better Life.DS: First of all, kudos to the writer for originality. That is certainly memorable. It takes confidence to put that behind you. Have you always been so confident as a speaker?

Neily: No and I’m still not, especially when it comes to charging. That’s one reason I love A Dietitian’s Speaking Guide so much. Jessica provides the verbiage I have trouble coming up with. I’m more confident having a template of what to say. It’s a challenge because the women’s groups that are my target market may not be able to pay a fee, or only a small fee. Since many of my clients have come from these speaking engagements, I still say yes, and then I make sure that I do as much as I can to connect with those future clients in the audience. At the end of my talk I tell them I’ll exchange a handout I’ve created for them in return for their evaluation of my talk. I include questions that help me spot those who will be a good fit for my coaching services.

DS: So even if you’re not getting paid by the organization, you still make it work. That’s the Dietitian Speaker way!
Looking to get in contact with Neily? Visit her website Neily on Nutrition.
And for more of her nutrition knowledge, follow Neily on Instagram @neilyonnutrition, Facebook @NeilyonNutrition, Youtube @NeilyonNutrition, Pinterest @NeilyonNutrition, LinkedIn @JenniferNeily, and Twitter @JenniferNeily.

Have you heard Neily speak? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker Jessica Jones

Dietician Speaker Jessica JonesIf the name Jessica Jones rings a bell, it may be because she’s a superhero. Not the Marvel superhero Jessica Jones – this Jessica Jones is a superhero dietitian speaker, fighting cookie-cutter nutrition advice and spreading her wisdom across the nation through print, podcast and in person. Read on as she shares her origin story with DietitianSpeakers.com.

DS: You’ve developed an amazing brand in multiple media formats, most of which involve putting yourself “out there” in front of people. Have you always been confident in your skills?

JJ: I used to be terrified of speaking and sometimes still am. One thing that helped me through that was one of my nutrition professors saying I had a special gift when it came to public speaking. I had to give a presentation in front of the class and I was so nervous I felt like I could pass out. What I realized was how other people were viewing me was different than the narrative I was painting in my head.  Also, working for the NYC department of health conducting hundreds of nutrition workshops in marginalized communities helped me learn how to mess up in real-time and still keep it going.

DS: Yes! That ability to press on through glitches is crucial. Do you have a particular blooper moment that stands out in your mind?

JJ: I was giving a talk to hundreds of people at the Today’s Dietitian Symposium about getting paid from brands and I accidentally blurted out some confidential information about the specific terms of a contract that shouldn’t have been shared. Oops! I was mortified. But I kept it moving and acted like I meant to spill the beans. Afterwards, people said they really appreciated the transparency! [Editor’s note: I was at that presentation, and it was fabulous! – JS]

Dietitian Speaker Jessica Jones on the set of her podcast

DS: Thank you for sharing that. As much as you plan and prepare, real life can’t be scripted, can it? Hopefully it will take some pressure off our readers to know that they don’t have to be perfect to do a great job.  Say more about what makes a great speaker in your eyes.

JJ: Someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously. I like when speakers are clearly being themselves and not what they think they should be. Making jokes helps too. Not reading from slides and keeping slides simple is another plus.

DS: Authenticity, humor, and no tiny words on slides – this may become our Speaker Spotlight motto! To your point, it’s so different than what we think we “should” do. But the most memorable speakers are the ones that show their personality. Now tell us about your current speaking focus. How does speaking fit in to the other work you do?

JJ: I typically work with brands as an ambassador hosting and speaking at various events, both for the public and press. In addition to the brand work, I’ve spoken at conferences and conducted several webinars and hosted wellness retreats where I give multiple nutrition presentations. Last but not least, I co-host a podcast.

DS: It’s inspirational how you channel your speaking skills into so many venues and formats. You’ve become a leader in encouraging dietitians to charge appropriately for our work. How did you determine your pricing strategy?

JJ: I started realizing that “exposure” doesn’t pay the bills. I have a hefty student loan balance and live in one of the most expensive regions in the world. I started to add up the prep, travel, expertise, time spent actually speaking, and realized that I couldn’t afford to not get paid for that. Also, when you say yes to speaking you are inevitably saying no to something else that you could be paid for. Once I realized that, I stopped doing free events, unless it’s giving back to the community.

DS: That’s the Dietitian Speaker way. You’ve really reinforced so many of the foundations of The Dietitian’s Guide to Professional Speaking. Any final words of wisdom or experience?

JJ: I’ve learned that each of us is our own worst critic. That no matter what it will be okay. And that, for me, the nervous feelings before a speech never go away. However, I have the lived experience to know that even with those unsettling feelings, I will still be able to power through!

DS: Jessica, your authenticity at your level of success is really inspirational, thank you.
To invite Jessica to speak at your next event, connect with her through her website Jessica Jones Nutrition.
Get more genius from Jessica on LinkedIn @JessicaJones, Twitter @NutritionByJess, Instagram @JessicaJonesRD, and listen to her podcast @FoodHeavenThePodcast.

Have you heard Jessica present? Share your comments below.

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.

Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking - Steps to Vanquish Stage Fright Forever

If you’ve read A Dietitian’s Guide to Professional Speaking, you know there’s a difference between anxiety that inspires and paralyzing stage fright.

Nearly every professional speaker I’ve talked with – even the incredibly experienced ones – describes some kind of adrenaline rush before and during presenting.

Sometimes it hits the night before a presentation, or right before you take the stage, and although it can be distracting and even uncomfortable (for me it’s super sweaty armpits and wishing I stayed home), it’s a sign that your body and mind are gearing up for the event.

Alternately, many newer speakers have described feeling petrified to speak – not anxiety before presenting, but an actual dread of public speaking that paralyzes them before they even try. And most “advice” I’ve seen is worthless – “forget the audience is there,” “practice in the mirror,” “drink a glass of warm water” (???) – because it’s not only generic, it doesn’t get to the root of the issue.

Instead, try my 6-step process to get you to the podium. It won’t make you not nervous, but it will get you through it.

Step One: Connect Physical Reactions to Success

There are really two parts to this step.

Part A is to recognize that you won’t be able to totally control your body’s physical reaction to pre-presentation (or really any) stress. In other words, all the meditation in the world, and even beta-blockers, can only do so much. Your physical and mental symptoms are part of the package that comes with putting yourself out there in front of other people.

Does that mean you have to be in pain? Not at all. If the thought of speaking or speaking itself causes you migraines, dissociation, debilitating thoughts such as overwhelming obsessions or suicidal urges, or anything that’s not even half that bad, make an appointment with a sports psychologist and a psychiatrist to describe your symptoms and hear their take on what strategies they recommend.

If your physical and mental symptoms are more along the lines of uncomfortable – distracted, sweaty, elevated heart rate – your basic fight-flight-or-freeze reactions – consider them (as hard as this sounds) to actually be part of what makes you a success.

That’s right – How would you do if you felt the same way taking the stage as you do lounging at home, watching tv in your jammies? You have trouble summoning the oomph to get up and make a snack; how are you going to captivate your audience, keep them engaged, and drive your message home?

So Part A, accept that the stress/adrenaline combo (up to a point, see above) is actually a crucial part of your speaking success.

Part B, now separate your stress response from your belief that you’re not prepared.

What I mean by that is whatever you think your stress is telling you – Something bad is going to happen, I’m not prepared, This was a terrible idea – is not true.

The only thing stress tells you is that you’re stressed. Only. Everything else is a fiction that comes from your/society’s association with stress as a problem, as something to avoid or as evidence that something’s amiss.  As in, “If I were prepared, I wouldn’t be stressed,” or “If this was a good idea, I wouldn’t feel so stressed out about it.”

The fact is that you can feel stressed about both good choices and bad (and I won’t even get into whose judgment that is), just like you can feel perfectly fine about empirically bad decisions. Your stress is not proof you’ve done anything wrong.

I mean if your stress is just a problem with preparation, then reviewing your notes would make you feel fine, right? Since that doesn’t solve it, that wasn’t the issue.

Combine A and B and you get to the point where you simply accept stress (and the personal cocktail of symptoms it mixes up just for you) as a part of the plan. “Yep, I’m stressed,” or “Yep, this is what my body does before I present.”

Once you accept it, of course you can also plan around it.

I always decline invitations to hang out before presenting because I know I’ll be a head case who can’t follow a conversation. I ask an understanding colleague or a hotel staff person to help my find the right room because I get really turned around. And I ALWAYS wear a professional top with my suit because unless the room is sub-zero (and sometimes even if it is), I’m going to sweat so much that I’ll need to lose my jacket.

Knowing you’ll get stressed, accepting it and planning for it doesn’t mean that you’ll be comfortable. But you won’t add to your discomfort with false interpretations.

Step Two: What Speaking Glitch Worries You Most?

Answer this question: What’s the worst that could happen while you’re giving a speech?

If your answer is something that could actually happen –

  • I could stumble over my words
  • I could forget what I wanted to say
  • Someone might disagree with me
  • I could embarrass myself in front of my colleagues

– you’re on the right track.

(If it’s completely unrelated to speaking – a tornado could hit the building, something bad could happen to my kids while I’m away – this method won’t work. It may be a matter to take up with your therapist or trusted support person. Although I’m glad that thinking about speaking helped you identify this underlying source of distress.)

Step Three: Plan Ahead for Speaking Glitches.

Once you find your answer(s) in Step One, accept that one or more of those things is going to happen. It just is. It may have already. And hey – you lived through it. 

You’re not trying to be a robotic speaker. You’re a person with quirks and flaws and occasionally a missing slide. That’s part of being a speaker and it’s simply something you have to accept.

You may feel silly thinking about your answer – I mean stumbling over your words is really no big deal, right? Probably every speaker’s done it, and lived through it, and you will, too.

But just because it seems petty or even inescapable, don’t try to talk yourself out of it, because this silly-seeming fear is only the gatekeeper that scratches the surface and gets you ready for the deeper dive that’s coming next.

Before we go there, let’s plan ahead for any snags you anticipate.

  • If you’re worried about forgetting your talking points, make a notecard titled “MOST IMPORTANT POINTS” to keep in your view, or if you can’t bring notes, create an acronym that helps you remember.
  • If you’re worried about running out of time, review this article on Presentation Perfect Timing.
  • If you worry you’ll have a coughing fit, work a five-minute self-reflection exercise into your material that you can plug in when you need to take a break to cough it out.
  • If you’re worrying about an emergency or a heckler, review those chapters in A Dietitian’s Guide to Professional Speaking.

And so on. Once you’ve got your practical solutions on board, it’s time for the next step.

Step Four: What Are You REALLY Afraid Of?

Take your first answer(s) a step deeper: What if you do stumble over your words? Forget what you wanted to say? Get a bad evaluation? What could happen next?

You have to really dig in here, listen for the answers that are buried deep, because we’ve already established that this surface fear is probably no big deal.

What are you really worrying about?

  • No one will like me?
  • I’ll lose my job?
  • I’ll lose credibility in my field?
  • I’ll go broke?
  • Everyone will know I’m a faker?

These deeper answers are existential – they’re things that feel REALLY scary, because they threaten your livelihood, your security, your career… even your identity.

How do I know there’s something there? Because the simple things aren’t really scary. You already know you’ll live through minor glitches. If it’s scaring you from speaking, there’s something else behind it.

Try to identify your existential fear. You’ll know you’ve found it when it hits you like a ton of bricks. It might surprise you, or maybe not.

One of my workshop participants answered Step Two with his fear of being wrongly accused of plagiarism. That struck me as no big deal. I mean it could happen, but what are the chances? And once he pointed out he hadn’t plagiarized (Step Three), the situation would be over, right? WRONG.

In Step Four I found out this had actually happened to him. In his very recent past he had been unjustly accused of plagiarizing information for his presentation slides at a professional conference. And it had been INCREDIBLY distressing because not only was he wrongly accused, his accuser was a friend and colleague who did not accept the fact she was wrong, really made him miserable, and threatened to expose him as a fraud and sabotage his career.

Step Four revealed that his ACTUAL fear was of endangering his professional reputation. His family depended on him financially. If he were exposed (wrongly or not) as a fraud, he would be ruined and lose his livelihood. OBVIOUSLY he didn’t want to present in public again.

Once you allow yourself to identify this genuinely terrifying fear, take it to the next step.

Step Five: Detach Performance Anxiety from Existential Dread

They key to Step Four was accepting that your existential fear of public speaking is something REALLY scary. No one wants to ruin their life, lose their job or be hated. If you could protect yourself from those things by never speaking in public, that would be a small price to pay.

But Step Five may be even scarier, because it means accepting this equally terrifying fact: you can’t protect yourself from those things, not by never speaking and not by anything else.

You read that correctly. There’s no way to guarantee that your super scary fear isn’t going to come true.

[I predict right now you’re thinking, “Thanks a lot, Jessica, I thought this article was going to help, not confirm my greatest public speaking fear!” – but hear me out…]

Those terrifying things may happen, they may not. BUT IT WON’T BE BECAUSE YOU GAVE A SPEECH.

In other words once you accept that not everyone will like you, not everything will work out, and not everything is perfect, you free yourself from tying those outcomes to public speaking.

Accepting you have no control over other people’s behavior – or anything existential – is brutal. But it means you CAN stop attributing those outcomes to speaking in public.

Don’t believe me? I can prove it. If your fear is that you’ll lose your job if you say something wrong in a speech, consider that you might lose your job if you continually refuse to present.

If your fear is that people won’t like you, let me assure you that people (hopefully not many, but some) already don’t like you.

In the case of my workshop participant whose fear was being wrongly accused or taken down by a colleague, that definitely could happen. But it could also happen if he wrote a book, an article, or did an interview. Not speaking doesn’t eliminate the possibility of being accused, criticized, or even slandered.

I want to say take your time with Step Five, really marinate in accepting that public speaking is not the root of your fear, that it’s really about your identity and self-worth, your knowledge that the world is not always safe, or the fact that life gives no guarantees.

But since that’s so uncomfortable, I’ll let you dip lightly into reality, then quickly move on to the last step.

Step Six: Create Your Stage-Fright-Busting Mantra

The final step – the one you’ll come back to again and again – is creating a mantra to use whenever your stage fright rears its ugly head.

What should this mantra contain? That’s up to you.

It can be a Bible verse, motivational quote, affirmation, supportive message from yourself or a loved one… anything that contains these qualities:

  • It’s true.
  • It’s supportive.
  • It’s overarching, meaning it applies to more than just your one worst fear.

Your mantra should not:

  • Deny reality. “I will do a great job and everyone will like me,” is no good.
  • Minimize your fear. “No one is going to accuse me, that’s silly,” would not be a fit for the example above.
  • Shame you, e.g. “Stop being ridiculous and get on with it!”

Here are some examples of pre-made mantras that fit these criteria:

“I can do all things in God who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

“I’m a grown, competent person. I’ve handled everything that happened so far, and I’ll handle whatever happens next. (Even if handling it means throwing a tantrum alone in my bed.)”

“I will try to learn from each experience, even those that feel unpleasant. I know that other people’s reactions to me say more about them than they do about me. My family loves me no matter what happens today.”

“If you’re never scared, embarrassed or hurt, it means you never took any chances.” Julia Sorel

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you.” – Isaiah 41:10

“God, grant me the serenity the accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” – Reinhold Neibuhr

You can also craft your own that is specific to you and your needs.

If you’ve made it to this point, well done! It’s a lot of work to actually find the source of your stage fright and debunk it. There are no guarantees it won’t turn up again, in fact it’s more likely than not. But next time, you’ll know how to comfort yourself that you’ll also be okay.

If you’re willing to share, I’d love to know the mantra you’ve created or have chosen to use. Share with me in the comments below. And if you’re struggling at all or just do better with things in a one-on-one session, send me an email at Jessica@DietitianSpeakingGuide.com and let’s set up a time to do it together.

Jessica Setnick is the author of A Dietitian's Guide to Professional Speaking: Expert Advice for Pitching, Presenting & Getting Paid. She's presented hundreds of times to thousands of people and still gets nervous every time.

 

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.

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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