speaking for money

Spotlight on Dietitian Speaker Yaffi Lvova

Yaffi Lvova’s mission is creating more joy, connection and tolerance – with both food and other people. Read on for her take on all the feelings of the past 18 months, how she feels about asking for $$, and the ups and downs of her speaking experience.

Dietitian Speaker Yaffi Lvova leans on her kitchen counter wearing a long-sleeved orange top and a pretty head covering. She's smiling at her audience and ready to teach cooking.

AC: Tell us about your evolution as a dietitian speaker. How did you get started presenting?

YL: I started speaking first in elementary school, in 5th grade, and it really helped shape me even at that young age as a speaker – I got interested in how to communicate topics in a way that resonates with people.

As a dietitian, I started out speaking mainly on pediatric and family nutrition around your basic concepts like selective eating and focusing on how families can increase joy at the table. Scientific facts don’t necessarily resonate with the public unless they’re delivered in a way that’s digestible, pun totally intended. I like to take that science and shift it into vernacular speech, into easy words that the public can not only understand but will enjoy understanding. That’s the way to make it stick the most and to have the greatest effect. And I really appreciate that angle.

Scientific facts don’t necessarily resonate with the public unless they’re delivered in a way that’s digestible, pun totally intended.

I’ve written a number of books regarding food introduction for babies, as well as ways to make food more fun at the table. And that’s why I support that with my speaking, and I support my speaking with my writing, and they just go hand in hand. Prior to the pandemic, one big part of my business was teaching a toddler cooking class called Toddler Test Kitchen, and that’s an in-person class.

AC: I’ve never heard of a toddler cooking class! That’s really, really cool. I think that’s a great way to get kids introduced to cooking.

YL: Yeah, we have a lot of fun with it. The class is for kids ages two to six and it’s very, very focused, unlike a lot of other cooking classes for the same age range which focus more on cakes and cupcakes. I mean, those recipes are much less expensive to make, and the mess can be a little bit easier to control because you have these prepackaged cake mixes, and you don’t have a million different ingredients. But I like to take it the other way – we do spaghetti squash as well as baking cookies and we have a lot of fun with it.

I shifted to online when the pandemic hit. I didn’t want to risk being a location where people got each other sick. So that class has been shut down for just over a year. I did try to take it into an online space but trying to parent from home and cook and manage all the technological complexities that came along with everyone shifting to online space just was too much. I shifted a lot more to public speaking and writing where I wasn’t doing quite as much stuff all at the same time.

My focus has been shifting with world events. As the world situation has shifted, I brought a lot more social justice angles into my repertoire. I have a webinar called Supporting Your Religious Client, which I did with me representing the Jewish side and Dua Aldasouqi representing the Muslim side. We compared and contrasted kosher and halal and gave dietitians tools to help support their religious clients when they themselves might not be coming from the same perspective. To help give them that additional compassion that will increase the quality of what they’re giving their patients or clients.

I’ve also been doing “Ask a Jew,” where I just try to answer questions people might have. This has been pretty successful. I think people are really looking for quality information as opposed to short snippets that they might find on social media.

This has been a whole lot of fun for me during COVID with that aspect being able to have much more opportunities to speak with the public. It’s been really great. That’s been a great silver lining for this time period.

People are really looking for quality information as opposed to short snippets they find on social media.

AC: That’s great that you were able to shift gears like that. Did you ever have to shift from speaking for free to asking to be paid? And do you have any advice for someone who’s nervous about it?

YL: That’s a really difficult question, because I get a lot of feelings when someone contacts me to speak. First, I feel honored that they thought of me, and because of that, my gut instinct is to do everything for free. Then pair that with imposter syndrome, and I feel like I shouldn’t be charging people. Then maybe it’s a nonprofit so they don’t have a lot of money coming in… all these things make it difficult to set my price. I just had to fake it till I made it. I had to rely on the advice of people who have been doing public speaking longer than I have as far as calculating what my price point should be and sending it out there. And even now when companies contact me or organizations contact me to speak, I am so much more nervous sending that quote than I am getting up on stage or turning on the zoom. That moment is probably the most nerve-wracking that I’ve experienced in speaking.Beyond A Bite by Yaffi Lvova

I find it really difficult – to send someone a bill saying, I want you to give me twelve hundred dollars for one hour of my time – because it just seems so unbelievably egotistical. What I have to remember as a dietitian, a speaker and in general is that people are not paying us for the hour that I’m on stage. They’re paying for that, but they’re also paying for all the experience, for the internship, for the schooling, for any life experience that aided my knowledge of subject matter and my ability to communicate with their audience in an effective and entertaining way. That’s what they’re paying for. They’re not paying for the one hour.

If I think of it as that much money for one hour, it feels really awful. I mean, just as awful as it feels good when they say yes. But to get to that point, you really have to value yourself and value your own knowledge and value your ability to get your knowledge from inside your head and from the textbooks out to the audience and for use in a practical way in a short amount of time. It’s a lot to ask, but we can get there with practice. I think it’s fake it till you make it and then practice.

AC: Thank you for being so authentic about that. Do you have any advice for a dietitian who’s still in the stage of considering speaking for the first time?

YL: I think it’s great to do some small group events starting out, but it depends – some people would be more comfortable with people they know, and other people would be more comfortable with strangers. Starting out, I would say first consider that and then try to create an event for yourself that has a comfortable audience in it, whether that means strangers or whether that means familiar faces. That’s a good place to start and starting online is also great because we have that that disconnect from the audience. At this point in my career, I don’t like that disconnect. Perhaps for someone starting out, the fact that they’re sitting at their computer with no one directly looking at them could feel more safe and could be a vehicle to increase their confidence. That’s something that they can use until they’re more comfortable, until the world opens up a little bit more and there are more in-person opportunities.

AC: Yeah, I think that’s a great point, just getting your feet wet at first. What would you say makes an excellent speaker in your point of view as an audience member?

YL: An excellent speaker is engaging. The audience does not have to try to pay attention. The audience member doesn’t find themselves checking their phone every five minutes or five seconds. The speaker can get difficult, complex information to their audience in a way that the audience can understand it and put it into practice right away and feel confident with it. Sometimes the audience member is going to have a question that comes up when they try to put this information into practice. The idea is for the audience member to feel engaged throughout the presentation and leave feeling more confident than when they came in. Maybe they’re going to enact this practical information right away, or maybe they’re going to let it marinate for a little bit first. But they leave feeling like they have a little bit more confidence with that subject matter and they know where they’re going to go with it.

AC: So dialing it down from the scientific to what you actually need to know.

YL: That’s exactly it, and I like how you said dialing it down rather than dumbing it down, because if we see our audience as a dumb that doesn’t help us with our speaking skills either. It’s the idea that they’re not at a lower level, but rather they have different interests. We as dietitians are interested in nutrition and so we know big biochemical words and can communicate with each other on that level. But when we’re speaking to an audience, particularly a public audience, they have lots of different varying interests. Their intellect is in different places. And that’s why we need to shift our language to be more open and to be more accessible so that people who are scientists and people who own a knitting shop, you know, whatever interests our audience, they can tune into what we’re saying and understand it. That’s so important because we can have the best knowledge in the world but if we can’t communicate it in a way that our audience will understand and appreciate, it doesn’t matter how much knowledge we have, we’re not getting it across effectively.

If we can’t communicate in a way our audience will understand and appreciate, it doesn’t matter how much knowledge we have.

Stage-by-Stage Baby Food CookbookAC: Exactly, that’s a great point to make. Anything that you’ve had to learn the hard way that you wish you had known earlier?

YL: When I was first speaking, I spoke for a group of familiar people, and this is why I say that it’s important for the person who is a beginner speaker to understand what’s comfortable for them. I had a friend in the audience who is actually a good friend who grilled me and it was just a circular argument, and I did not know how to get out of it, and it was in front of an audience and we were just going in circles and it probably lasted 45 minutes. I swear I could still hear the other audience members rolling their eyes, you know. It was terrible and I didn’t expect it because it was from a friend. I thought this would be more of a supportive environment and it wasn’t. It was really trial by fire and left me feeling very inadequate and vulnerable and frankly, quite stupid. After that, I signed up for some speaking lessons and learned how to get out of those situations.

AC: That sounds painful. Let’s switch to the good moments. What are the positive moments that stand out in your mind and keep you wanting to do this despite the tough parts?

YL: Well in that speaking class I mentioned, we ended the class with everyone giving their own talk that they had developed over the course of the class and certain members of the public were invited to it, including a guy who was very involved in National Speakers of America. I gave my talk and at the end of the class, he came up to me and just said, “You are money.”

That felt amazing, just to have a validation from someone who is an expert in this field tell me that my speaking skills were great, that felt really, really good. When I give a talk and I get calls or texts or emails from people in the audience afterward expressing their appreciation or what they liked about the talk, that feels really good. It goes so far to boost my confidence as a speaker.

When I’m with an audience that’s particularly engaged, asking questions and having conversations back and forth, that feels amazing as well, because I feel like I’m really connecting with people. That’s what I want to do. I want to connect with people in a way that helps them increase their food enjoyment and pass that onto their kids. This is a multigenerational concept. It’s a multigenerational goal. And just to be part of that food enjoyment in this generation and for generations to come is it’s such a happy goal for me. I’m so happy to be living that reality.

I just feel like I’m going to get better and better with more of those positive interactions. I would start every morning with a talk. I would speak at 7:00 a.m. every morning instead of having a cup of coffee and I will be adequately wired the rest of the day just off of the joy of that.

It happens at my toddler test kitchen classes, where at the end of the class, a parent will always come up to me and say, my child would never have tried a carrot. Well, now they’re eating carrots. And my child never tried this before and now they’re trying it. Or the best, I brought my child to your class because we’re weaning her off of tube feeding and trying to introduce her to her appetite and this went really well and I’m glad that we came. When that mother told me that I just felt so honored to be a part of that child’s food journey and food enjoyment journey. That was really wonderful.

AC: That’s awesome. Those are really cool experiences to have. Hopefully you can get back to cooking in the kitchen soon with the kids!

YL: I hope so. I hope that things are calming down. I have a great venue, but I live in Arizona and the venue’s outside. In the summer we get cooked in Arizona rather than cooking. I’ll start again in the fall and I’m optimistic that it will be safe enough to do so.

AC: Would you say you have any final words of advice for aspiring dietitian speakers?

YL: If you love it, do it. Make sure that you respect yourself along the way and keep your boundaries clear, but if you love it, do it. The audience will know that you love it and they will appreciate you and love you for it.

AC: Passion definitely goes a very long way in terms of presence on stage. When someone is speaking with passion, you can feel it.

YL: Especially when you’re passionate about food. It’s everything. Food is culture. It’s connection. Food is joy. When we can find joy in food and we can find connection in food, especially after 2020, it’s everything. I’m just happy to be along for the ride.

To hire Yaffi for your next speaking engagement visit her website babybloomnutrition.com.

Follow Yaffi on social media: Facebook @babybloomnutrition, Twitter @babybloomnutrit, Instagram @toddler.testkitchen, Pinterest @Yaffi, Youtube @NapTimeNutritionByBabyBloomNutrition,  and LinkedIn @YaffiLvova.

 

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 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 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 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.

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.

 

Unique Speaking Platform Makeover: From Drab to Fab

Last year I gave a workshop based on A Dietitian’s Guide to Professional Speaking to my local iaedp chapter of eating disorder professionals.

I intended to focus on creating fabulous Unique Speaking Platforms, but it turned out that most of the attendees were struggling with stage fright, so we started there.

Recently I got this email from one of the participants, Jamie English, who gave me permission to share her story.

“You might remember helping me come up with my USP at the speaking training you did last summer. I had been asked to present and was scared to death. I walked away with a great USP and did the presentation 6 months later.

I printed off my fun USP and my original boring bio and offered both to the person introducing me.

She read the fun one, and I knew it was a hit when someone came up afterwards and introduced herself as a Gryffindor!”

Curious about the before and after? Of course!

Here’s where she started:

“Jamie English, LCSW-Supervisor (Licensed Clinical Social Worker Supervisor) has been in private practice since 2013. She specializes in eating disorders, body image, and trauma. She is EMDR Certified (and a Consultant in Training). In addition to using EMDR, she also uses Emotional Transformation Therapy (ETT) and Sandtray Therapy (which is not just for kids).

She received her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Abilene Christian University in 2000, her master’s degree in Social Work from Stephen F. Austin State University in 2006. She has been an LCSW since 2010. In addition to providing clinical social work in her practice, she also enjoys supervising social workers who are working toward their clinical license.”

As you can see, Jamie did everything right when it comes to describing her credentials blah blah blah. But can you imagine someone introducing her from the podium at a big event? Half the audience checked our before the first paragraph was over.

There’s no disputing Jamie’s qualifications. But what will an event planner see in this bio that will move Jamie to the top of the pile of proposals? Nothing. There’s nothing to make attendees want a front-row seat in this session, and that’s what event planners look for.

Brainstorming the Unique Speaking Platform steps with a partner, Jamie transformed that ho-hum bio into this fabulous USP:

“Information junkie Jamie English drank the diet Kool-Aid so long she didn’t realize it was making her miserable.

Now a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Harry Potter nerd, she presents to people like her who know there has to be a better way. She hopes to help you find and embrace your authentic self (even if you’re a Slytherin like her) so you can ditch the diet culture for good.”

No wonder the organizer chose to read this USP!

In far fewer words, you get a MUCH better feel for the type of speaker Jamie is – irreverent, self-deprecating, easy to relate to – and what she brings to the table. Hired!

Now it’s your turn. Are you ready to revamp your tired bio into a USP that gets you hired?

Get in touch and let’s set up a time to talk.

Scroll to top