Is the National Dietitians of Canada Conference Worth it? A Dietetic Interns Perspective

Updated: Jun 24, 2019

Views in this article are my own and are not associated with Dietitians of Canada.


Ahh, the National Dietitians of Canada Conference. If you’re a nutrition student, you’ve always dreamt of attending. But, how will you decide whether to go or not? I mean, it takes time and money to attend.

In today’s article, I’ll share my experience at the 2019 National Dietitians of Canada Conference and what I truly think about it. I’ll give you a hint – you’re not going to want to miss the next one. 


What’s better than a room full of dietitians crazy about food? Only a room full of dietitians with food for 4 DAYS IN A ROW. If that doesn’t convince you to attend the DC conference, this article probably will.


Where do I begin?! Connections, food, learnings, experiences… the list goes on and on… 

Why I loved my experience at the Dietitians of Canada Conference


The diversity of conference

The great thing about conference is that there are so many sessions offered in a variety of fields of practice for dietitians. From clinical nutrition to private practice and building a brand, to menu standards - the range of topics are never ending and the knowledge you gain is priceless! I attended session focused on, branding, private practice, public health, innovation, media, nutrition trends – many fields I’m interested in. Other dietetic interns attended a variety of events – clinical session on renal diets, public health topics, eating disorders, etc. I mean, talk about opportunities for learning!


The food

Breakfast every morning - a delicious variety of fresh fruit, whole grains, eggs, yogurt, tea, and most importantly? Coffee! ;)

Lunch? Take a stroll through the exhibitor’s hall where you can visit vendors from many different companies – connect with dietitians who work with that company, and grab some freebies (what nutrition student doesn’t like free cooking utensils or canola oil bottles?!) Ok. Calming down now. Back to the food. Lunch was a buffet style dining and there was delicious salads, wraps, soups, and yummy desserts. My mouth is watering thinking about it.


What do I do with the Connections I’ve made?

So, I’ve met all my dream dietitians, future dietitians who will be my colleagues, and have discovered companies across Canada that I’d love to work with – but what now? 

Before heading to conference, I made a list of dietitians (ok, not like a written list but an idea of who I wanted to meet). I knew who I wanted to connect with and learn from. How did I do that? The app for the conference helped me search the names of dietitians attending the conference – I could then message them on this app and set a time to meet and connect (how cool!!).


I also signed up for the Braindates sessions which were basically group meetings with other dietitians and dietetic interns/nutrition students who were interested to connect and chat about the same topic. Probably the coolest thing ever. (We need more apps like this IRL everyday). 


I met dietetic interns for lunch who I never knew before, I spoke with new dietitians about potential projects to work on in the future, and I became more comfortable making those connections knowing everyone was there for the same reason and with the same passion.

So, what will I do now? I know all of these dietitians (how amazing!!). I’ll keep chasing after my goals, of course! & stay connected through LinkedIn, Blogs, Instagram, and email. I’ll follow up with dietitians I met to further our conversations and keep in touch until the next time we meet. Without conference, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do this!


The Length of Conference

The conference ran for 4 days: Wednesday-Saturday. I attended both the pre and post conference workshops, which were optional & made my stay a little longer than others. Was it worth it? Let me tell you! 


Workshops

Media training: New Rules for 2019

If you’re here, you probably know that I love media – I love talking, performing, writing, connecting, and collaborating online (and offline) with others. The best thing about this workshop was that it was facilitated by former journalists – the experts in the media field. Of course!! Who better to learn from than the experts? This workshop allowed me to step out of my comfort zone – I performed a mock interview with a journalist in front of a room full of dietitians (can you say, nerve wrecking!!!!??) but, did I ever feel amazing afterwards. I didn’t perform perfectly, and that’s what learning is all about!


So, what do I do with all of this?

Well, I’m 100% more confident to pitch story ideas to journalists now. I mean, we are the experts after all! We should pitch stories to tell to the public about something we love so much - food. 


I learned the tricks to master a media interview (I’ll need to put them to practice now!). Here’s 3 of the many: 

Stick to 3 key messages 

Bridge back to your key messages

Hook with a statement that invites a question


Next workshop

Working without a script by Krystal Merrells aka the best improv coach you’ll ever meet. (Also, she’s a dietitian! Is that not the coolest ever?!) If there’s anything you read on this blog today, it’s THIS!! 


What did I take away from this workshop? 

SO much more than I’ll fit in this blog, so I’ll stick to a few points. 


LUV: listen, understand, validate.


We practiced listening. Sounds simple, right? Who practices listening? Well, after this workshop I truly believe we all should. This included pairing up with another attendee. My partner said a sentence and I was to repeat that back, but in different words. It was so powerful! How often do we listen and then jump to giving advice? How many times has someone come to me with a problem and as soon as they’re done talking, I say ‘have you tried this?’. I will now take more time to activity listen to my patients, clients, and peers to better understand before jumping into the advice stage. Listening is so important to successful communication. Do more listening.


Storytelling is a skill. When we know how to listen to someone’s story with empathy, we can better help the patient or client feel validated. They feel like their story matters, they feel heard, and they feel cared for. As dietitians, we want to help others, but we can’t forget the steps between listening and advising. We need to connect with them first, an thenadvise (when appropriate). Connect with a story. 


What's in it for the Students?

What you're all here for, right? Lets get right to the good stuff! Events catered to students:

- It starts with Students - here you are given an opportunity to connect with and learn from dietitians in various fields across Canada. This is a great way to hear their story, get inspired, and create some meaningful relationships!

- First time attendees session - this was my second conference so I did not attend, however my friends who did said it was amazing! The food was great, the dietitians were great, and they met a lot of students from across Canada.

- Student Network social event - If you're a member of dietitians of Canada and a member of the student network, you'll have the opportunity to attend the social event to meet other students.

- I connected with a lot of interns on my instagram after sharing my experience at conference

- The opportunities for students are endless!


Conference Session

How to Better Predict Nutrition Trends in the Media. 

Here, I gained resources that I plan to use to help improve my blogging and writing skills from Media dietitian, Christy Brissette.


We don’t only need to keep up with the trends but we need to address them. It is important to remember that we are not perfect. We need to know what other influencers are sayin!g! Why? Because we want to debunk the food/nutrition/health myths & understand where this information is coming from.


Why do we readily reject expert advice? From this session, I learned that it’s because secret plots are powerful and it is seductive when things out side of our control make us act in a specific way.  I have always wondered why some people don’t want to talk to me about the next hot topic like the keto diet for weight loss - It’s because individual knowledge/experience is usually valued over expert advice and knowledge. The unfortunate truth … as a nutrition educator and communicator, I am learning to understand the whybehind these trends and the howwhen addressing them. As a dietetic intern (and future dietitian) we sometimes feel like we must have all of the answers – the perfection that we sometimes demand from our self in the profession can zap our confidence because we can’t live up to that image. No one is perfect and we will never know everything. So, I won’t be afraid to debunk health myths, chat about the latest trends, educate and converse about what’s happening with food in our world. Research is ongoing, changing, and is our superpower.


So, will you join me in using our voice as dietitians and sharing accurate nutrition information?


Other advice/learnings I’ll take with me from this conference? 

- How to build a brand & knowing your audience

- The importance of reaching out to, and connecting with, non nutrition professionals

- Know your passion - take that passion and run with it 

- How to better use the science of nutrition to connect with others

- Make sure to give your feet some rest at the end of a long day of ne


Travel

I visited Ottawa for the first time – I ate amazing food, saw beautiful architecture and met tourists from all over. I walked, ran, and explored so much! When conference is in your home province, it may be easier to attend. However, when you’re given the opportunity to travel, take that and do it! You’ll learn so much.


So, will you attend the National Dietitians of Canada Conference? Connect with me on Instagram, @KatsHappyHealthyLife and let me know! Would love to connect!


I am honoured to have received the undergraduate student award sponsored by Dietitians of Canada which recognizes academic excellence and contributions to the field of dietetics recognized by mentors and colleagues - Thank you Dietitians of Canada!!


Until next blog,


Kat

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