Now I know what you’re thinking… FNCE 2018 is still a year away and we JUST returned from Chicago. I don’t know about other dietitians, but I’m still having flashbacks to last week, celebrating the Academy’s 100th anniversary, and already thinking about what I can do to better prepare for next year’s event in Washington, D.C.!
FNCE a.k.a. the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo — for those of you who do not know is pretty much the Super Bowl for Registered Dietitians (RD) and Registered Dietitians to be (RD2be)! It’s an annual conference where dietitians from around the country gather to network, taste a bunch of new food products, RDs speak on various topics and others listen in and attend sessions supported by scientific research or expert experience. A few of my favorite sessions, included those pertaining to sports nutrition, entrepreneurship and publishing.
I have been a RD for the last three and a half years but have been active in the field of nutrition for the last eight. FNCE 2017 was my first, as I mostly used to attend the Collegiate & Professional Sports Dietitians Association conference for work. This past year I promised myself I would save enough money to make it out to Chicago and see what I had been missing out on all these years!
If you are a FNCE newbie (like I was) and are wondering if you should go next year… the answer is YES. Before I say yes to everyone, I first need to ask what your goals are. For example, if you are a collegiate/professional sports dietitian and only want to learn about sports nutrition topics and must choose between the two, then you may need to pick the one that is going to cater most to your work. Keep in mind, though, that this conference did have many sport specific presentations and I did see many of my favorite sports RDs, which was very exciting for me. Two of my favorite presentations included “You Are What You Just Ate” presented by Dr. Luc Van Loon and a Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN) sponsored afternoon session “GI Distress in the Athlete: The Role of the Low FODMAP Diet” presented by RD Kate Scarlata. Because of time and overlapping of sessions, it was hard for me to make it out to all sports-focused presentations, but I heard great things about each one.
For dietitians or students early on in their career, who are looking to learn valuable information, increase their confidence in the field of dietetics, feel more actively involved with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics… this conference is exceptionally important for you. I also think it’s great for others to attend, especially, if you are looking to “spice things up” in your career or to just celebrate our profession. Before going into this conference, I had really been focusing on my clinical work and was having a difficult time figuring out how to expand more into wellness and towards having my own business. I found this conference particularly helpful as I could network face-to-face, be more informed of the different job opportunities in the field of dietetics (there are tons) and was able to simply have fun with like-minded individuals who share the same passion for helping the public through the love of food.
Below you will find my five favorite tips for an RD or RD2Be looking to attend FNCE next year!
# One. Set your intention. What are you looking to get out of FNCE or any other conference you attend in the next year? My intentions were to learn more about starting a business, and networking with RDs face-to-face. Yes, your goals may change in a year (and that’s okay) but begin thinking about what you hope to gain out of FNCE and focus on that. Work towards it and set your mind on achieving it when you attend. There is so much going on at the conference, that it can be very difficult to keep up with all events and sessions, while still meeting your goals. Not going to lie, I had to take a fews naps and mental breaks throughout the conference because there was so much going on and I wanted to make sure I was able to present my best self. So, it’s important to set a goal and use that as your main point of focus for the conference.
# Two. Plan early. If saving money is keeping you from going, then start saving. If you don’t know what your work schedule will look like next October, then ask your supervisor for time off now (that’s what I did). Whether it is needing to save credit card points for plane tickets or traveling less next year, know that it will be worth it. This conference will be valuable, especially, early on in your career.
# Three. Keep in touch with RD friends and stay active with them on social media. So much can happen within the next year. You may find yourself looking for a new position or are looking for people to travel to the conference with. In any case, keep in touch with other RDs through e-mail/social media or face-to-face meet ups. Never know when a fellow RD can help you find a new job, connect you with someone you look up to, or simply just share a room with you! It is always important to stay in touch.
# Four. Get involved. Consider joining a practice group that fits your nutrition goals and can help you grow. The FNCE experience is even better when you can stop by a dietetic practice group (DPG) booth that you are part of. It is also a lot of fun when you get to meet people that you only kept in touch with virtually. You can always join a DPG at FNCE as well. Not only do DPGs provide learning opportunities throughout the year, but a few weeks before the conference you will get invited to events that are exclusive to your DPG. Groups that have contributed most to my career goals include SCAN and Nutrition Entrepreneurs (NE)- DPGs.
# Five. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there this next year. You don’t need to be perfect to do so. Something important I learned this past week from speakers and mentors (one in particular being RD Lori Zanini) was to work with the talents you already have and to showcase them. I do suggest being reachable through a webpage or social media so that you have a place to showcase your work when you are meeting RDs. My website and Instagram page were those for me. That way when I received business cards or was networking with someone at an event I could quickly show them something on my social media page or direct them to my website when sending my follow-up emails after the conference. I also think it is very important for everyone to have a professional e-mail address and cards on hand in case anyone asks for them.
In conclusion, there were many wonderful experiences I had at this conference. I could go on and on. There was something exciting about being in a convention full of dietitians and realizing that there is so much we can do within this profession. Possibilities are truly endless. I also met many RDs who wanted to support my growth and I too found myself sharing my own experiences and helping others. There is a lot we can learn and achieve when we collaborate. That alone should be a reason we continue to network, attend conferences and put our efforts into furthering the growth of this profession! Here’s to the next 100 years!