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Stronger together: Key learnings from 2 inspirational Dietitians' Day events

The third Wednesday in the month of March (Nutrition Month) is Dietitians’ Day. This day celebrates dietitians as health care professionals, committed to using their specialized knowledge and skills in food and nutrition to improve the health of Canadians.
Liz Fraser and Margaret Hughes both held successful Dietitians’ Day events on March 16, 2016. Can they inspire you to organize an event next year? Read on to find out!
Margaret’s event: Dietitians' Day dinner gala in Ottawa 
Margaret Hughes, along with the rest of the Ottawa and area RD action group, coordinated a lively Nutrition Month in their region. One of their team’s highlights was a popular Dietitians’ Day dinner to commemorate and celebrate our incredible profession.
Fifty dietitians attended and enjoyed a small exhibitor fair during the cocktail and networking hour of the event, followed by a sit down dinner, which featured a number of invited guest speakers to highlight the RD celebration. Margaret shares some key tips she learned from planning the event below.
Tip 1: Ensure others are on board to help you 
Over the last year, our Ottawa and area RD action group organized a number of successful events to keep the dietitian community in Ottawa/Gatineau connected, engaged, and excited. We have a very committed team of three local dietitians who chair the group: Helene Charlebois, Carolyne Mondoux, and myself.

Whether your team is three or ten individuals, having a group of committed and engaged members will get the creative juices flowing and help share the task load in the planning and implementation phases.
Tip 2: Involve the community around you and focus on a theme
Despite the big city feel, Ottawa is very community driven. The dietitian network is very eager to learn more about community initiatives and resources related to practice.
With this in mind, we chose a “connecting the community to dietetic practice” theme for our Dietitians’ Day dinner gala. Our exhibitor show included relevant local representatives and displays from various companies, community programs, and food industry partners. The support from these partners in the form of sponsorships, door prizes, product, and donations was an integral part of the success of our event. Having partners on board contributes value to an event and provides learning opportunities.
We also heard from our Dietitians of Canada Regional Executive Director Caroline Dubeau on the benefits of becoming a member and engaging oneself in the various learning and volunteer opportunities available through Dietitians of Canada.
By the end of the event, Dietitians not only felt more connected to the exciting work being done in the Ottawa/Gatineau area, but also more connected to each other as a community.
Tip 3: Use multiple promotional strategies 
It was important that this networking event connected with and reached out to those who work in isolated areas of practice. We have been able to reach out to dietitians in almost every sector in Ottawa/Gatineau through emails, Twitter, and Facebook. Adding your event to the Canada activity map helps raise awareness of Nutrition Month events as well.
We begin planning our events 8-10 weeks in advance to ensure that we have a few venues to consider (more time is needed during the holiday season). As soon as you have a date and location, send a “save the date” message. Follow this with an email blast at least 2-3 weeks before the event. Include information about how to register, date and time of the event, and a brief description of what the event will entail.

Tip 4: Enjoy the benefits of your event! 
There are many benefits to hosting Dietitians’ Day Events! To name a few:
  • Connect with other dietitians
  • Learn more about an unfamiliar area of practice
  • Provide opportunities to support one another, the work that we do, and the public we serve
  • Be amongst peers, relax, and enjoy good food and good company!
Although there were many logistics to work through when organizing this event, it was truly rewarding! Feel free to contact me if you have questions as you consider organizing something like this next year.
Liz’s event: University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) nutrition fair  
Liz Fraser was a first-time regional representative for Prince Edward Island and coordinated a nutrition fair on campus to highlight Nutrition Month and Dietitians’ Day.
The fair was led by 23 students and featured booths that represented each of the weekly Nutrition Month campaign themes, in the context of university life, to help people with their 100 meal journeys. One hundred students, staff, and members of the public attended the event! Liz shares some of her insights below. 

Tip 1: Enlist others to be part of your planning committee 
I garnered both the faculty and students’ interest in participating in this event. I wanted professors, the department chair, and the dean of science to offer support by reviewing the content and providing resources. Plus, I needed other students to help plan the fair, develop the booths, and lead the event.
I strategically approached both groups with a well-thought out reason of why I wanted to coordinate the event, what the benefits of involvement would be for them, the gap in access to nutrition information on campus our event would fill, and what the benefits would be for our target population. I also had a clear vision of where and how the event would run, and what was needed to make it happen.
To build my student team, I took time to visit the main nutrition classes in each year of our program to introduce Nutrition Month and myself. Then, I talked about how and why nutrition students should get involved with the fair. This resulted in a diverse team representing students from all stages of their degrees.
Tip 2: Involve the community around you (and take advantage of a great mentoring opportunity)
Applications for our integrated internship program are accepted in third year, so there are many first and second year nutrition students looking for the chance to participate in nutrition-related activities that make them stand out. I paired these students with fourth year dietetic students and interns, which fostered skills development in a collaborative atmosphere.
Tip 3: Use multiple promotional strategies 
At the beginning of the month, I started a Facebook page that shared nutrition month messages (inspired by the Dietitians of Canada blog and newsletter material). These messages initiated conversations about what small changes others were making during their 100 meal journeys, which motivated others to do the same! This platform also made it easy to create an online invitation to the event that our team could share with their friends and classmates.
I used an online poster generator to make posters to distribute around campus and made use of the student newsletter and campus events page to promote the Dietitians’ Day fair.

Tip 4: Enjoy the benefits of your event!

As a student, coordinating a Dietitians’ Day event provided me with the opportunity to practice my 
planning skills and to develop resources. It was a great way to connect with other students and professors, and to interact with the public. I gained great connections and built up my resume!
Additional food for thought from Liz and Margaret
Make Dietitians’ Day events a bit different each year. You don’t want people to think: “Been there, done that!” Get creative and change it up. Try a new venue, change the order of the activities, include something unique (like a guest chef cooking demo), and do something interactive that engages everyone. Don’t forget to evaluate your events, too. This will guide future events and increase participation from the dietitian community.
If you have never coordinated an event, there are many online resources on planning health/nutrition fairs. Look at the DC Activity & Ideas List for more ideas that suit various work or school settings. Dietitians of Canada has a guide for dynamic displays and the Nutrition Month backgrounder resource is excellent for guiding your material development.
Organizing your own Dietitians’ Day event, whether big or small, is a great chance to join forces with your peers, network, and celebrate the incredible work accomplished by dietitians. It also provides a great opportunity to highlight our wonderful profession’s knowledge and skills.
Are you inspired to plan a Dietitians’ Day event in your community? Feel free to share ideas or success stories below. We’d love to hear from you!
Editor’s note: Both of these events are inspiring me to get involved with planning an event next year! The Dietitians’ Day dinner event is a great example of an event that helps to build and support the dietitian community. Connecting with colleagues in this way is so important! While the fair that Liz planned was the perfect opportunity to promote the role and value of dietitians to external audiences. Liz shared a couple great resources:
Do you have questions about either of these superb events? Leave your questions or comments below for Margaret and Liz
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