Gradually coming out of the COVID-19 lockdown, we couldn’t help but reflect on all of the things that took place over the last year and how they have changed us. The past six months have required all of us to show leadership, learn new skills and to communicate in different ways, which reminded us of a previous lockdown: a joyful 5-day lockdown in Luxemburg.

On the 13th and 14th December 2019, Greek Dietitians and Nutritionists had the first opportunity to indulge in a taste of the ENLP spirit. The newly-formed ENLP Greek Local Circle was invited by the Hellenic Dietetic Association to participate in the biannual Hellenic Nutrition & Dietetics Congress. At the congress’ 15th event, and the celebration of Association’s 50th anniversary, Greek Dietitians and Nutritionists were challenged to think outside of the box and to embrace soft skills as part of their life-long learning journey and as a valuable tool towards effective clinical practice.

This invitation to infuse soft skills in a traditional congress was met with great excitement from the Greek Local Circle, and a range of activities were planned. Our first interaction with the congress participants was on the value of leadership and the different communication styles when delivering a dietary intervention. Participants in the session were asked to complete DISC (Dominant, Inspiring, Supportive and Cautious) personality assessments, to engage in role play activities and to analyze examples of successful and not so successful interactions with patients and colleagues. Through these activities, the audience was asked to understand the value of interpersonal skills as a vehicle to ensure that scientific knowledge is translated effectively into clinical practice, as well as the importance of leadership in any professional environment. In this context, participants were exposed to the personal stories of ENLP alumni with different career paths, and to people who took the decision to return to Greece and to start a career there despite the financial instability. The role of leadership training and, especially, participating in the ENLP as a professional competitive advantage were discussed and participants were provided with a presentation of the ENLP’s structure and mission.

But the engagement did not finish there! We were keen to stir the waters a bit more by proposing non-academic activities directly targeted at students and early career researchers to start building the next generation of leaders. After discussions with the congress’ scientific committee, ENLP alumni were invited to organize a student competition on science communication, prompting University students to break the norms of academic presentations and engage the audience in a TED-style presentation. More than 20 participants were brave enough to expose themselves to the challenge of preparing a journalist- style summary of their accepted abstract, and the three winners, selected by a panel of experts, presented their study findings in an engaging, everyday (but scientifically-relevant) manner, without the support of visual aids.

Both activities were met with great interest and we received very positive feedback. Both the participants and the organisers felt that soft skills training should remain part of the congress agenda, and we were happy to witness an interest for more leadership training, especially from early career scientists. It looks like the ENLP Greek Local Circle is here to stay and to expand its outreach!

Special thanks are of course owed to the Hellenic Dietetic Association and the Congress’ Scientific Committee for the invitation and the excellent collaboration and trust! We are looking forward to more interactions!

Thank you very much to our Guest blogger Dr. Antonis Vlassopoulos (member of the Greek Local Circle Committee) for writing this blog post. The event was organised by Antonis, Triantafyllos Pliakas and Maira Bouga.