When 1,500 people come together to talk diabetes and brainstorm on how to improve the patient experience, you can generally expect great things! Especially when it comes to the national conference series Taking Control of Your Diabetes (TCOYD), a group that always seems to "get it right" when addressing patient needs. We reported recently that the traditionally type 2-focused org is now adding a new track for adults with type 1 (!)

This is very exciting, because even in this 21st century world of smartphones and iEverything, not every person with diabetes is plugged in. And there's still no replacement for IRL (in real life) meet-ups.

Our friend and fellow D-blogger Mike Durbin attended the recent TCOYD conference in Des Moines, Iowa as a volunteer at the Diabetes Advocates booth. Today, we are pleased to bring you his report on this somewhat surprising experience:

A Guest Post by Mike Durbin

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Taking Control of Your Diabetes (TCOYD) returned to Des Moines for the fifth time on Sept. 22, for a day of diabetes education and advocacy.

The activity-packed day included talks by Dr. Steven Edelman and Dr. Bill Polonsky, along with many others in the Diabetes Community, including special food-focused demos by Bobby Deen (Paula Deen's other son) and Chef Robert Lewis.

But a new aspect at this conference that hadn't been a part of its predecessors was a focus on the DOC and all the good work that is done. This was all well and good, but I also learned that plenty of PWDs out there have very different concerns on their minds.

D-blogger Scott Johnson and I spent most of our time manning the Diabetes Advocates booth in the expo, helping to spread the word amongst attendees about the DOC. We were in the booth all day, displaying several Big Blue Test videos while talking to people about that World Diabetes Day test-exercise-test awareness campaign (check it out here).

We found that chatting one-on-one or with a few people at a time worked better than repeating the full presentation multiple times. In total, I'd estimate that we spoke with a couple-hundred people, if only to say hello and hand them a brochure.

Overall, I would say the reaction from attendees who passed by the D-Advocates booth was mixed. We handed out lots of brochures and business cards, and ran through a slide presentation about the DOC in the booth for a slightly larger group after lunch. During the presentation, we talked about various ways that people with diabetes can use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to connect with other PWDs, and showed examples of diabetes specific websites — like TuDiabetes and Diabetes Daily and a host of other D-blogs — and we also had a short Q & A session at the end.

Some were rather receptive to us, while others weren't. I attributed much of the reaction to the fact that a large percentage of the folks in attendance were older and from more rural areas.  Many openly stated that they didn't have computers or internet access. And the mere mention of the word "online" resulted in one individual putting her had in my face and saying "No" and walking away.

This really illustrates some of the discussion that's been happening over time in the DOC, especially at summits and conferences where a number of advocates have discussed the need to take the O out of DOC — to facilitate getting into local communities in real life.

Despite the hesitancy and negative reaction from some, I believe that if we reached and really helped just a handful of people, it was worth the effort... And that we did!

In fact, I did have the chance to help one rather frustrated lady who stopped by the D-Advocates booth. She had believed there would be a booth for diabetes screening in the exhibit hall, but much to her chagrin, there was not. And no one could provide any information about it, apparently.  So, I offered to help.

After confirming that there was no such a booth, I went over to the Bayer booth, told them I had someone who needed a meter and took a Contour back to the DA booth so we could check the lady's blood sugar for her.  The box contained no test strips, so I got the extra vial of Contour strips out of my own bag and D-blogger and musician Marie Smith and I showed her how to check her blood sugar.  After we checked her numbers, we talked with her a little bit about how often she should be checking, answered the questions we could, and made sure she knew to talk with her doctor if she had concerns. We then packed up the meter and my extra vial of strips and she went on her way.

Yes, I'm down a vial of strips, but that lady went away with supplies she needed and I went away knowing that we DA members had done what we set out to do in the first place: advocate for others. Sometimes that means shifting from what you planned to talk about — our great work online — to addressing people's IRL questions about what matters most to them at the moment.

While I didn't have a chance to take in many of the sessions due to working the booth, I was able to catch the closing session with athlete and motivational speaker Bill King.  His presentation was titled "Taking a Step in the Right Direction." The take-away was pretty simple; if you want to improve your diabetes management, you have to take action. Whether that is talking to your doctor, educating yourself, setting manageable goals, or something else... you have to take the first step. And attending conferences like TCOYD for education and inspiration is a great step to take on the journey, IMHO.

This was my very first TCOYD experience, and it was fantastic. I've wanted to go to a conference since I was diagnosed nearly four years ago, but haven't been able to do so.  I never imagined that I'd be part of the TCOYD faculty on my first trip, that's for sure!

It was great being among so many people living with diabetes, listening to the stories of those who stopped by the booth, and sharing our message alongside Scott and others. I'm thankful for the time I had to spend with my friends from the DOC, and to have had the chance to meet so many of them in person for the first time. I'm looking forward to returning to TCOYD the next chance I get!

Sounds like a job well done there, Mike. Thanks for sharing, and for helping as you can along with others in the DOC! 

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This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.