Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Not too long ago, I attended a dinner meeting of the Aquarium of the Pacific’s all-volunteer Speakers Bureau and its Booth Program, for an evening of camaraderie and to discuss our work and how we’ve been doing over the course of the last two years, since the last time such a meeting was held. (They usually hold such a dinner every other year, and this time we dined in our Tropical Pacific preview area, with a lovely backdrop of very colorful fish.)
The Speakers Bureau, of which I am a part, finds us making presentations at service club luncheons and meetings of other groups that also request our presence and knowledge. One really fun place to speak, for me, anyway, is at the Long Beach Courthouse, where we set up shop in the Jury Assembly Room and talk to people waiting to be put on panels for court cases.
The folks in the Booth Program, instead, go to fiestas, parades, and various other events, where they represent the Aquarium and tell the public about our mission and work.
Those of us who make presentations stress the importance of conservation and sustainability both during our slide presentations of the Speaker’s Bureau or at tables set up by our Booth Program volunteers.
At the recent meeting of both groups, we ate a great meal of penne pasta with a delicious cream sauce and roasted veggies, which were accompanied by an incredible Caesar’s salad, garlic bread, and coffee, ice tea, and water. (Our food service company, formerly SMG but now known as Savor, always does such great work!)
Leah, from the Booth Program, started the meeting by telling us about her work, and mentioned that the group recently attended an event where the discussion focused on ecology friendly clothing. Members of some of the other organizations at the event even brought with them live animals, including tortoises, to share with the public.
“Going out to these venues you meet a lot of people and get to learn a lot from them,” Leah said, adding that she and others often make good contacts at the events, as they did at this particular one.
As with those of us on the Speakers Bureau, the members of the Booth group take their love and knowledge of the Aquarium and share it with others, sometimes getting them so enthused that they actually manage to recruit members and/or volunteers!
She said that the group is looking forward to working at one event in particular, the Belmont Shore Christmas Parade that will be held in early December, because this year’s parade theme is the Aquarium’s 10-year Anniversary. I plan to work that event as well, and am looking forward to it; the parade takes place on the evening of December 5 on that portion of Second Street in Long Beach known as Belmont Shore.
Terry, our tireless Speakers Bureau leader, spoke next, and mentioned that in 2007 we got our message to about 1,000 people via 25 presentations. That’s so cool!
Most of our engagements and those for the Booth Program come through the Aquarium’s Marketing Department, which gets a call requesting our involvement. In addition to service clubs, these calls primarily come from senior citizen groups, veterans’ organizations, and church groups.
Sometimes our Speakers Bureau presentations are as short as 15 minutes, but they can go for as long as an hour, as my pal Val and I have found when we do presentations at the courthouse. It’s funny, you know, because we always use the 30-minute presentation, but we get so excited in presenting our topic to what always ends up being a very receptive audience that we often go twice as long.
It really is easy to talk a lot about all that we do, and it’s interesting to see how our audience at first seems very disinterested in what we are about to do as we set up, but then gets so engrossed in our talk that we get all sorts of questions after we’re done; this, of course, brings us into the hour range of time.
Thankfully, we now have a second projector for our Speakers Bureau presentations, so we can cover more territory instead of winding up with two engagements on the same day and time without being able to cover both.
Part of the purpose of our dinner meeting was to get updated talking points on the Aquarium’s 10th Anniversary theme of “Ocean on the Edge,” about which I’ve written a few things in previous blogs. Click here to learn about coral reef issues and here if you want to know more about global climate change.
At each presentation of the Speakers Bureau, we also give away two free tickets to the Aquarium, which always is a big hit.
Val made a presentation to our group toward the end of our meeting, showing us what she put together to send, via e-mail, to a new friend she and her husband met while on a trip to the Amazon jungle in South America earlier in the year, and what a good job she did.
“During the course of our visit there we had one guide assigned just to us,” Val told us before starting her presentation, which she projected from her laptop computer onto a viewing screen. The guide, she said, took his charges along rivers, where they got to see such amazing animals as pink dolphins. He also took them to his village, called Indiana, (so named by Methodist preachers), so they could see where he lives.
“We were impressed with this young man. He taught himself to speak English, with little education, and is committed to do what he can to save the environment he lives in,” Val said.
In talking to the young man, Val mentioned to him that she, too, is a guide, but a different type of guide. With her laptop computer in hand, Val and her husband then “showed him the world,” as it were, through their computer. ‘My husband got a computer for him and now we communicate by e-mail.”
This prompted Val to put together her slide show about the Aquarium so that her new friend could see her kind of tour guiding work here in California.
After her presentation, Terry commented that it was time to “bring our mutual admiration society meeting to a close.” I suppose we do admire each other so much because of the work that we do. I’m very proud to be part of such a wonderful component of the Aquarium, which enables me to go out to tell the public about our wonderful organization and the joy I get out of volunteering here.
Who knows, maybe I can recruit a few more members and/or volunteers myself! Are any of you game?
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