Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Peter Hillary Review

Finally have found some down time during the buys Holiday season to post patron reviews from the Peter Hillary engagement that took place on November 30th. Before sharing the collective patron feedback, thought it appropriate to share my observations from backstage, etc.

Mr. Hillary was a complete delight to work with. We had heard he was very accommodating, easy going, flexible, and inspirational. From our standpoint he lived up to his reputation and than some. From the point he landed on American soil to the time he left us, Mr. Hillary was a complete class act: respectful, thankful, interested, engaged, and a complete pleasure to deal with.

Knowing that during his expeditions, Mr. Hillary might spend months at a time out in small groups and countless days and nights alone, I expected him to be a very quiet, almost anti-social type. However, to my surprise, our conversation was lively, genuine, and easy flowing.

While his conversational strengths surprised me, it is not what I will remember most of Peter Hillary. I was amazed at how lean and wiry the man is from a physical stature. He may have been one of the leanest people I had come across; but you could tell he had major strength. It all made sense, knowing he has been using his body to climb to the highest peaks our globe has to offer; but still amazing to see up close and personal.

At any rate, below details how the collective voice of the patrons judged the engagement, followed by some quotes from individual attendees:

All judged on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the best / 1 being the worst)

Overall Engagement 4.6 (highest of season)

Lecture 4.6 (highest of the season)

Q&A 4.4

Lighting 4.3 (highest of season)

Acoustics 4.0

91% suggested it was "money well spent" (highest of the season)

92% suggested the engagement met their expectations (highest of the season)

"Mr. Hillary was one of the most entertaining speakers we have had in the series (and we have been there since it began). Going into the night I was not sure what to expect, nor was I anticipating much. However he did an excellent job and was well prepared at entertaining such a group. Great job."

"Mr. Hillary was a very good and interesting speaking. A great story teller. He kept my interest like a child being read an exciting bedtime story. He acted out scenes that added excitement and clarity. The videos were beautiful and you could just feel the cold and the wind. What an interesting father and fantastic to grow up in that environment."

"An engaging speaker, but Mr.Hillary is another mountain climber. Reaching the top of Everest is now old hat and I don't think he added anything to the crowd."

"Peter Hillary was one of the best speakers I've heard. I loved that he spoke without notes and came out from behind the podium. His stories were not only informative but made me feel like I was on that ice step drinking tomato soup with him! Loved, loved, loved him."

Based on the feedback we received from attendees, Peter Hillary is a speaker who I believe supports our theory about our Series. In general, patrons sign up for the series for the first time based on the big names and personalities that we may offer. However, most patrons renew their subscriptions based on the performance from the speakers and personalities they know little or nothing about.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Laura Bush Review

Somehow the following recap fell off our blog which was posted in early November...it has been re-posted for your review.

Have had a few days to look through all of the feedback from the Laura Bush engagement and before sharing, wanted to give you a couple of observations I had on my own.

I found Mrs. Bush to be quite charming, warm, and down to earth. She spent a good twenty minutes with my wife and family talking about very normal things: grandchildren, family traditions, normal, ordinary things. I came to the conclusion that while she played the part of First Lady very well and has the ability to "politic" with the best of them, her real comfort is to play the role of mother, grandmother, and wife. She seems internally wired and motivated by those things closest to her.

A touching moment came as she and her entourage were leaving the VIP / Photo area. A woman who had delivered a number of student letters to Mrs. Bush earlier in the day was late to the VIP area and had missed her opportunity to take a picture with Mrs. Bush. Recognizing the woman, and realizing she was upset, Mrs. Bush stopped into her tracks and turned right around (entourage in tow) to return to the VIP area and accommodate the tardy teacher.

Of all of the speakers we have hosted (36 and counting), Mrs. Bush brought the most security and personal assistants to Sacramento. Three different assistants reviewed ahead of time all of the questions asked during our Q&A sessions which was something very new to us. Bomb sniffing dogs were used twice prior to our engagement during the day inside the lobby and seating area. Certainly not my position to pass judgement on all of the security and handling, but very different from any speaker we had hosted in the past.

The Bush program scores were as follows:(1=LOWEST 5=HIGHEST)

The Overall Engagement = 4.2

The Lecture Portion = 4.0

The Q+A Portion = 4.0

Lighting = 4.3

Acoustics = 4.3

A few quotes from patrons about the program:

"I appreciated her delving into her personnal past. I wish she had been a little more forthcoming about some of her responses during the Q&A session."

"Her speech and the Q & A session were very practiced. Although Mrs. Bush has a great sense of humor, no real passion shown through. I read her book beforehand and much of her "speech" was lifted from the book. Perhaps billing it as a "reading from Laura Bush" would have been more accurate. I was disappointed."

"Laura Bush was gracious, warm, witty, and lovely!! She is the wife of one of the most polarizing presidents of my lifetime, and yet her talk was one that everyone could enjoy no matter what you thought of George W. Bush. The group of women I attend with, half of whom are politically conservative, and half very liberal, all loved Laura!! "

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

You Can Count On It!

While the news from Washington D.C. that General Petraeus will be replacing General Stanley McChrystal as the top U.S. Commander and strategist of the Afghan War may have been a surprise to most, I can promise that you won't hear much response from one retired General on the abrupt change of command.

General Richard Myers, who spoke in Sacramento during our 2006-2007 season, has been completely silent in the media about any military operations since he stepped down as the Joint Chiefs of Staff in October of 2005. His silence is not surprising to most patrons who listened to his lecture as he preached that the military should remain free of any and all politics.

Only time will tell whether or not General Stanley McChrystal will follow in General Myers shoes in his code of silence about his dismissal from Afghanistan.

Read the Wall Street Journal article by clicking here.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Past Speaker Hits a Milestone

Twenty-seven years ago, Sally Ride made history when her vessel, the Space Shuttle Challenger launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. As the shuttle took to the air, Ride became the first American woman to encounter space. A great blog entry from the Smithsonian Museum remembering the event and an interesting tidbit on Dr. Ride's space suit. Click here to read the entry.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

George Will on Perfect Game Gaffe!

While political pundit, and 2005-2006 season favorite, George Will is best know for his conservative views and writings, many also know that Mr. Will is an expert when it comes to our national pastime; baseball.

Recently, Mr. Will commented on the near perfect game thrown by Armanda Galarraga, which was ruined by an umpire's blown call on the final out. The story made national news over the last week for a number of reasons including whether or not baseball's commissioner should overrule the umpire's mistake.

To see how Mr. Will feels about such an idea...watch the video we have displayed below. And for the record, I agree with him!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Frank Abagnale Review

Based on the feedback from our patron survey, it is safe to say that the 2009-2010 season ended with a high-noted BANG!! Mr. Abagnale three headed discussion resonated strongly with patrons and left almost all who responded with very positive feelings.

The story of his life, which became the movie hit, Catch Me If You Can was the basis of his lecture and created a strong foundation for the evening. While many patrons knew about this part of his life, Abagnale's delivery seemed to captivate patrons from the beginning. His message of morality and teaching ethics and in the school and at home were well received although somewhat surprising considering his past. Abagnale's Q&A seemed to be the highlight of the evening as he took almost twenty minutes to answer the evening's last question, "How can consumers protect themselves from identity theft?".

The last program of our 2009-2010 season received the highest overall scores of the entire season which will hopefully leave patrons with good thoughts about the overall season. The Abagnale program scores were as follows:


The Overall Engagement = 4.8

The Lecture Portion = 4.7

The Q+A Portion = 4.9

Lighting = 4.5

Acoustics = 4.5

A few quotes from patrons about the program:

"His talk was fascinating and he is a captivating speaker!
We were very impressed with how he has used his childhood experiences to do good in the world and how he became such a wonderful family man as well. One of our favorite lectures to date!"

"Wasn't sure about lionizing a guy who after all was a crook. But learned he's paid his dues and has more than made up for any "youthful indiscretions". The info about fraud was the best part of the evening."

"At no other engagement have the lecture and Q&A been so different but each extremely interesting. The evening would not have been complete without both. Was this coincidence or by design? If by design, then you guys are getting very good at this. I thought the range of questions was outstanding."

"Mr. Abagnale was one of the most memorable speakers I have seen in all the years of I have been a member - extremely knowledgeable, a wonderful speaker, refreshingly humble and admirably committed to family, country and an ethical life. Absolutely wonderful - his presentation should be filmed and distributed."

Not surprisingly, 98% of patrons who responded labeled the evening "money well spent".

For those that missed the event and still would like some tips on protecting themselves against fraud and identity theft, I did find the a short interview featuring Mr. Abagnale.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Extra...Extra... Read All About It!

The Sacramento Bee has found the Sacramento Speakers Series newsworthy enough to feature our upcoming season in is newspaper and at sacbee.com.

The paper used Mrs. Laura Bush as our headliner and detailed all of the pertinent information about next year's series. If interested, take a read.

Great to see the local newspaper covering the local happenings in Sacramento!!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

First and foremost, Happy Mother's Day to all of the mothers among our patron group in the Sacramento area!!

Thought I'd celebrate the day with a quote from one of our 2008-2009 speakers, Ms. Cokie Roberts who wrote the book We Are Our Mothers Daughters. The book, by the way, was revised and expanded a couple years ago and can be found at Amazon by clicking here.

If you'd like to relive the night of the Cokie Roberts lecture, visit our past speakers page and take a look at the picture from Cokie's lecture.

Additionally, I found an interesting interview with Roberts on NPR that is worth a listen as we celebrate Mother's Day. Take a listen if you have a few minutes

I will leave you with the quote by Roberts which I firmly agree with. "No matter what else they're doing, women are also always nurturing."

Hope you all enjoy the day and celebrate with the women in your lives.

Monday, May 3, 2010

It's an April to Remember!!!

Extremely excited to report that this last April has been the best renewal sales month in the history of our organization; really no fooling!

While the improving economy and early announcement date surely have helped, I firmly believe this year's line-up might be our most recognizable, interesting, and timely from top to bottom.

We've received scores of calls from patrons from the past who are interested in rejoining and 64% of our current subscribers have already renewed their subscriptions making our outlook on the 2010-2011 season a very bright one!

Please keep in mind that all remaining seats will go on sale to the general public on Thursday, May 14th. Thus, if you are a current season subscriber and are interested in renewing your subscription we strongly suggestion doing so over the next few days.

As always, you can reach us directly by calling 1-866-773-2535 or by visiting us on the web at www.sacramentospeakers.com.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New York Times on Laura Bush

Caught an interesting article yesterday on upcoming 2010-2011 season speaker Laura Bush that I thought worth sharing. The article is an introduction/review of Bush's upcoming book, "From the Heart". Take a read when you have a moment.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dr. Joe MacInnis Feedback

On April 6th, 2010 we hosted Dr. Joe MacInnis at the Sacramento Speakers Series. MacInnis, who was an last minute replacement for Dr. Sylvia Earle (her cancellation warrants no discussion for the health of all involved), was chosen to keep the authenticity of our current season and was to fill the role of underwater scientist.

Below is the collective feedback on the evening from patrons who attending the program.

PROGRAM GRADES (1 low / 5 High)
Overall Enjoyment 4.3
Lecture 4.2
Q&A 4.0
Lighting 4.2
Acoustics 4.1

87% labeled the evening "money well spent"

While the scores are still all in the "4's" which I find acceptable, they do represent the lowest scores of our 2009-2010 season. The patron quotes that were collected from our survey seem to mirror the overall program grades from above.

"It was interesting. He certainly has an amazing background. I wish he could have gone into a little more depth during the Q & A period, and I found it hard to decipher what we were seeing on the videos. If he could have used a pointer, it would have helped. It was quite awe inspiring to see actual videos of the Titanic!"

"Even though Dr. MacInnis was a substitute speaker, I was pleasantly surprised at his excellent presentation. One of the best of the series."

"I enjoyed Dr. MacInnis' comment about the audience taking time to continue to learn as I think that' why we attend the Speaker Series and it was nice to have the speaker acknowledge it. Made a real connection with me."

"I was disappointed with Dr. MacInnis' presentation. I felt he had a lot more to offer than he did. I would rather have heard about his role and what he's done rather than how wonderful a person James Cameron is. Dr. MacInnis' humor wore thin.The video clips were hard to see and understand and really not that interesting to me."

"We almost didn't attend the engagement as, quite frankly, we had never heard of Dr. MacInnis. What a mistake that would have been. Dr. MacInnis' delivery was superb, with an excellent mix of humor, science and real-life experiences. While different from the "norm", the use of video clips really worked. Maybe all speakers should be signed on the fly!"

From my own point of view, I found Dr. MacInnis quite interesting as a person on his own and wished he had taken more time to speak about his own life and accomplishments. The thought of taking a submarine down to the depths he reported is astonishing to me and I wish he would have explained more of the technology behind deep sea diving.

Although I yearned for more information on the oceans and the species that live there, it would be unfair to ask Dr. MacInnis to speak on the subject as it is not his field of expertise.

I am grateful to Dr. MacInnis for pinch-hitting on short notice and from the patron feedback we received I think he did an admiral job in connecting with our audience.

If you'd like to see photos from the Dr. MacInnis program, simply click here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Baseball and George Will

With Opening Day just around the corner, thought it appropriate to share a Baseball quiz from one of America's most well known baseball fans. For those who have been with the Sacramento Speakers Series since our inception back in 2005, surely you'll remember the baseball loyalist and political pundit, Mr. George Will.

Great quiz, and for the record, I did not score a Grand Slam!

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Greetings from the Sacramento Speakers Series. For the first time in our five year history, we are writing to inform you that one of our speakers has been forced to cancel her appearance.

Due to an unexpected and uncontrollable circumstance, Dr. Sylvia Earle will not be appearing in Sacramento during our April 6th program.

In an effort to keep the integrity of our series intact, we have worked around the clock to find a qualified speaker whose expertise and experience relates to adventure and our oceans.

We are fortunate and excited to introduce Dr. Joe MacInnis as our distinguished guest for our upcoming April 6th lecture.

Dr. Joseph MacInnis is a physician-scientist who spent three decades studying physiology of humans working under the ocean. Between 1964 and 1994, he led thirty expeditions and logged more than five thousand hours under the Great Lakes, the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans.

Additionally, Dr. MacInnis has worked with Academy Award winning director James Cameron on a series of deep-sea documentaries which included 40 dives at ten deep hydrothermal vent sites surrounded by bizarre communities of life.

Dr. MacInnis will speak of his experiences and encounters in our great oceans and lecture on the physiology of humans working under extreme conditions underwater.

While we take every precaution possible to eliminate the chance of speaker reschedules and/or cancellations, unforeseen circumstances do happen. Please trust that we have and will continue to work tirelessly to keep these instances to a minimum.

We apologize for any issues that Dr. Earle's cancellation may have caused you. We firmly believe that Dr. MacInnis will be a fantastic replacement and we look forward to seeing you on April 6th.

Jeffrey Toobin Feedback

Based on collective client feedback, think it is fair to say that the Jeffrey Toobin event was a very successful endeavor.

Mr. Toobin graded out with high 4's in all of the categories that we survey (lecture, Q&A, acoustics, lighting, and overall experience) and personal comments were very positive and complimentary.

I myself was highly impressed with Mr. Toobin's extensive knowledge of the history of the Court and his ability to give the social, economic, and political conditions of time period he was referencing without the use of many notes, etc.

I agree with the few patrons commented that Toobin seemed a bit distracted and "lost his place" a few times during the lecture. For those who were not aware, Toobin has quite a bit going on in his personal life and one can only wonder if it is/was the root of his concentration lags.
I thought the Q&A segment was particularly interesting with great questions coming from patrons on the "Chicago Bearing Arms" Case as well as the "Corporation Spending" ruling which was just handed down. While the Prop. 8 question was posed and answered, would have liked Toobin to dig a bit deeper on the subject.

A few patrons did comment that we stopped the Q&A segment about 5 minutes early than normal. This assertion is true, based on the fact that we were out of questions and really had nothing left to ask Mr. Toobin from our list of patron questions.
Patron Quotes from the Engagement

"Jeffrey Toobin gave the most substantial and honest comments of the season's presenters.
He presented some personal insights of events in historical sequence, which provided insight as to who/why things have transpired. He was more entertaining than Colin Powell, which was a surprise to me, as I anticipated that he would be the best speaker of this series."

"This was the best of all the spkr series events I have attended. (1 full yr and so far this year everyone). Mr. Toobin is the perfect speaker with a great subject and the ability to connect to other events. Great selection."

"Mr. Toobin was very liberal. I also found him to be vague. Often he mentioned court cases, but with no explanation. It seemed like he thought he was talking to an audience of lawyers only. "

"The evening was great. We enjoyed his insights regarding the personal side of the justices and his comments on how the court has changed over the years and why it has changed. Good evening!"

"I loved the anecdotes and the humor and hearing a knowledgeable perspective about the Supreme Court. Toobin plainly leans to the left, but does so without rancor or snide remarks or being offensive. He made me think and provided fresh insights, which is what I look for in this series."

PROGRAM GRADES (1 low / 5 High)
Overall Enjoyment 4.6
Lecture 4.6
Q&A 4.5
Lighting 4.3
Acoustics 4.4
94% labeled the evening "money well spent" and 93% felt that Mr. Toobin met or exceeded their expectations.

Want to share some additional thougts? Add your comment below.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

2010-2011 Season Announcement (Almost)

Hints for those Interested on our 2010-2011 Season:

Speaker #1 - October - Born in 1946. Female. Graduated from SMU. She and husband have two daughters. Created the National Book Festival.

Speaker #2 - November. Born in 1954. Male. Began his "vocation" at age 11. Has worked on all 7 continents.

Speaker #3- January. Born in 1940. Male. Attended Univ. of Iowa but graduated from Univ. of South Dakota. Has worked for same company where he became a household name for 44 years.

Speaker #4- February. Born in 1948. Male. Retired CEO of multinational company who now lobbies in the industry for policy and industry reform.

Speaker #5 - March. Born in 1934. Female. Has been awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life from Harvard.

Speaker #6 - April. Born in 1960. Female. Reporter and writer best known as an author whose book was named "Top 10 of the Decade" by Amazon.

Guesses anyone?? Let's see if these hints were too hard or easy....

Monday, March 1, 2010

Rich Kaarlgard Recap

With the Rich Kaarlgard program behind us, I thought I'd share some patron feedback as well as my own thoughts about the program. We will begin using this platform to share the feedback from past engagements rather than take up precious stage time during each program moving forward.

Patron Ratings of the Program (1 Low / 5 High):

Overall Enjoyment 3.9

Lecture 3.8

Q&A Segment 3.8

Lighting 4.1

Acoustics 4.3

76% of patrons polled rated the event "money well spent" and 79% said that Mr. Kaarlgard met their expectations.

From my own standpoint, Mr. Kaarlgard was clearly not our "best" speaker ever, but far from our worst (that distinction goes to Richard Dreyfuss). The Economy continues to be a topic that resonates with patrons, but we've had challenges in finding speakers who are both entertaining/captivating and strong in content.

I enjoyed the lecture portion of the evening and Kaarlgard's comparison of the 1970's recession and the one we find ourselves into today. I also found it interesting that he "blamed" the media for much of the nation's poor "consumer confidence" scores even though he represents one of the periodicals creating the problem. Anything to sell a magazine I guess. :)
We did receive numerous complaints about the parking situation as the program was held on the President's Day Holiday. We apologize for the inconvenience and will do our best to stay away from the national holidays in the future. With that said, we are at the mercy of the Sacramento Convention Center and are only able to choose from dates not reserved by the California Musical Theater, Sacramento Opera, and Sacramento Ballet.

Individual patron feedback was consistent Mr. Kaarlgard's collective scores. Many found his talk full of interesting numbers and comparisons while a few found it disjointed and unorganized. The Q&A portion received many comments most sharing that Kaarlgard did not answer the question(s); speaking in generalities and "above the trees".

Kaarlgard was the first speaker of the season that touched a few of our patrons' political nerves. Right leaning patrons enjoyed his candor and intellect while a few "blue" patrons were somewhat put off by Kaarlgard's comments. For the record, this type of feedback is almost unavoidable as we cannot program full seasons with speakers who have not political insight (left or right).

A few Patron Comments:

"Richard's talk was very interesting all the way through. He's well informed and gave great insights on a lot of different issues. I'd say this ranked at close to the top of speakers you've had in the last couple seasons."

"He was too political. Strictly from the FOX news talking points. It would have been more interesting to talk about the current economic situation vs historical situation without his personal political jabs thrown in."

"Karlgaard gave simplistic answers to complex questions--saying short sellers were totally responsible for the the collapse of banks, for instance--and managed to insult anyone even slightly to the left. I attend this series to listen and learn from people who think differently. Instead, all I heard last night was partisan rhetoric."

"Richard Karlgaard was one of my all time favorites. He gave our economy a historical perspective that was understandable and comprehensive. What an intelligent man. I was so impressed! "

As always, we appreciate the time and consideration those give us in taking our speaker feedback survey each month. We hope this blog will give you some more insight on the collective feedback of the patron group as a whole and give you a forum to continue the "water cooler" dialogue after each of our programs.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

New Album for Capitol Steps

Finally able to concentrate on some housekeeping around the office last week, I had a chance to upload some pictures from our Capitol Steps engagement this last October (you can view by clicking here).

And while uploading the pictures, I caught up with the "Steps" and learned that they have recorded a new Holiday CD, entitled "Barackin' Around the Christmas Tree". While it may be a bit late for the holidays, I guarantee the album would bring plenty of "laughs and cheer" around any household.

If you'd like to get more information on the Capitol Steps or their new album, simply click here to visit their site.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bob Schieffer in the News

Found this blog written by a columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune topic re: Bob Schieffer's monologue from this past Sunday, January 3rd. A very interesting read, especially with his appearance in Sacramento coming up next week.