For more than 20 years, Clark Public Utilities’ community outreach and public speakers program has been a resource for local business groups, neighborhood associations and nonprofit organizations. With experts on topics ranging from energy efficiency to renewable power sources, the utility is a great place to start when seeking educational speakers.
“Everyone in our speaker’s bureau is a subject-matter expert,” said Lena Wittler, director of communications for the utility. “Each speaker tries to present interactively and pull questions from the audience as if they are having a one-on-one conversation — the goal is to provide information that is relevant and interesting for attendees, every time.”
Any organization, agency, nonprofit, service club, neighborhood association, employer or government agency can request a speaker on subjects ranging from energy gobblers to the purity of drinking water. “The employees who participate in the speakers program really enjoy the opportunities to answer customer questions in person, and presentations can be tailored to specific groups,” Wittler explained
“Energy efficiency and conservation are frequent topics for the energy counselors,” said DuWayne Dunham, senior energy counselor and energy services supervisor for the utility. The energy counselors set a goal of twenty presentations a year, and they are often after hours. “Most years we hit our goal and more,” Dunham said.
He said the three counselors, try to share the load while also considering the experience of the presenters, the timing, and the geographic areas each is responsible for supporting. As an example, Mike Wallace, an Eagle Scout, handles most of the speaking to the local Cub Scout groups. Although she’s also gotten in front of Girl Scout troops to talk about energy efficiency, Amber Hall now talks at company benefit fairs, where employees seek information about community assistance. Her background as both an energy counselor and a prior member of the Community Care team comes in handy with community assistance groups. “Both Mike and Amber realize what their audiences need to know,” Dunham said. “Mike knows just what Cub Scouts need because he has had similar experiences.”
While the speakers are always prepared for Plan A, they’re ready to roll with the punches as well. Handouts came in handy a couple of years ago at a presentation for Dunham. Although the organization committed to providing projector equipment for the presentation, the gear failed to show up. So, unruffled, he passed out the paper presentations he’d brought along and dove right into questions from the audience. “That turned out to be one of my better presentations,” he said.
Wittler said the utility can respond to speaker needs quickly, but asking sooner rather than later offers some flexibility on both sides.
Although the topics audiences want can change depending on current events, the speakers can cover a wide variety of information. Examples are conservation programs, electrical safety, electricity sources, future energy planning and environmental actions.
The demand for speakers is steady — and requests don’t peak seasonally. Dunham says the counselors do a couple a month and rarely turn down a chance to speak. You can also find an energy counselor at the Thursday night concerts at Esther Short Park this summer — look for the Clark Public Utilities tent.
If your local group is looking for an expert speaker, it’s easy to schedule a utility employee to visit. Just go to the utility website (www.clarkpublicutilities.com) and enter “outreach programs” in the search bar for more information or use the contact form online.
Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to email@example.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.