On Wednesday, January 21st, Diversify presented “A Night with Mitt Romney: Learning to Navigate Today’s Economy,” to a sold-out crowd at downtown Salt Lake City’s Abravanel Hall. Serving as the kickoff to Diversify’s 2015 Investor Education Series (click here for upcoming events), the event featured presentations from the co-founders of Diversify, Ryan Smith and Dan Luke; the Governor of Utah, Gary Herbert; and the former Governor of Massachusetts and 2012 Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney.
The evening was hosted by Diversify’s vice president of business development, Nick Hansen, who is also the host of Diversify Radio with Dan & Ryan. In addition, there were two special guest appearances during the event: KNRS’s Rod Arquette, who was present to introduce Diversify’s Ryan Smith, and Dr. Kurt Christensen, former BYU basketball star and current partner at Burg Pediatric. Dr. Christensen is a close friend of the Romney family and was present to introduce Romney.
Ryan Smith addresses the nearly 3,000 attendees at Abravanel Hall
The central message of the event was how the individual investment and financial decisions made within the four-walls of our own homes impact the local, national, and global economies. Each of the evening’s participants tailored their individual presentation to help deliver this important message.
Diversify’s co-founders, Ryan Smith and Dan Luke, used their presentation to focus on the individual investor and personal finance. Governor Herbert spoke on the state of the Utah economy, receiving many ovations for his positive report on a strong and vibrant state economy. Romney took the remainder of the evening to share a presentation on several global and national economic topics, which included national debt and GDP, education, and household income.
To the delight of the crowd, the event ended with an engaging Q&A session with Romney, which was moderated by Diversify’s Ryan Smith and Dan Luke. The questions posed to Romney had been submitted online in advance by many of the event attendees. For nearly 40 minutes, Romney offered answers to a range of questions, which included advice on career advancement, personal finance and money management, and his perspective on the future of the country.
Dan Luke delivers his presentation "Our Personal Impact"
Organizing “A Night with Mitt Romney”
Diversify contracted with Romney to offer a keynote address for the event in mid-September 2014. “We have a business relationship with members of the Romney family,” says Ryan Smith, Diversify’s president. “So we had the advantage of being able to make direct contact and get a commitment from Mitt relatively quickly. Locking him down for the keynote address was the first aspect of the event that we secured, and doing so permitted us to begin crafting all the other details.”
“After Ryan put me in touch with Mr. Romney’s agent, and we officially signed the contract,” says Nick Hansen, who in addition to hosting the event, also worked as the event’s senior producer, “it then became a function of organizing all the other elements of the event, including coordinating with sponsors, venue, catering, and all the audio/visual elements.”
Hansen continues, “Throughout August and September, I met with Dan and Ryan several times to begin crafting the general message we hoped to deliver, how the various speakers would participate in that message, how we would promote the event, and then to select a venue and event sponsors that would support what we were hoping to accomplish. They had a specific vision for this event, and it was my job to bring that vision to life.”
“I really applaud Dan and Ryan for their vision of the event,” says Hansen. “They gave me the direction to make tickets highly affordable so that price wouldn’t prevent someone from being able to attend our event.”
Hansen says that the most consistent feedback Diversify received throughout the planning of the event was the ticket prices, which ranged from $15.50 to $34.50. He says “people kept telling us we were giving tickets away, which is basically what Dan and Ryan wanted to do. They were adamant that it must be affordable for the public.”
Nick Hansen was the event's host and worked as the senior producer
Hansen also says that managing the vast amount of media interest became a critical aspect of organizing the event. He notes that over the course of two months, Dan Luke and Ryan Smith were interviewed on several local television shows, spoke with newspaper reporters, and were guests on several radio programs. “There were days when I would complete several conference calls with all my event sponsors and vendors, including Romney’s team, and then I would immediately join conference calls where I was negotiating promotional and reporting deals with the local and national media.”
Hansen laughs as he relates how he took two telephone calls from national media outlets during his rehearsal at Abravanel Hall, which was held on the afternoon of the day of the event. “There I was, working through a couple of aspects of my own on-stage role for the event, and my cellphone would ring, and I would have to take it, and since I was wearing my mic, everyone in rehearsal would have to listen to me over the loud speakers talking with reporters from Bloomberg or a news producer with Fox News.”
Hansen says he felt confident in his organization of the event, but that the help and professionalism of his many vendors and colleagues really made the event a success. “I deputized an office colleague, Ty Fagergren, to be my assistant on the day of the event. Ty did a lot of heavy lifting for me on that day, and I deeply appreciate everything he did.”
Hansen also applauds the graphic design elements of the event, which were the work of Brett Beynon. “Brett handled all the design aesthetics of the event, from PowerPoint slides to the event program, and his work was absolutely incredible. Brett really allowed us to take all the design elements of the event and our own brand, and bring them together in a way that aligned well with our company and the messaging of the speakers.” Hansen notes that many of the design elements of the event were picked up by various media, including nationally on CNN.
Hansen also wishes to thank Utah Food Services for catering a private event, which was conducted prior to the main event, Corp Staging for the audio and visual (special thanks to Karah Crosby), and the staff and crew of Abravanel Hall (special thanks to Jessica Kremers and Nicole Briggs), and Eric Delphanich Photography.
An Evening of Powerful Messages
“The response has been overwhelming,” says Dan Luke, CEO of Diversify. “We’re very pleased to have brought this educational opportunity to our community. And what we’re hearing is that people left the event inspired to make better financial and investment decisions” (click here to speak with a Diversify team member).
Ryan Smith was the first presenter of the evening and chose to focus his remarks on what he called “the great experiment.” Smith says that the sole intention of his presentation was to communicate how “people are often lead astray” from making careful and good financial or investment decisions by falling victim to behavioral or psychological errors.
“My message was really about this concept of the ‘herd mentality,’ which is basically a concept that says we tend to have more interest in keeping up with the Joneses, or impressing others, than with fashioning financial plans specific to our own circumstances or objectives.”
Utah's Governor, Gary Herbert, speaks on the Utah economy
Smith was followed by his business partner, Dan Luke. “I called my remarks ‘our personal impact’ because I wanted to convey how the decisions individuals make impact their personal economies and the economy at-large.”
In addition to sharing his own personal journey, having experienced some financial hardship in his youth, Luke spoke about the dangers of debt, following bad advice, failing to acquire good assets, and investment plans that aren't properly diversified.
“My hope was to offer a couple ideas about what individuals concerned with personal finance or investing can do to make better decisions. A lot of what I spoke about is embodied in [Diversify’s] philosophy and approach to investing, but my hope is that anyone who isn't currently working with an [financial] advisor could take home some information they could begin using on their own,” says Luke.
Following Dan’s presentation, Governor Herbert spoke about the Utah economy and several performance metrics, such as jobs and economic growth, which set Utah apart from other states. “His message was very encouraging for everyone there,” says Luke. “In many ways the Governor’s remarks served as not only a report on the state of the Utah economy, but a moment during which those in attendance probably felt proud to be living in a state that seems to be insulated from issues and problems other states are facing.”
The Keynote Address from Mitt Romney
After a short intermission, Dr. Kurt Christensen was invited on stage to introduce his friend, Mitt Romney. Christensen, who had spent a summer living with the Romneys many years ago, shared some personal stories about Romney. “If you ask me,” said Christensen during his introduction, “Mitt would likely view his love-affair with his wife, Ann, as his greatest achievement.”
“I was standing backstage right beside Mitt during Christensen’s introduction,” says Ryan Smith. “It was fun to see this American icon so touched and moved by Kurt’s opening remarks, and particularly the discussion of [Romney’s] family. Say what you want about his politics or professional career, but Mitt Romney is a very humble man who graciously treats everyone around him, from the stage crew to his fellow presenters, with unmistakable kindness.”
Romney began his presentation with some opening remarks about the time he spent in Salt Lake City during the 2002 Olympics, and he even joked with the crowd about his loss of the 2012 presidential election. Romney quipped that some of those in the crowd may already know that he ran for president in 2012. And for those who didn't know, Romney jokingly smiled and said, “Well, I won!”
After sharing several stories about his time in Salt Lake City working as the 2002 Olympics CEO, Romney moved right into his PowerPoint presentation that highlighted several of his concerns regarding the direction of the country.
Romney’s presentation was very direct and unapologetic about several issues he viewed as cause for deep concern, such as the national debt, housing and the financial burdens facing America’s middle class, environmental issues (even admitting to the crowd that he believed humans play a role in global warming), global and national poverty, and education.
When speaking about poverty in the U.S., Romney spoke about two trends visible in the poverty rate in the U.S. First, he mentioned that the poverty rate in the U.S. needed to be addressed through education initiatives that aimed to bring the very best minds back into America’s classrooms as teachers.
In addition, Romney noted that the poverty rate in America has actually increased in recent years. His slide showed the rate hovering around 15% following several decades during which it had steadily declined. A second slide Romney displayed showed this upward trend of poverty by noting that 43.5 million Americans live in poverty, which was the highest rate displayed on a graph dating back to 1965.
Mitt Romney presenting during "A Night with Mitt Romney: Learning to Navigate Today's Economy"
Romney’s slide, which was entitled “Crushing Burden of Debt,” displayed an explosion of public debt as share of the economy. This particular slide, which dated back to 1940, showed a steep increase starting in 2010. Romney then walked the audience through where this money was being spent, per the federal budget, and offered several points of concern.
“Many of those in attendance saw Romney’s presentation as a political speech, as though he was somehow testing his 2016 political platform,” says Nick Hansen. “That obviously might be true, and we will all find out soon enough. But I also think this was an opportunity for [Romney] to speak about several issues that American’s must face head-on in the ensuing years.”
Hansen says he felt less convinced that this was a speech from a future presidential candidate, but was rather a call for national leadership on several critical issues.
Perhaps the highlight of the evening came at the conclusion of Romney’s presentation, where he joined Dan Luke and Ryan Smith onstage for a Q&A session. The questions posed to Romney were submitted by the public in advance of the event.
During this time, Romney spoke about his younger years and offered several pieces of advice to the crowd. There were several takeaways from Romney’s thoughtful answers, which included this popular guidance to young professionals: “If you want to be successful, do your present job well.”
Perhaps his driving message of the night was when he spoke about financial success and material wealth. Romney encouraged people to define their success by their faith, relationships with family, and by their service. He cautioned that those who try to define their success by wealth or promotions will quickly discover that those things are largely the result of good fortune and luck, which are things over which we have little control.
Ryan Smith says that Romney’s “leadership and passion were displayed through the answers he provided” throughout the Q&A session. “Most people obviously came to see Mitt Romney and hear directly from him, and I think they got exactly what they wanted,” concludes Smith.
“It was a night filled with some encouraging and inspiring messages,” says Dan Luke. “My hope is that people walked away feeling like their investment of time and the price of their ticket offered a real return of insight, education, and motivation.”
“For me, I just couldn’t be more pleased with how everything went,” reflects Hansen. “There are so many moving parts in organizing an event like this. As I look back on it all, it was truly a whirlwind of activities to get everything ready. But the payoff are the phone calls and emails from people who attended the event and felt like their lives were somehow improved as a result of something they experienced or heard during the event.”
Ryan Smith, Dan Luke, and Mitt Romney
Dan Luke, Ryan Smith and Mitt Romney
Ryan Smith, Diversify's President and Co-founder
Dan Luke, Diversify's CEO and Co-founder
Nick Hansen, Vice President of Business Development at Diversify
Governor Gary Herbert and Mitt Romney
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