When I was a kid my Mom was my public speaking coach. Not that I wanted one. But my Mom insisted that public speaking was an important life skill. And if she did one thing right in her parenting role, she was going to have kids who knew how to speak well in front of others. And if she did one thing wrong, it would be that those kids wouldn’t know how to stop talking.
Jill Albrecht knows a thing or two about public speaking. She is a funny, energetic and dynamic woman who comes alive on stage. When I was a young boy she was involved in the Jaycettes, which was the women’s version of the Jaycees, a leadership and development organization. And every year the Jaycettes held a public speaking competition.
I remember my mom entering the local competition, and to my surprise and delight, she won. She moved on to the Wisconsin state competition, and won that too. That win qualified her for the national competition in Cincinnati. I was excited to go, and hoped to see WKRP, and meet Loni Anderson (who went to high school with my Aunt Carol).
The national competition, which was held in a large auditorium in downtown Cincinnati, was the first time I had ever seen my Mom deliver her speech in public. And I couldn’t believe how good she was. She commanded the stage. Her pace, her pauses and her power were mesmerizing. The way she emphasized key words and phrases made you underline those important words in your head too. Her masterful use of hand gestures made her fun to watch. And her effective use of eye contact made it feel as if her message was intended specifically for me. Like when she shot me daggers in church.
Then, after all the speakers were finished, and the judges had a moment to confer, the top finishers were announced. And the last person announced, with the top score, and winner of the national speaking competition, was Jill Albrecht. My Mom! And in the back of the auditorium, I practically exploded with pride as my Mom took center stage to rousing applause to accept her award. My Mom was a baller!
Throughout my career in advertising, I have given thousands of presentations. In fact, I have already guest-lectured to two college classes this week, and it is only Wednesday morning. In other words, I use my Mom’s public speaking lessons practically every day.
But I also pass those speaking and performing lessons that my Mom taught me on to others. Over the course of my career, I have directed performances by well-known TV personalities like Rachael Ray. I have directed NASCAR drivers including Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kevin Harvick, and Danica Patrick. And I have even directed movie star Julia Roberts. And every time I provide guidance on how to deliver a line, I am channeling my Mom.
Two weeks ago I flew to San Francisco to film the CEO of one of The Weaponry’s great clients. This CEO is a rockstar. The company she co-founded is now a $10 billion company, and taking off like a rocket. As we worked together she soaked up direction like a moisture-wicking workout shirt. And on multiple occasions she stopped and asked me how I would say a line or a phrase, noting that she liked the way that I delivered the lines.
As I sat in the CEO’s downtown corner office, where pictures of her with President Obama hung on the wall (she has met him 3 times) I couldn’t help but recognize that it wasn’t my direction she liked. It was my Mom’s. It was the lessons on style, pace, and emphasis that she taught me as a young boy that I was simply passing along. Like a family recipe.
Today is my Mom’s 71st birthday. Today also marks the 24th anniversary of my career. I know this because I started my first job on my Mom’s birthday. And today I recognize how valuable her lessons on public speaking have been to my career. They helped me as I interviewed for jobs. They helped me as I presented ideas to clients. They helped me in new business pitches. They helped me as I gave speeches and lectures. And they helped me direct major celebrities and rockstar CEOs.
The lessons we teach others can benefit them for a lifetime. Keep teaching and sharing what you know. Empower others with your skills, knowledge and life lessons. You never know how many people you may positively impact in the process.
Thank you Mom. You have directed me well. Happy Birthday. Love, Adam