Edmond Speech Coaches Helped Miss America Win Title

Tuesday, March 20th 2007, 3:03 pm
By: News On 6

EDMOND, Okla. (AP) Two Edmond men whose business is coaching public speakers were part of the team that worked with Lauren Nelson and helped her become Miss America.

Nelson, a 20-year-old music theater major at the University of Central Oklahoma, has been back in the state this week for the first time since being crowned Miss America in January.

Two of Nelson's mentors were Jonathan Smith and Rhett Laubach, owners of J. Edward Smith and Co. and YourNextSpeaker LLC, in Edmond.

The two are professional speakers and corporate trainers with a client list that includes business leaders, political figures and now two consecutive Miss Americas. They also worked with Jennifer Berry, last year's Miss America.

They advised contestants from 21 states in the most recent Miss America competition some who attended workshops and others who received one-on-one training.

Smith and Laubach met at Oklahoma State University while Smith was working toward a degree in communication and Laubach had completed a degree in agricultural economics.

"I had started traveling across the country as a professional speaker and I knew I wanted to go full-time as a speaker and corporate trainer," Laubach said. "I was developing my leadership programs and Jonathan was getting into the communications training and consulting business."

Smith was chosen to judge the Miss Oklahoma pageant, at the age of 22. That's when he and Laubach saw an opportunity to expand their services to a new and unique audience.

That was nearly six years ago and since then the two have coached hundreds of pageant contestants and student leaders in 35 states.

Smith said he first met Nelson when she was 16 and competing in the Miss Teen Oklahoma pageant system. He helped her prepare three presentations to convey her community service platform, which was and still is online safety for children.

The communications coach not only helped with the public speaking aspect of her presentations, but also worked with her on "discussion style" speaking to prepare her for interview questions and spontaneous conversation.

"Lauren is one of the most open and willing people I've ever worked with," Smith said. "She is a real genuine human being."

Smith said Nelson has been a superb student.

"One of the things that hasn't been said much about her is how incredibly young she is," Smith said. "She's so willing to learn and good at taking constructive criticism."

Along with doing one-on-one training with clients, Smith and Laubach travel across the country leading workshops and also working with clients via the Internet.