1. Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Pittsburg, KS–a small town in the Southeast corner of the state. I moved out to Arizona in the summer of 2000 to attend ASU.
2. How big is your family?
My family is small, but close. It’s just me, my younger brother, and my parents. And now I have a sister-in-law, which is great. My parents just relocated down to Arizona for retirement, so I’m a pretty happy camper.
3. Where did you go to school?
High School: Pittsburg High School, Pittsburg, Kansas (the purple dragons)
College: Arizona State University (B.A. and M.A.)
4. How did you decide to move from Kansas?
When I was nine I told my favorite aunt that I wanted to leave Kansas when I was older. It trickled down to my parents, and they told me, in a matter-of-fact way, that if I ever wanted to go to college outside of the state, that I would need to get a full-ride schoarlship, because they weren’t going to help with any of it. So, at a young age, I started doing things that would get me to that goal. Once I hit high school, I did every leadership, academic and athletic venture imaginable, and in the last two years I honed in on a few leadership positions that really put me at a competitive advantage. I got awarded one of four national spots in ASU’s Leadership Scholarship Program, and got a full-ride to attend ASU. Needless to say, I left Kansas and came to Arizona. I’ve been here ever since.
5. When did you know you wanted to work in communication?
When I was 16 I started doing public speaking on a small scale. And during my junior and senior years I took up two state-level leadership positions, where I traveled around the state and country facilitating leadership and motivational workshops, and doing keynote speeches. I learned that the power that words have to change things for the better was astounding, and I knew then that I wanted to work in some way with communication. I learned about the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at ASU, and wanted to go that route. My original (overly ambitious) 18-year-old-Jill goal was to major in Communication, minor in Spanish, and open up a company that does motivational speaking and leadership conference facilitating for underprivileged youth in Spanish-speaking second- and third-world countries. I quickly realized that four years of high school Spanish in Kansas didn’t nearly measure up to the level of Spanish I needed in Arizona, and I also realized that I enjoyed studying organizational and business communication. So that goal changed. When I graduated and was offered full funding to stay and continue graduate work, I took the offer and focused in strategic and computer-mediated communication. It was then that I taught my first class at ASU, public speaking, and realized that while I love speaking, I also have the potential to help change people’s lives for the better by helping them become more confident communicators. It was empowering. After finishing my graduate work, I was offered a full-time faculty position and decided to stay on instead of leaving to start my own business. After five years of teaching and working in higher education administration with online education, I decided it was time that I officially go out on my own and start Impromptu Guru. That was June 2011 and I haven’t looked back since!
6. What is the most fulfilling part of your job?
Seeing the change in people as they realize that they CAN speak well. That they CAN communicate with confidence. And that their words really do matter. I love helping others and making a positive difference in their lives.
7. Do you have a memorable success story?
The moment that I realized I was meant to help others communicate and present well goes back nine years to first semester I ever taught at a university. I was teaching a public speaking class and the students were getting ready to do their first graded speech. One student, we’ll call him Tom, walked to the front of the room, visibly distraught. He started to give his presentation and, within 30 seconds, stopped talking and left the room with tears in his eyes. He waited outside until the class break, where he asked if he could talk to me. He told me he was too embarrassed to go back into the class, but that he wanted help. I told him I understood, and to come see me in my office hours the next day. Tom showed up the next day, asking for help and ready to work. Week after week he would come visit me and we would work on presentation skills and, most importantly, on his confidence. By the end of the semester, this young man who couldn’t make it through his introduction stood up and gave a legitimate “B” quality speech (and I’m a tough grader). Seeing the change in Tom was incredible, and knowing I had something to do with it was even more humbling. What really solidified this career path in my mind, though, was when I got an email a week later from this student’s mother saying, “I know you probably don’t have parents emailing you to talk about their kids who are in college, but I had to write to you. I’ve noticed such a change in my son this semester, and he tells me it’s because of your help. Thank you.” I’ll never forget that moment.
8. Is there any person or company you have been excited to work with? Or would be?
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a lot of outstanding people and companies, so to single out one would be hard. But I will say that right now I’m really excited to be the communication and media coach for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. I’ve played sports since I could run, and to be working with women who are empowering others on and off the court, and to help them gain confidence with the media and public relations is a fantastic experience. I hope to continue working with professional athletes and sports teams in the Phoenix area and beyond in the coming months and years.
9. Why did you decide to do a radio show?
I truly believe that communication has the power to promote positive change. It’s my hope that by listening to Communication Nation, my audience will take away information that they can immediately implement into their businesses and their lives that will make a positive difference. Small changes can have big effects.
10. What to you hope to achieve doing your radio show?
My goals are two-fold. First, as I mentioned above, I want to help people make changes in their communication behaviors that can positively affect their lives. Second, I want to increase the national presence of my personal and business brand, so that hopefully I can gain new clientele and also get new opportunities in other media fields, such as television. I believe that this platform is a great way for me to extend my reach.
11. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Happy. It’s that simple. But I’m guessing you wanted more than that. I see myself still running my business, but only taking on selected clients. I see myself doing more large-scale keynote speeches and workshops. And I see a complete digital product line by Impromptu Guru so that people all over the world can learn how to communicate more effectively with affordable products and solutions. Some of these things are already in the pipeline, and I’m excited to see what lies ahead, but I’m enjoying my time in the present.
Jill Schiefelbein is an accomplished speaker, author, professor, and business owner. She is the owner of Impromptu Guru, a communication consulting company that was named Gilbert Arizonaâs 2012 âRookie of the Yearâ less than a year after its inception. She is also the host of âCommunication Nation,â a business communication talk show on VoiceAmericaâs Business Channel. She works with professional athletes, politicians, business executives, and groups to improve their communication and messaging strategies. Learn more at http://impromptuguru.com