… I would strongly encourage someone to shift their mindset to view it this way…it isn’t failure, it is feedback. I think this by far, is the greatest mindset you could have. It is scary. You will be rejected. And it is ok. Try to learn something each and every time.
In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker” we are talking to successful and effective public speakers to share insights and stories from their experience. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Val Jones.
As a professional figure skater, Val understands what it takes to compete and maintain peak performance. She started skating at 5 years old. By age 11, she moved to the Bay Area to train with elite coaches and ended up training side by side with Brian Boitano. She has shared the ice and the podium with Olympians Kristi Yamaguchi and Tonya Harding. Unfortunately, she sustained a career-ending knee injury that ended her competitive career. While she never saw her Olympic dreams come true, skating has provided her with first-hand knowledge of commitment, perseverance, and how to overcome obstacles. Val brings her experience in these fields and shares this knowledge with her clients to help them achieve their own peak performance.
Val has overcome a lot of adversity aside from that knee injury ended her skating career. She suffered her greatest personal loss at age 13, when her Dad died of a massive heart attack. She says losing her Dad was losing her best friend. She has also endured 8 surgeries in 9 years due to the rigors of skating, and a life-threatening MRSA infection. All of these obstacles have made Val the motivator she is today. She knows a thing or two about pain, heartache, and disappointment. But hasn’t let any of these things keep her down.
Val is a highly sought-after speaker, and she says she loves speaking to an audience. She enjoys bringing her audience through her story leaving them with hope that will sustain them to chase after their dreams. She is convinced what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and she is here to do just that. It is her goal and mission in life to help you do the same.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I am the youngest of seven. My Dad was a Marine. So, our house had rules and an understanding that it took all of us to make it work. And we were all very competitive. From whom could get to the station wagon the fastest, to who could make the silliest face at dinner. Dad usually won that one. We were very loved and supported in our sporting activities. ALL of us kids played sports. And as the schedules allowed, we went to each other’s games/events to cheer each other on.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
At the risk of sounding obnoxious, I knew I had a story. A story worth sharing so that others could benefit from my pain. I would frequently give “pep talks” as a CrossFit instructor. One of my athletes asked me if I could come talk to his staff. The rest, I guess you could say, was history.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I entered a CrossFit competition. And my judge was in a wheelchair. In the midst of my pain, I gasped that “I couldn’t.” My judge says to me, “I don’t have working legs, you don’t hear me saying ‘I can’t.’” Point taken.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I had two back-to-back speaking engagements. My flight was delayed. A lot. I had just enough time to check into my hotel, shower and get ready. I showed up to the venue and as I walked on stage I said, “Hello St. Louis.” That was the last city I was in.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
This is a really hard question. I’ve had so many mentors in my life. All of them playing a crucial part in my success. But, by far, I’d have to say my husband. He has supported me over the years and nursed me back to health after so many surgeries and a life-threatening infection.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
I would strongly encourage someone to shift their mindset to view it this way…it isn’t failure, it is feedback. I think this by far, is the greatest mindset you could have. It is scary. You will be rejected. And it is ok. Try to learn something each and every time.
What drives you to get up everyday and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?
My Dad once told me, “Every check you write to regret you are going to cash in one day. And it is going to hurt like he**.” I lost my Dad when I was 13. His words were powerful in my heart. I have lived my life trying to write as few checks to ‘regret’ as possible. It is my mission in life to help others write as few checks as they can.
You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?
Like many, 2020 brought many changes in my life. One of them being my youngest child moved out. I found myself in what could only be classified as a midlife crisis. I did what any 21st-century woman would do; I took to the internet. And found almost nothing. I want to serve these women who have dedicated their lives to raising their children and putting everybody before themselves. I think there is a great need here.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite skater, Scott Hamilton says, “The only true and real disability in life, is a bad attitude.” No truer words have ever been spoken.
Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker?” Please share a story or example for each.
To begin, you have to have a high level of confidence and the ability to accept rejection. It takes a lot of “no’s” before you get a “yes.” Beyond that, you need to be relatable to your audience; the ability to connect with your audience on an emotional level; and most importantly, be a great storyteller.
How can you improve your public speaking skills? While there may be many answers to this question, a few practical ideas would be to record yourself talking and watch it back. Yes, it is painful. But also, very effective. Another idea is to join your local chapter of Toastmasters. (I’m an unpaid sponsor). This is an organization where you get to practice your speaking in front of people and get immediate feedback. It is a wonderful organization for all who communicate — not just speakers! And lastly, employ help from family and friends and practice in front of them. They will hopefully be supportive.
How can you overcome a fear of speaking in public? Practice, practice, practice. I think Ryan Holiday in his book “The Obstacle is the Way” says, “Fear and panic can be trained out. It doesn’t go easy, but it can be trained out.” So, practice not until you get it right, but until you can’t get it wrong. Also, knowing the audience wants you to succeed helps calm nerves. And if you leave something out…they have no idea!
What does it take to give a very interesting and engaging public talk? A beginning, middle, and end is certainly a good start. But being relatable to the audience and giving them the ability to see themselves in your story is quite effective. Making them feel something — laughter and tears. And giving them hope is always a good idea.
As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?
Practice and breathe. Practice and breathe!
You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Be kind to each other. We are living in a cancel culture world. Why can’t we just agree to disagree and be thankful for each other. Be kind. Life is too short to not be.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?
This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Figure Skater Val Jones On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.