October 9, 2012 by Speakers' Spotlight

In Conversation with Jim Knight

Jim Knight – Service & Culture Expert

A training and development veteran for more than 35 years, Jim speaks and facilitates on a variety of topics, including organizational culture, world-class service, employee branding, performance management, philanthropy, facilitation training, personal development, leadership skills and his approach to corporate universities

Speakers’ Spotlight: Why did you become a speaker?

Jim: It was really a replacement for my first love: to be a professional singer.  I was Classically trained – went to college on a full music scholarship.  Although I can still do “Ave Maria” or “The Lord’s Prayer” at a wedding or a funeral, I discovered that to make it in the real world, you had to be good.   I was not great, so I changed careers after I got my Music degree, and instead studied History & Children’s Education and became a Middle School teacher (6 years).  During the summer break, started at the new Hard Rock Cafe as a Host, seating tables…and stayed for 21 years.

During my progression, I worked my way up to Sr. Director of Training.  Ran point on all training initiatives, including starting & facilitating their instructor-led corporate university.

Speaking became a strength for me and I started doing it on the side for other companies as an additional revenue stream for my dept, it perpetuated the brand in the public domain and fed the beast for me to speak in front of others.  I had so many request to speak at events in 2012, that I decided to make a ‘go’ of it professionally on my own

Speakers’ Spotlight: What impact would you like to have on your audiences?

I want to add value – for people to never feel like their time with me was a waste, but instead enriched their personal or professional life in some way.  I want people to be pleasantly surprised with the messages I share and the style with which I deliver.  I want them to hunger for more – that they want to take me home to their own companies/depts.  I want to make them forget their was a speaker before me, a break after me or that they had to go pee.

Speakers’ Spotlight: Tell us about a memorable event.

Jim:  I delivered the Orientation to 3,000 new Hard Rockers on a big stage in Biloxi, Mississippi the day before Hurricane Katrina hit and had to evacuate the staff…all of this 2 days before the property opened.

I spoke in a series of presos in the US for a group of select funeral directors, who always stayed at Marriott during their events, would never consider staying at a Hard Rock Hotel…until I was able to influence them to start thinking differently about their business.  They booked at a Hard Rock Hotel for their next event where the guaranteed sales in F&B and rooms before arriving onsite was $300K.  Great validation.

I just recently filled in for the opening keynote session in front of 1,800 HR professionals in Florida, because the speaker cancelled less than 24 hours before he spoke – that was a rush to pull that off.

Speakers’ Spotlight: Tell us something surprising about yourself.

Jim: My first job was at a gator farm – I sold fish, drove a miniature train, took pictures with boa constrictors & worked on an alligator insemination program.

I once worked as a Housekeeper for 4 hours.

I have an ongoing fear of being shocked (static electricity).

I’m a huge Star Trek fan – my home office is decked out in authentic Trek memorabilia.

I’ve got wheels – I can run pretty fast.

I can do great impressions of a cricket, a horse, a mountain lion and a baby alligator.