As I was thinking back on 2018 I realized that this year is the 25th anniversary of a milestone event that rocked the speaking industry; something that’s not been repeated since. If you were in the industry back in 1983, you’ll remember just how profoundly things changed.
Three blockbuster business books were released in 1983. What was unprecedented is they held a grip on The New York Times Bestseller List from April 24 through September 25. During that time, those three books owned the top three spots on the list – shifting positions – but always #1, #2 or #3. Those books were: In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman; The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson; and Megatrends by John Naisbitt. They were the book equivalent of the 1964 British Invasion in music led by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Dave Clark Five, and others.
It can probably be argued which book had the most impact, but to my thinking, it was In Search of Excellence. I remember Tom Peters saying back then that in all the MBA courses taught at the time, none used the word “customer” in their curriculum. Peters’ message – delivered in a fire-and-brimstone revival preacher style – truly shattered how leaders thought about business and led a customer revolution. Peters flipped management on its head as he talked about how the best companies were committed to “excellence” – winning by focusing on customers and engaging their people.
So how did these books change the speaking world?
Before 1983 there may have been popular business books, but none dominated the way these three books did. And none spawned quite the revolution in speaking that these three did. The authors of these books became the most highly sought-after speakers of their time. In their wake, the authors created a demand for experts who could speak with authority on similar topics of these books. It set into motion a movement, really, of experts who were helping audiences rethink how their businesses competed and functioned.
SUPPLEMENTAL READING: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO BOOKING A SPEAKER
Up until the early 1980’s, so many of the popular speakers for business meetings and conventions were what people called “stem-winders” – speakers with a quick wit and light content who made people laugh and offered gentle, uplifting lessons. So many of those speakers found themselves displaced by a disruption they never saw coming – and it created opportunity for so many other fresh new voices on business thinking. It was just 25 years ago but it was the dawn of the new business of speaking – one where greater value was placed on substance over style…and that’s a good thing.