Who’s the Ken Bone of Your Event?

Skift Take

Ken Bone is unanimously the winner of the latest presidential debate. Do you have a Ken Bone in your event?

If you don’t know who Ken Bone is, you are probably not into politics or you don’t like the Internet.

During the last presidential debate, one of the crudest ever, there was a moment of happiness catalysed by Ken Bone.

In a revolutionary debate format, entirely centered around questions from the audience – the whole Internet stopped when a member of the audience, Ken Bone, took the mic.

He immediately won over the attention of the audience with a mix of:

  • a great question
  • a fantastic sweater
  • genuine likeability
  • an impressive mustache
  • a disposable camera to take pictures

The type of cocktail that makes the Internet go wild. See the moment in action:

But I am not here to laugh about it, I want to talk about why Ken Bone won. And why it matters for your event.

Speakers about Speakers

If you were watching the debate, and without getting into politics which is very off-topic in our context, you felt the tension. Two speakers shouting at each other for most of the time and mostly ignoring the fact this was an audience-driven event. Watching Ken Bone standing up was a wake up call for most of the audience. A refreshing image of an average undecided voter who, with incredible simplicity, shifts the focus back to the very reason why the event is happening, answering questions.

The #winning of Ken Bone signals an increasingly present problem with speakers. Their self-centered approach to performing that does not take the audience into consideration. Both candidates, with different levels of intensity, preferred bickering and shouting at each other over talking to the audience at the event and watching on TV. They forgot about the objective of the event.

This is a very common issue with speakers. Thanks to a malign use of social media, the problem is increasing exponentially. The average Joe thinks they are a star because they got 10 likes on an Instagram post. Fantastic food for a very hungry ego.

Integrating audience participation to the event has helped tremendously to bring the attention back to the real focus.

When the Attendee is Better than the Speaker

For 20 seconds Ken Bone owned both Hillary and Donald. In the simplest, most honest and charming way, Ken Bone showed the speakers how to do their job.

Attendees know that coming to an event prepared is more important than ever.

Social media offers a plethora of tools to get an incredible amount of information before the event happens. Don’t expect attendees to bump into your event without knowing what’s going on. Our friend Ken was held captive since the morning for 14 hours with no smartphone. The guy did his homework. He is also a coal mine worker and he is very passionate about the subject of energy.

Don’t think that your audience won’t test your poor speaker choice. While in fact there was pretty much no choice at the debate, you do have a choice for your event. Attendees will research the topic, your speakers and most likely attend if the drive is strong. Are your speakers prepared to take it in? Can they compete with prepared attendees?

How many times you’ve witnessed a question from the audience thinking, ‘I’d rather listen to this attendee than swallow another hour of this boring speaker’. That’s when the #bonezone takes over.

The Need to Share Always Win

Ken Bone was praised for his ability to convey a powerful message in a simple way. He was praised for his amazing sweater and honest demeanour. He won over the internet also for his immense drive to capture a moment of the event by using a disposable camera.

You can ban technology as much as you want at your event. Sometimes it is a great idea to keep the focus on the event or to avoid sensible information to be shared. But you have to deal with the fact that modern attendees want to grab a piece of the action. They want to immortalize themselves into the event and show it to their friends.

The archetypical need to socialize is now catalysed through the capturing and sharing of moments. Whether you like it or not. So better to like it, dear reader, and cater for the need to share.

Where is Your Ken Bone?

He or she or they are currently about to attend your event. They will disconfirm any poor speaker, they will capture the zeitgeist of your audience thoughts, they will stand up to talk.

We always talk about collaboration, audience participation, crowdsourcing but I see the very people praising these approaches often times running the usual frontal events. The question for you, dear event professional is, are you ready to embrace the Ken Bone in your audience? Are you ready to empower them to participate actively in the event? Are you ready to challenge your speakers? Are you ready to pick speakers that think about Ken Bone before thinking about themselves?

If so there are a number of tools you can use to engage your audience. They are waiting for you to embrace the change.

In Conclusion

Ken Bone is the protagonist of a funny meme we all loved. He is also a bit more than that. He represents the silent attendee that won’t stay silent anymore. He is the embodiment of that ‘common sense’ too often we forget about when desging our event or selecting speakers.

The purpose of your event is to change behaviours, not to please speakers. Are you ready to deliver on that promise?