If you’re unaware of the huge blunder that happened at the end of the 2017 Academy Awards, it’s time to crawl out from the rock under which you must be living. The short version is that the highly coveted “Best Picture” award was originally handed to the incorrect film. There was celebration, confusion, disappointment, and more celebration once the correct film was announced. (Read any of the hundreds of articles online about the blunder for the full version.)
Watching this happen in real-time, I was shocked and slightly amused. Most of my thoughts revolved around ‘How are they [the announcers Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, the production staff, the Academy] going to handle this??’ They had options: let it be and make the correction after the cameras stop rolling, let it be and not say anything at all, or stop the action and correct it live. They chose option 3, which surprised me a little bit given the old Hollywood adage “The show must go on.”
Here are a few take-aways from the Oscars blunder that we can all use to improve our own presentations and public speaking:
If something doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t. As soon as Mr. Beatty pulled the card from the envelope he knew something was awry, and he looked around presumably for a stage hand for clarification. I thought he was trying to be funny, or build anticipation for the big reveal, but it turns out something didn’t look right on the card, which read “Emma Stone, La La Land,” and in tiny font at the bottom “Best Actress in a Lead Role.”
Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Not knowing what to do Mr. Beatty showed the card to Ms. Dunaway who announced La La Land as the winner of the Oscar. Had Ms. Dunaway paid closer attention to the entirety of the card and not just looked at the film title, she too would have noticed the error, in which case they could have announced that they had the wrong card and made the switch for the correct one.
Be gracious if something goes wrong. By the time the error was noticed and dealt with, two of the three La La Land producers had given their acceptance speeches and were clutching their Oscar statues. One of the producers, Jordan Horowitz, said that a mistake had been made and he invited the correct winners, Moonlight, to take the stage. When host Jimmy Fallon showed sympathy saying that he would like to see La La Land receive an Oscar too, Mr. Horowitz said that he was going to be “really honoured” to hand the Oscar to his friends at Moonlight. What grace and poise!
The Oscars blunder will certainly go down in history as one of the biggest on-air mistakes ever. However, if you take the lessons learned and exercise a little extra caution in the future, you can ensure your own presentations don’t become blunders too!