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As a leading communication skills development firm, The Ammerman Experience pioneered a wide range of interactive workshops and training sessions designed to show people how to face the media, manage crisis situations, speak at public meetings, and deliver effective sales, analyst, and other business related presentations. Through our quarterly newsletter, the Advisor, we share some of our expertise in these areas.

An Analysis of the Oscars Flub

Published: Feb 27, 2017

Let’s start by admitting this: when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway took the stage to announce the winner for Best Picture at the 2017 edition of the Academy Awards, nobody had ever incorrectly announced a major award in 88 years of Academy Awards presentations. So, when the wrong name was read, nobody on stage had any experience in handling the bedlam that followed.

Understandably, it was chaos. Still, after the Oscars flub, things could have gone a bit differently. Here’s what happened, and how the Oscars crisis should have been managed in the moments immediately following the flub.

What Happened After the Oscars Flub

The mixup began with Beatty receiving the incorrect envelope. As he prepared to read the winner of Best Picture, he looked down to see Emma Stone’s name. Appearing confused, he handed the card to Faye Dunaway, who, after a brief pause, announced La La Land as the winner.

We all know what happened next – the La La Land team came up on stage, accepted the trophy, and began making their speeches. From backstage, word came that the wrong winner had been announced. Jordan Horowitz, the producer of La La Land, was the first one to publicly acknowledge the mistake. “Sorry, guys, hold on. There’s a mistake. Moonlight, you guys won best picture. This is not a joke.”

The Moonlight team then proceeded to take their awards and make their speeches, but the confusion over what had happened hung over the rest of the night. After the show, even host Jimmy Kimmel was still in shock.

“I think for the rest of my life, I’m going to be asked about this,” said Kimmel. “And I’m trying to remember the details correctly. My guess is it’s going to be it’s operator error. I don’t know anything.”

Here’s What Should Have Happened After the Oscars Flub

Here is the main thing that I saw and would have done completely differently: as soon as the mistake was realized, the presentation should have been stopped completely and reset.

Granted, it was a horrible situation. Again, no one had any experience in preparing for this, but the correct way to have handled the situation would have been for a producer of the show to come on stage and make an announcement to clear things up in an authoritative way.

Instead of leaving it to Jordan Horowitz and the La La Land crew to announce that they weren’t the winners, one of the Oscars producers should have taken over as soon as possible. Ideally, they would have controlled the microphone and said something to the effect of:

“There has been a terrible mix-up.  La La Land did not win best picture. Our deepest apologies.  We will be announcing the actual winner in a moment.”

Then, they should have cleared the stage and started over – all the way from the announcement of “And the Oscar goes to Moonlight!”, to letting all of them come on stage for their awards and speeches.  The total confusion, allowing the various cards to float around, and the line, “this is not a joke!” took the moment away from Moonlight – a movie that fully deserved its recognition.

Having someone in authority take charge quickly and restart the presentation would have helped to alleviate some of the confusion.

I’m giving my advice, of course, after watching the chaos.  No one knows exactly how to handle something like this, but with years of experience in presentation training and media interactions, I can tell you that following a “deep breath – start over” approach is usually a good call.

One thing, though, is for sure: we’ll be talking about this guffaw for a LONG time!

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