Event Planning Lessons Gleaned from the Oscars
by Karen Perry-Weinstat
The Academy Awards ceremony is back this Sunday and is celebrating its 90th anniversary. If the ceremony is anything like last year, we are in for lots of excitement. Remember last year’s major mix up, with presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announcing the wrong winner for Best Picture? While it made for great television, it was a huge embarrassment for all involved. But there are event planning lessons to be learned from this this situation, and here are just a few…
Mistakes Happen: The Academy Awards is one of the “most overly produced” annual events. It attracts the most talented and competent event planners in an industry known for producing big galas. And yet they blew the big moment. It’s a great reminder that no matter who you have planning your big event, mistakes happen. People are human. Things aren’t perfect. If you accept that premise, then you can take the steps necessary to minimize the impact of those mistakes when they occur.
Plan for the Worst: PriceWaterhouseCooper had a plan to avoid mistakes. Just days before the event, they claimed they had systems in place to ensure the right envelope ends up with the right person. Oops. When the worst happened PWC shifted into emergency mode, which was to notify a stage manager. As we all witnessed, that plan worked … sort of. At the end of the night, the right people did go home with the award, but a tremendously embarrassing path was walked to get there. Moving forward, one would assume that presenters will be comprehensively briefed on what to do if they think they may have been handed the wrong envelope.
Be Gracious: Can you imagine a moment more difficult than standing up in front of all your peers and a broadcast audience of millions, to accept an award with a heartfelt speech honoring your accomplishment — only to be told a few seconds later that you didn’t actually win? Kudos to Jordan Horowitz who went through this and emerged as a model of grace and elegance. He stepped up to the podium and graciously told the world that he hadn’t actually won. He wasn’t bitter. There were no recriminations. Instead, he gave another heartfelt speech honoring the real winning film’s accomplishment. Classy.
When things go wrong at your event, you can run away and hide. You can blame everyone else. You can cry. You can yell. Or you can be like Horowitz.
Apologize Promptly: After the big mistake of ‘17, lots of people were quick to blame the presenters. Luckily, PWC put out an apology quickly, accepting full responsibility for the mix up.
Do Your Best to Set it Right and Move On: So the unthinkable has happened. What next? Even the biggest mistakes don’t have to keep your event from accomplishing its goals. We can all learn a lot about how to handle the unexpected from this most public stumble.
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