How to prevent a Oscar like gaffe and win your next presentation?

By this morning all of us are talking about the gaffe of historic proportion, the best picture winner was announced incorrectly. That moment of confusion was a very defining moment. Each one of them tried to do their best to make for an awkward moment. While Jimmy took to Steve Harvey, Warren Beatty spoke about “why he was confused and took time to announce”, and eventually one of the La La Land producer had to say it as is and clear the confusion.

I have never been to Oscar’s and this post is based on me trying to connect the dots.

#1. Designing for Process & Judgment

The entire Oscar backstage is designed for process accuracy. There are seemingly two sets of envelopes that are sequenced and they need to the presenters in a sequence. If the card gets out of sequence, for example if there is only one presenter then the “person” handing out the card needs to take out the second to ensure the cards are back in sequence (or) there needs to be a process to sync up the card.

Here is the issue. The process is designed to ensure the “person” backstage or the “process” backstage is designed to act more mechanically trying to put aside the judgment aspect. The sheer pressure and activities backstage, the immense success rate, and mechanical nature prevents the judgment being front and center. It just begins to become a tad mundane.

#2. Hierarchy of Communications on the Card

I couldn’t stop but notice the photograph of the final announcement card that was flashed around. The card header said Oscar’s, it then said the winner name, and the footer mentioned the category.

Now think about how most of the announcers frame the sentence — it goes something like — the winner in the ______ is __________. The card itself doesn’t lend to that hierarchy of thinking.

It starts with brand, I get it but it should move to the footer. That card isn’t seen by a lot of common people and the presenters there are very well aware of the Oscar brand. It isn’t the most important thing to communicate in the hierarchy. The sponsors should consider redesigning the card to start with the Category Winner, Who is it, and a smaller footer for Oscars. It is just designed the other way round!

#3. Know how brain works when circumspect

The two announcers that walked on stage to present the award smelled something wasn’t right. The card had the name of a leading lady instead of the name of the movie. It required them to immediately demonstrate a mix of emotions — pressure of not appearing confused, be elegant and graceful, discern what may have just happened, and figure out what to rely on and make a judgment call within that 30 seconds while continuing to say the words.

In those 30 seconds, the visual aid didn’t help the judgment process. The eyes glanced at the biggest words on the card which was Emma Stone followed by the name of the picture. The header was useless, and the eyes glanced at the footer but didn’t deem important to signal to the brain.

Ideally, they should have stopped and sought clarification. However, that isn’t the norm. Human brain begins to stick to the norm, quickly eliminates the probabilities, and relies on successful patterns. The process hasn’t failed, may be this is how the card is designed, I am not supposed to stop this presentation, be awkward and call someone backstage — so the chances are I am supposed to go ahead and announce the winner.

While a redesigned card wouldn’t eliminate the gaffe completely, it would activate the brain to look at things differently.

#4. Managing the melee after the gaffe

Everyone came to the forefront with their best. Jimmy Kimmel came out with his wits to make light of the situation, the announcer came forward with a rationale but the moment of the hour was clarity. Not until the “winner” picked up the microphone and very clearly called it out and hit it like a nail with a hammer it didn’t sync in.

The situation needed all three. Everyone needed to get their space in. It was the best that could have been done in that moment. However, if you are presenting all by yourself, you may not have the luxury of so many people. Note that you would have to be extremely clear and then bring wit, empathy, sympathy, and quick thinking to manage the moment.

#5. Stuff Happens…

Yes — the stuff happens. It is during these moments that one gets to define the character. Yesterday, all of them acted with utmost dignity and grace. The so-called runner-up won it because they were graceful. The winners demonstrated empathy. Warren Beatty clarified the mistake at his end, Jimmy Kimmel brought his strength to the forefront, and one of the producers of La La Land stood up to clarify the confusion.

Unfortunately, No one is going to talk about that 99.9% time but this gaffe will be remembered for a while to come. Irrespective, I loved the Oscar last night.

Let’s cut some slack, learn and move on!

Image Credit: Click here for the actual source

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