Tips for the Oscars!

Producing events are high-anxiety and high-stress situations. When you mix-in excitement and anxiousness it becomes even more intense as we get closer to the event date.

Once you kick-off the event it should really start moving like clock-work but sometimes that doesn’t happen. Things can start going wrong from the beginning. But honestly, we never really breathe easy until the curtain falls and it’s over. You know the saying “the show isn’t over until the fat lady sings”. Well, the OSCARS just proved that theory…

Event producers know that the Devil is in the details. Nevertheless, if you have ever organized and/or produced an event you know that there are so many things that can go wrong. Most of the potential issues have been thought about, brainstormed and analyzed to death; and, a safe guard solution put in place just in case it happens. Others that arise will be first-time problems that hopefully we can chalk up to lessons learned and move forward to put solutions in place. That’s why I was surprised to learn that what happened at the 89 year old annual Academy Awards Sunday night had happened before.

While the awards ceremony was going along smoothly with just some minor awkward moments - flat jokes, an actor sitting in a broken chair, an actress sleep during the award ceremony, celebrities being invaded by tourist. The mistake of the “wrong envelope” had happened in 1964 when Sammy Davis, Jr. was handed the incorrect envelope and read the wrong Oscar winner. Where were the safeguards to ensure that this didn’t happen again?

The Oscars production was minutes away from concluding and being able to celebrate a successful event; and, then a colossal detail got screwed up. Here’s a couple of basic tips for the Oscars event organizers to consider – 

  1. There should be more than one person checking to make sure that the presenter is handed the correct envelope – these are actors, they will read what you give them!
  2. Presenters should be coached to know what they are presenting (no, really!)
  3. Presenters should read the outside of the envelope to make sure they have the correct category
  4. Presenters should be instructed what to do if they do not have the correct envelope (some type of sign or code word versus an announcement for all to know). The best events are the ones where guests aren’t aware of any snafus (poor Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were left up there on stage to fend for themselves)
  5. Above all, take away all electronics from those handling the envelopes; so, they do not get distracted! (the keeper of the envelopes had just posted a photo of best actress on his twitter account – his mind wasn’t in the event – he was “star struck”)

Although, it appeared like they didn’t have a plan, the graciousness and understanding of the wrong movie cast and crew made it easier for the mix up to get straightened out. There were no apparent hard feelings and most will have a great story to tell about the 89th Academy Awards.

So, next time we’re putting an event together and something goes wrong; please let us all learn from the lesson and not be too hard on ourselves because even the biggest, celebrity-studded events make mistakes.


Sonya Ruff Jarvis, is the Managing Member of Jarvis Consultants and Founder of the eRetailer Summit. Sonya has extensive experience in creating original innovative solutions to overcome major business challenges.  Sonya has spent most of her career visiting headquarters across global industries and has built strong business relationships across diverse brands. 

Sonya has a M.B.A. in Marketing. She is married and has a daughter and they live in Fairfield County Connecticut.