February 27

The Oscars Best (and Worst) Presentations – and what you can learn from them


The stars, the clothes, the mix-ups! But underneath it all, the Oscars are really a collection of short presentations delivered to an audience with short attention spans and high expectations. If that sounds like a business presentation to you, it should!

Each year I like to highlight the Oscars best and worst presentations and glean what we can learn from them as business presenters. Here are my top awards from this year show. See if you agree.

The Oscars Best and Worst  Presentations …and what you can learn from them

Best Disaster Recovery: Jordan Horowitz, LaLa Land

Calling out LaLa Land as the winner for Best Picture was clearly an unprecedented Oscar disaster. But let’s look at the bright side. After discovering that Moonlight was the actual winner, producer Jordan Horowitz had the soundness of mind to succinctly announce the mistake and graciously relinquish the stage to the cast and crew of Moonlight. “I’m going to be really proud to hand this over to my friends from Moonlight.” His cool-headed handling of the transition kept a chaotic moment from getting any worse and refocused the attention where it should be: on Moonlight.

Runner up: Auli’ i Cravalho, Moana singer

Even a flag hitting her in the head didn’t faze this poised 16 year–old. Perhaps you didn’t notice it as she sang the theme song from her nominated animated film, Moana,and why would you? The pro didn’t bat an eye. Well done!

Presentation Lesson:  Don’t wallow in mistakes, take them personally, or go on and on about them to your audience. As they say in improv, use it, lose it or laugh at it. Also, take heart. If the Academy can make such a major mistake with a year to plan, are your mistakes really all that important?

Best preparation: Viola Davis, Best Supporting Actress

Viola came to rock us. She knew what she was going say and she delivered it with passion and emotion. She hooked us from her first words: “You know there’s one place where all the people with potential are gathered – and that’s the graveyard.” Wow! Please go on. After delivering a beautiful, well-written speech, she still managed to thank some people. But as opposed to a long laundry list she naturally weaved them into her speech. If you think she just came up with that whole plan in the moment, think again. Flawless preparation and execution.

Worst Preparation: Colleen Atwood, costume design

When the four time Oscar winner exclaimed, “Obviously I didn’t prepare anything…” It was not obvious to anyone why she wasn’t prepared! It wasn’t her first rodeo and she had a 20% chance of winning! Her lack of effort wasted what precious time she had and showed disrespect to the audience, the other nominees, and the award itself. #Oscarsfail

Presentation Lesson: Preparation gives you confidence, but it also shows respect for your audience and gives them confidence in you. Being prepared allows you to deal with emotions that come up and go off script where necessary with greater confidence.

Best speech: Viola Davis and Mahershala Ali (Tie)

While Viola was a powerhouse of passion and heartfelt emotion, Mahershala displayed a quieter combination of honest emotion and eloquence. Both were equally authentic and effective.

Worst speech: David Wasco, Production design

Notes clutched firmly in hand, half of the team for LaLa Land’s production design teamnever once looked up at the audience. (Side note: He also never let his wife/partner speak although she was listed as the winner. 2017 or 1957? You decide.) #Oscarfail

Presentation Lesson: Bring your own unique style to your presentation. Bigger is not always better as long as you are authentic. And don’t use notes for a short presentation as only the most gifted of actors can making reading a compelling performance.

Best Audience interaction.  Jimmy Kimmel

While not every moment worked, Kimmel used a variety of techniques to keep attention high, both for those in the room and at home. Bantering with actors like Matt Damon and Meryl Streep, dropping candy out of the sky, live tweeting, and even introducing a surprised busload of tourists to some of the biggest names in show business he was able to break things up and keep them moving.

Presentation lesson: Interaction is the key to a good presentation. It’s important to do it consistently and use variety, especially if you have a long presentation, like the Oscars.

Best Team: Seth Rogan and Michael J. Fox

Despite Fox’s physical limitations, this team arrived prepared. Their practice showed as they navigated the stage and a standing ovation without losing focus. The team exchanged delightful banter and awkwardly (on purpose) sang a few strains from the broadway show, Hamilton.

Worst team: Girogio Gregorini and Alessandro Bertolazzi, Winners Best Make-up                                                           

The winners for their amazing make-up work on Suicide Squad  made the list of  Oscars best and worst presentations because they chose their arrival on stage in front of millions of people as the time to negotiate who would talk first. #Oscarfail

Presentation Lesson:  Your audience doesn’t need or want to see the mechanics of your presentation. Plan things out in advance with your team members and create signals for when things don’t go according to plan. There should never be confusion as to who is going to speak first or any surprises as to what each team member is going to say.

Best personal story: Kevin O’Connell, Sound Mixing

Part of the team for the award-winning sound mixing on Hacksaw Ridge, Kevin thanked his mother by recalling how she helped him get his start in the business. In response to his question, “how can I ever repay you?” his mother said prophetically, “just win an Oscar.” It was a heart-warming and memorable moment that was relevant and drove home the significance of receiving the award.

Presentation Lesson: Don’t be afraid to use a personal story if it’s appropriate. Your business audience is human and will respond to it accordingly, and likely remember it long after you’ve gone. Just make sure your story is relevant and quickly gets to the point.

OK, your turn. What presentations awards would you give to the Oscars 2017 line up? 

See the 2016 Best and Worst Oscars Presentation awards here!

Photo courtesy of  Disney | ABC Television Group


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