The Other Miss Universe Winner

A Recipe For Confusion

You may have heard that Steve Harvey announced the wrong person as winner of the Miss Universe contest last night.  He had been a great emcee, and then mis-read the results card, crowning the wrong contestant.  Harvey is a seasoned performer.  I’m a big fan.  If it happened to him, it could certainly happen to you or me.   As Cavett Robert told us, “Learn from Other People’s Experience (OPE).”

Here is what unfolded:

Harvey while setting the stage for announcing the winner:  “One of you is about to become our new Miss Universe.  If for any reason she is unable to perform her duties, the First Runner Up will take her place.  Good luck to both of you.” Referring to Miss Columbia and Miss Philippines.

“Miss Universe 2015 is … Columbia.”  (The winner was actually Philippines.)

Less than two minutes later Harvey walks back on stage, realizing that he has an error to correct.

“OK folks…ah…there’s… I have to apologize.”

The audience cheers and laughs as if they were expecting a joke.

“The 1st runner up is Columbia.”

“Miss Universe 2015 is … Philippines.”

“Miss Philippines, take your first walk as Miss Universe.”

“Listen folks, let me just take control of this.  This is exactly what’s on the card.  I will take responsibility for this.  It was my mistake.  It was on the card.  Horrible mistake.  But the right thing.  I can show it to you right here…the First Runner Up is Columbia.  It was my mistake.  Still a great night.  Please don’t hold it against the ladies.”

A Recipe For Confusion:

1. Announcing the wrong winner started the confusion snowball rolling downhill. Nobody was confused yet, with the exception of the head judge and ballot counter who knew that the wrong person was crowned the winner.

2. Harvey was probably informed of the mistake by a messenger bearing bad news.

3. Steve Harvey had been an excellent emcee for the event. But to err is human…and it could have just as easily been you or me getting that panicky feeling accompanied with the thought: “Now what am I going to do?” The cliché tells us there are two kinds of emcees.  Those who have made mistakes in the performing of their duties, and those who will make mistakes in the future.

4. It took almost two minutes for Harvey to walk back on stage with the mission to correct the mistaken winner announcement. He needed to fix the announcement of First Runner Up and of the Winner.  But if we think of those announcements as punch lines, they need set-ups to give them context to make them understandable.  The opening line of, “OK folks…ah…there’s…I have to apologize,” tells the audience that something is to follow, but does not make it clear that a serious correction is coming.  He was trying to say, “we made a mistake,” but he doesn’t get the words out.  Therefore, when the corrections were made without proper context (set-up), they were a bolt out of the blue, totally unexpected.  The reaction of the audience following the word apologize, was laughter and applause which seemed to indicate that they were expecting a joke.  The correct 1st Runner-Up and winner were announced, but didn’t immediately sink in with the audience or the contestants.

5. When announcing corrections or changes, be clear how and to what they apply.

6. Part of the problem was that Harvey was not “on a script.”  The card he was reading simply had the names and place annotations for 2nd runner up, 1st runner up, and the 2015 Miss Universe winner.  He announced the Second Runner up, which was on the top of the card, Miss USA.  The card did not specify what to do next:

– Announce the 1st runner up, in which case the winner is implied and never heard over the cheers of the audience.

– Announce the winner and let the 1st runner up be implied.

– So it becomes an improvised choice on the part of the emcee.

7. The card also didn’t give instructions to say the words “in the event that she’s unable to perform her duties…” So Harvey was improvising, using standard pageant phraseology.  As important as the results of a contest are, avoiding improvisation, and working with a prepared script is a good idea.

8. If this was a recipe for confusion, who could have been confused:

– The emcee, in this case Steve Harvey, but it could have been you or me.

– The audience.  It took them a minute or two to understand what was happening.

– The winner, who was told to take her “first walk,” and who was standing next to the 1st Runner Up who was wearing the crown and sash of the winner.

– The 1st Runner Up.  Was she supposed to take the crown and sash and give them to the winner?

Lessons Learned for Future Emcees.

– Work from a complete script.  Improvisation does not have a place when the accuracy of results is important.

– Practice getting a completed results card from the Head Judge or Ballot Counter.  Read it out loud to ensue it’s clear and understandable.

– When announcing corrections or changes, be clear how and to what they apply.

– Ensure that the results card is printed or typed and a font size which is easy to read.

– When announcing corrections or changes, be clear how and to what they apply.

– If you are the emcee, bring your glasses if you need them.

– If you question what is on the results card, get clarification before you make the announcement.