The Benefits Of Going “Off Script”

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock (and if you have, I mean no disrespect), you probably heard about the embarrassing mistake that occurred during last Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony:

Jimmy Kimmel was hired as host.

Ha Ha!! I’m kidding.

The mistake, of course, is that when it came time to present the award for best picture, the wrong envelope was handed to presenter, Warren Beatty.

As a result, the award was erroneously given to La La Land rather than Moonlight, the true winner.

It was amazing to watch. And fascinating. And memorable.

Not so much because it happened in the first place (it’s easy to see how it could have). Rather, because we all got to watch as it unfolded on live TV.

There was Warren Beatty, a man whose entire career has literally been scripted, suddenly faced with having to make a decision in real time about what to say – or, as it turned out, not say – to tens of millions of people.

But I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that there has been so much buzz about the mistake. The Oscars have never been about who wins; you can read about that the next day.

penguin oscar

It’s the “off script” things that make them interesting:

Matt Damon reaching over the seat in front of him and tugging on Casey Affleck’s man bun.

Mel Gibson straining to appear pleasantly sane as he was being made fun of from the stage.

And this year, in what may be the best Oscar highlight ever, the confusion and adlibbing which necessarily occurred following the best picture gaffe.

Your marketing needs to go off script too

Here’s something I’ve noticed about how different businesses market their services:

The more unusual and remarkable your product or service, the more unusual and remarkable your marketing.

So, for example, if you sell a one-of-a-kind product, like a high-end blender, you do your best to have one-of-a-kind marketing.

If, on the other hand, you sell something that looks nearly identical to that of your competitors – financial services, management consulting, life coaching, recruiting, HR – chances are, your marketing is equally undifferentiated.

Nothing too odd. Nothing too personal. Nothing that has even the slightest chance of being slapped with the dreaded “unprofessional” label.

Not that you asked, but I think that’s totally backwards.

If what you sell isn’t easily differentiated from the competition – and sorry, telling us that you, “listen closely to client needs and offer highly customized solutions,” doesn’t even begin to move the yawn needle – don’t you think the way you present it and talk about it should be?

So try this.

  1. Make a habit of telling stories from personal experience when you speak and write. Things that nobody on earth except you could share.
  1. Use nonbusiness words and fantabulous adjectives whenever possible. Resist the temptation to “tone it down” at every opportunity – that just heightens your invisibility.
  1. Always give examples in groups of three. For some reason, people seem to like that.

Here’s the bottom line. An Academy Awards show absent any awards wouldn’t amount to much. And yet, it’s the unscripted, personal, unexpected happenings – not the awards themselves – that grab our attention and keep us engaged.

It’s the same with you and your marketing.

If you weren’t skilled at financial services, management consulting, life coaching, recruiting, HR, or whatever it is you do, nobody would hire you.

But if that’s all you’re willing to reveal, I can promise you one thing: Nobody’s going to be talking about you when they wake up tomorrow.

Essay Question:

In 50 words exactly, what do you think Warren Beatty should have said or done when he realized what was in that envelope?

Share your comments below!

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21 thoughts on “The Benefits Of Going “Off Script”

  1. Kathleen

    “What I am about to say may be worse than a double feature of Heaven Can Wait and Ishtar, but I gotta shoot straight. The card in my hand is the wrong card. Can someone please bring me the envelope for best motion picture so we can end this show?”

  2. Lowell Klassen

    Warren Beatty: “I don’t know how to put this, into words everyone will understand… but there is a very skinny, slimmed down, micro bomb in this envelope, and we have to dispose of this right away, ..GET OUT OF MY WAY!!! (runs down Isle frantically waving envelope).

  3. Tina Bemis

    This is Monday Morning quarterbacking at its finest, but first of all, he should have whispered to Faye that something was wrong. Because she thought he was trying to be dramatic, and she just reacted. That said, perhaps he could’ve said “Houston, we have a problem,” and looked toward the wings.

  4. Cara

    “The winner of the Best Picture of the Year MAY—or MAY NOT—be “La La Land.” I repeat, the winner MAY—or MAY NOT—be “La La Land.” But whoever stuffed this ballot was obviously communing there when preparing the envelope. Somebody please get me the correct ballot.”

  5. Dave Cohen

    Warren Beatty should have stared at the card and said, “Uh oh, I feel like I’m in La La Land, but I can’t be certain. Jimmy, can you step out here and take a look. I know it’s late, and everybody wants to know, but something definitely looks strange here.”

  6. Rusty

    Well, technically, no one should know in advance who wins. The envelopes are sealed and should be a surprise. Only the tabulating company is supposed to know — which would be the two folks that came out to confess the gaffe live. All shush-shush. So seeing the confusion just tossed “reg Flags” onto the field — I know wrong metaphor — but that makes me question the professionalism of the tabulators and not the celebs standing on the stage with their mouths hanging open.

    Warren should have said: “Cut! Let’s take it from the top.” and walked off the stage with his lady, Faye.

  7. Doug Johnson

    “I wasn’t hired to think on my feet, or even sitting down for that matter. But this is clearly the wrong envelope and instead of guessing who the winner is, or even deciding on my own, I think it’s best we turn to those who know to get the answer.”

  8. Peter Vukcevic

    I’m more interested how he knew it was the wrong envelope and Faye didn’t. She was just enjoying the drama 🙂

    He should have told Marc Platt: “I’m sorry Marc, but you will have to dream some more. We were just messing with you. “

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      You guys are good! Does anybody have Warren’s cell? Maybe we should send him a link to this wisdom?!


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