When Punchlines become Punch Lines

Rebecca P. Murray Emcee Tulip Festival

In light of the undignified behavior we witnessed during the recent Academy Awards, I’ve considered what it takes to emcee with success. In my experience, success boils down to your ability to facilitate with finesse by keeping five key principles in play. Demonstrating finesse in facilitation can be as simple as ensuring a meeting starts and ends on time or as complicated as ensuring the smooth flow of a large multi-speaker event. If you desire to become a sought-after facilitator, these tips may support your goal and add some S.P.I.C.E. to your next facilitation opportunity.

  • Showcase your desire to engage with YOU-focused verbiage.
  • Project professionalism by taking the high road. Always.
  • Infuse some fun and consider the element of (dignified) surprise.
  • Create a safe and inclusive space to manifest and maintain connection.
  • Empower fellow presenters by preparing the audience to receive them.

Back to the Academy: Although toned down from his usual raunchiness, I’d say that Chris Rock violated number four in the SPICE list. He created an unsafe space and immediate disconnect by singling someone out and poking fun at misfortune. We know now that he was not aware of Jada Smith’s alopecia, however, it’s always a risk when you make another person a punchline. I dare say Mr. Rock has learned a great deal from his second Academy hosting opportunity.

On the flip side, I commend Mr. Rock for holding dear to SPICE tip number two. After the face slap (which looked more like a punch to me) and repulsive verbal abuse from Will Smith, Rock was clearly in shock. I applaud him for maintaining his composure and expertly taking the high road. His response was a sight to behold and an excellent example of poise and professionalism.

For certain, the event has gone down in Academy history as an unforgettable low point. There have been millions of comments as well as kind and hurtful speculations. As for me, I will use this as an example in my coaching and classes of what to avoid at all cost. Be cautious with your punchlines that they don’t give or receive a hurtful punch in return.

About the author

Rebecca's passion comes from helping others craft and deliver their very best authentic, powerful message. She is known for making learning fun and helping her clients achieve their goals in speaking and communicating. As a speaker herself, she is known for 'bringing it all' to her audience through humor, song, and sometimes a little dance. The stage is her playground. She'll go to almost any length to make learning fun and memorable.