The environment backstage at an award show feels like a SWAT team has infiltrated the Olympic Games with the cast of Toddlers and Tiaras wandering around. If you’re a presenter, it can feel like walking the plank and plunging into an unforgiving ocean. When the assistant director barks that you take your position, step onstage and hit your mark in 5-4-3-2-1—if you hesitate, he will push you out, and it’s sink or swim. Presenting at an award show can be exhilarating or terrifying, depending on your perspective and preparation.
I empower my clients to thrive under this unnatural pressure. In addition to helping actors launch careers and reach Oscar potential, I’ve been coaching a range of industry players to present at all the major televised award shows. Even though these clients have received multiple award nominations and wins, they all express the same sentiment at the prospect of presenting: cold terror.
Trotting out in heels and restrictive designer clothing on a sometimes slippery stage before a live audience while the show broadcasts to over 65 million viewers worldwide is dizzying. Any misstep, gaffe, sniffle, etc. can be turned into a meme or gif and live eternally on the Internet.
Here are some guidelines to load the dice in your favor.
Cover Your Basics
Request your lines beforehand and memorize them. Do not depend exclusively on the teleprompter as they can fail—as we saw with Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie at the Golden Globes in 2014. Memorizing your lines frees you from the human error of the teleprompter operator.
Make sure with utter certainty that you can correctly pronounce all names and titles. Repeat your lines so that your tongue knows the movements it needs to make to smoothly recite each word, so you don’t trip over them. Andrew Garfield (Golden Globes 2011) fumbled the word “inspiringly,” something a few rudimentary rehearsals would have prevented.
Bring Your Personality to the Lines
Pinpoint your hook and let it launch you onstage, allowing your personality to shine through. A hook is a feeling, word, or internal battle cry that is specific to you, and instantly lights you up—it prevents you from looking over-rehearsed and lets your authentic self shine through.
Practice Walking in Your Shoes
You don’t want to be the road-kill of the award show that trips and is gossiped about later. Sure, Jennifer Lawrence has done this at both the 2013 and 2014 Oscars, but she is in a special category of celebrity who actually benefits from such actions, as they add to her authenticity and likeability. Most actors will just look drunk, silly, or clumsy.
Presenting at an Award Show is a Privilege
You must never forget this and behave accordingly, even if you have to recite schlocky or trite words. Never make fun of the dialogue with eye-rolling, or condescending asides, as it makes you look petty.
It’s Open Season, and Everyone is a Target
If you find yourself on the receiving end of a nasty joke, you need to smile, laugh and show how unbothered you are. Ellen took at swing Liza Minnelli sitting in the audience of the 2014 Oscars: "Hello to the best Liza Minnelli impersonator I've ever seen… Good job, sir." Minnelli, by appearing offended, only made herself look fragile.
Being in attendance at an award show means that you are in a tense room with some of the most talented and narcissistic people in entertainment. Be kind to everyone, infusing all your interactions with grace and humor, and you will be able to handle the unexpected with remarkable ease.
This article was originally published on Backstage.