If you were looking for an awkward television moment to close out 2015, Steve Harvey has handed it to you on a silver plate.
At the 2015 Miss Universe Pageant, it came down to the final three contestants: Miss Colombia, Miss Philippines and Miss USA. Harvey, who was hosting the show, announced that the final votes had been tallied. A representative of the accounting firm, Ernst & Young came on stage and handed him the envelope with the results. Harvey then announced the 2nd Runner-Up, Miss USA. So far, so good.
Harvey then called the remaining two contestants to the front of the stage to announce the winner: “Miss Universe 2015 is … Colombia!” The audience erupted in applause; Miss Philippines was escorted to the side; Miss Colombia was given a big bouquet of flowers, a sash with “Miss Universe” on it and a beautiful crown. She was all smiles and tears. Someone handed her a Colombian flag which she waved with pride.
There was just one problem: Miss Colombia was not the winner; Miss Philippines was. Steve Harvey had announced the wrong person as the winner in front of a worldwide audience of millions. Like I said, awkward.
You can see how it all unfolded below:
Now, it was not a life-and-death situation, but it was still pretty painful to watch. Miss Colombia had the crown taken away; Miss Philippines did not get to enjoy the moment; and Steve Harvey was visibly crushed by the mistake. The story has gone viral on social media.
So what are the lessons that we can learn from this fiasco?
1. Mistakes will happen but there are some things that you cannot get wrong.
Like announcing the winner of the Miss Universe Pageant! This incident reminded me of Rick Perry’s famous “Oops” moment when he could not remember one of the federal government agencies that he was planning to shut down. I would be amazed if the organizers did not go over a sample card with Harvey several times before the event to make sure that he knew how to read it. There are some things that you have to know cold.
2. Make sure your written documentation is clear.
Speaking of the card with the winners’ names on it, here is a photo of the card that was handed to Steve Harvey.
This card is terrible for several reasons.
- The title is too long and contains unnecessary information: “Elminination Card” [sic]? “Show”? “3 to 1”? How about “Miss Universe 2015 – Final Results”?
- The names of the winners should be in bigger font or bolded. It looks like they were labels that were stuck on. Make better labels.
- It contains three typos! The word “runner-up” is hyphenated. And “Elimination” is misspelled. Come on people, it’s the bloody Miss Universe Pageant. Don’t be sloppy. Be a yardstick of quality.
- Most significantly, why are the names of the three finalists on different sides of the card? They should be in a single column, one below the other. I can understand how, in the excitement of the moment, someone might overlook the name on the right side of the card.
3. Simplicity is almost always the better option.
Notice the wording on the card above: “1st Runner Up”. I have already pointed out the missing hyphen, but the bigger concern is “1st”. I have never been a fan of “1st runner-up” because it can easily be confused with “1st place”. Did you notice the repetition of “1st”? There is a very simple solution: 3rd place; 2nd place; 1st place. Or, if you prefer: 3rd place; 2nd place; Winner.
4. Writing the same information in different ways increases the chance that a mistake will be made.
There is a story circulating on the Internet that Steve Harvey announced Miss Colombia as the winner by reading from a teleprompter, and that the information on the teleprompter was wrong. If true, this was an epic failure on the part of the production crew. And it begs the question: If you are handed a card with the information on it, why not just read from the card?
Having multiple copies of something is fine for back-up purposes. But for something like the announcement of the winner of the Miss Universe Pageant, there should be one card only. By the way, if the information is so secret and thus in a sealed envelope, how did it get on the teleprompter?
5. If you make a mistake, accept responsibility.
Regardless of how the mistake happened, I cannot begin to imagine how humiliated Steve Harvey must feel. As mentioned above, social media is having a field day with what happened. My favourite has been this Tweet from Canadian comedian, Mark Critch. Simple, funny but also tasteful.
At the same time, I have to tip my hat to Harvey. After the error was announced, he said, “I will take responsibility for this. It was my mistake. It was on the card.” He seems like a decent guy and he owned the moment, painful as it must have been.
But even there, it could have been done better. At first, he just announced the mistake and then named Miss Philippines as the winner. As a stunned Miss Philippines walked on stage to stand beside an equally stunned Miss Colombia, Harvey then invited Miss Philippines to take her first walk as Miss Universe. While Miss Colombia was still wearing the Crown! Were they supposed to walk together? Was Miss Colombia supposed to hand over the Crown and the sash and the flowers?
It was a bad idea and it just wasn’t the time. What happened next proved it: All three of them stood there for 35 seconds, not knowing what to do; meanwhile, the audience was losing its collective mind. It was only when last year’s Miss Universe came on stage that the spell was broken and Harvey attempted to regain some semblance of control.
And, after taking responsibility (which could have been done more elegantly), it would have been better for Harvey to remain on stage and even say a few private words to the two women instead of walking off. Miss Colombia and Miss Philippines continued to twist in the wind and an awkward moment became even more awkward.
If you speak often enough, mistakes are going to happen. Some will be small; some will be big; some might even be epic. It happens. When you make a mistake, accept responsibility, try to fix it as best as you can and be professional. And when the event is over, move on.
My contribution to the 2016 Miss Universe Pageant
Taking all of the above into account, I have redesigned the card that should have been handed to Steve Harvey. I offer it, at no cost, to the organizers of the Miss Universe Pageant. Should they adopt it, it would be nice to receive free transportation and tickets to the event next year. I’d even be willing to host it.
Miss Universe 2015 – Final Results
3rd Place: USA
2nd Place: Colombia