Have a Plan B – Unlike PWC at the Oscars

Ooooops! We’ve had a week of errors!  

I love watching LIVE shows on TV because for years at the BBC I had to produce LIVE on air – and yes, everything that could go wrong at some point DID go wrong!

I remember Chef Gordon Ramsey swearing live on air because he thought we had a delay button – oops.  Our delay took 6 seconds to kick in and he managed to say 7 rude words before the BBC Switchboard jammed with all the complaints!  - We didn’t have an emergency PLAN B ready to go in time! That taught us a lesson.

You do always need a PLAN B!  

Did You See The Oscars Goof-Up On Sunday Night?

The moment Warren Beatty read out the wrong winning movie at the Oscars ‘La La Land’ instead of saying ‘Moonlight’ was a classic LIVE oooops moment!

Apparently the so called ‘bean counters’ at PWC had a PLAN B in the form of 2 envelopes per winner in case one got lost.  But they didn’t account for human error – another wrong envelope being picked up.

And Now To Rugby.

This week we had a double whammy where PLAN B was needed. The England Rugby match against Italy (the very same day as the Oscars) also got caught in an oops moment!

The Italian rugby players decided to flummox the England team by playing “odd” rules.

Well, here’s the mistake they all made!   

They didn’t have a suitable PLAN B.

You don’t ever need to make this mistake when you’re LIVE on a conference call, on a stage at a conference , in a pitch or a meeting!

There’s one EASY thing you can have up your sleeve when you need to go to PLAN B.

It’s very simple – all you need is …….


When I was a producer at the BBC – we had a track for the radio show or a panic VT (video tape) film ready to play if everything failed on TV!

A track would give you up to 3.5 minute on average or you’d pick Money by Pink Floyd which had an extra long outro if you were in a real pickle.

The Oscars Presenters should have had a ... panic VT and script

“Before we announce the winner, let’s take a look at this”

This would have given them a minute to re-group.

When Warren Beatty smelled a rat, he saw the wrong name on the card but didn’t know what to do!  He should have had an emergency PLAN B strategy, but he had nowhere to go, poor thing. 

After the Rugby, Former England Coach Sir Clive Woodward admitted that when he was in charge he always had a Plan B for the team – “get a man down”. Their Plan B was to fake a neck injury – this would give you at least 3 minutes to re-group. 

You see, you need to buy time!

What’s your Plan B?

If you are live, in front of clients, or speaking at a conference.  All you need is a few seconds or a minute to gather your thoughts when it all goes Pete Tong!

So many things could hijack your performance, I’ve experienced most of these myself;

  • Technology – the PPT charts don’t work
  • The VT doesn’t work
  • You forget your script
  • Outside noise or fire alarm! (yes that’s a right pain when it’s real)
  • Coughing fit
  • Spillage
  • Interruption from audience, or emergency services 
  • Electrical fault

Have you ever had an emergency and had to go to PLAN B? What happened?

My TOP TIPS when your presentation goes wrong:

  • Have a safety net – have a story or a fail safe phrase you can use if you forget EVERYTHING
  • Take a 5 minute comfort break – “See you back here in 5 minutes” 
  • Have someone in the audience or a guest standing by who can talk about a subject or answer a question for a minute or two
  • Give the audience 2 minutes to discuss a topic in pairs so you can re-group
  • Play a track or a VT – if there’s an AV or a technical person at handmake sure they have something ready to play if you give them a sign.  

I’d love to hear about your PLAN B’s – email me esther@estherstanhope.com and share your stories about how you recovered from an oops live moment! 

Esther Stanhope