Meeting professionals around the world held their collective breath in recognition during the hybrid Golden Globes when Daniel Kaluuya was named the winner of Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role. It was his moment in the sun—to accept for his performance in Judas and the Black Messiah—but no one could hear him.
Faith Morris, chief marketing and external affairs officer with National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, toasted the moment with her “You’re on Mute” coffee cup.
Overall, she called the production “cheeky, political, giving, racy and hybrid. It touched all the senses.”
The experimental affair streamed co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler on a split screen, broadcasting 2,800 miles apart from the Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center in New York City and Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, respectively.
And in addition to the aforementioned cringe-worthy audio hiccup early in the program, there were other lessons for meeting professionals who produce all types of events.
We asked the experts for their golden lessons.
Plan to Succeed
The abundance of awkward moments put an explanation point on our event tech editor’s constant calls to thoroughly prepare speakers. Brandt Krueger, a technical producer, instructor with Event Leadership Institute (the engine behind Smart U) and host of #EventTechChat, offered some grace. “Granted that the number of celebs had to be like herding virtual cats, but it felt like they were a little under-informed.”
Some winners sounded like they genuinely wanted to chat, but the engineer abruptly cut to commercial. Others seemed to think it was a smile and wave moment, yet the camera stayed with them for an uncomfortable moment too long.
“We’re they told?” Kreuger asked.
“Managing acceptance speeches live is challenging enough,” Morris agreed. Virtually, she felt like they went on for days. She shared a “note to self”: “The shorter the virtual speech, the better. I’d hate for folks to use the acceptance speeches for bathroom breaks.”
Meeting professionals considering whether they have time to do a dry run and test equipment may look back on the show for proof that a little communication and practice in advance can save everyone dignity in the end.
Meet People Where They Are
Many took the “come as you are” line to heart. Jodi Foster and her wife, Alexandra Hedison, accepted the award for supporting actress for her role in Mauritanian in their pajamas on the couch with their dog, Ziggy. Jason Sudeikis appeared in a Forward___Space hoodie to receive his award for Best Actor in a TV Series for Ted Lasso. Bill Murray appeared in a wild Hawaiian shirt with a martini and what looked like the Los Angeles skyline behind him. Anya Taylor-Joy, who won Best Actress in a Limited Series for The Queen’s Gambit from an “unnamed” Los Angeles hotel, wore a stunning emerald green couture gown.
“It’s funny that celebs would spend thousands on dresses and tuxes but then look like they’re on a Zoom call, drinking margaritas with friends in their jammies,” Krueger said.
Another perception problem for Krueger was the result when images of the nominees were transmitted on split screens. “I wasn’t a fan of the reaction shots where they’d put one of the other nominees in a side-by-side. It’s different in person for some reason, and they caught more than a few looking sad or disappointed more than they’d likely have shown in public!” he observed.
Morris praised the presenters for “doing something special during a nonconventional time.” Special recognition (and sketch comedy!) was staged for the benefit of first responders, who were the privileged ones, in person, at the event, while the actors and their families were virtual. “It was the heart tug,” she said.
She also gave a thumbs up to something she hadn’t seen before—the opportunity to donate to some nonprofits virtually by waving your phone at an on-screen QR code. “I’m going to remember that one,” she said.
A posthumous award to actor Chadwick Boseman for Best Actor in a Motion Picture for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and a heartfelt message from his widow was another emotional moment.
Virtual cheers were heard when Chloe Zhao was named the first woman of color to win Best Director for Nomadland.
Room for Improvement
Bad jokes and technical glitches aside, the program got serious pretty quick for Morris. The Golden Globes broadcast was forced to address a (lack of) diversity situation after a recent news article had pointed out there are no Black journalists in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which judges the awards.
“I couldn’t help but wonder when they realized it, or was it only an issue because it caused a scandal going into the event?” Morris asked. “They took it head on…kinda.”
A pre-event announcement addressed the issue by promising to create “an environment where a diverse membership is the norm, not the exception” and that HFPA “looks forward to a more inclusive future.”
Observes Morris: “After 20 years of no Black members, it seems they would have figured it out by now. Rightfully so, there was a cloud over the GGs because of it. It pains me that there still has to be a push to do the right thing,” she said.
“Everything after that was a blur for me. Another note to self.”