As an event host, I love unscripted events. If you’ve worked with me, you already know that 😉 Unscripted events are perfect for building meaningful connections and creating moments that will never recur. If your event is in the hands of a host who knows what he/she is doing, then you can rest assured that no matter what happens, your event will not be derailed. However, scripted events are the norm. And the bigger the event, the likelier that all its elements (including dialogues and conversations) are pre-planned i.e., scripted. Why is that?
A couple of weeks back, Oscars had a moment that took the internet over by storm—Will Smith slapped Chris Rock over an inappropriate joke that Mr. Rock made about Mr. Smith’s wife—as everyone analyzed the incident from different angles. Was the joke appropriate? Was the reaction too much? Was the host successful in salvaging the situation?
One perspective that came to my mind while going through all the content was from the angle of event organizing. The incident must have been a PR nightmare in a way. More so because Chris Rock’s joke was supposedly not pre-vetted (source: https://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/chris-rocks-jada-pinkett-smith-26576069). He went outside the script to make a joke that led to the events of the night. One might argue that if he had not made the joke, the event would have gone according to plan and all the drama could have been easily avoided. Sounds like a pretty good reason to stick to the script. But just because it sounds pretty good, is it really?
One of the best places you and I see improvisation is in the movies. Movie scripts are usually detailed in direction, breaking down exactly what a character’s response should be to the unfolding events. But Jessica Chastain, Academy Award winner for best actress this year, is known to improvise scripts, cancelling out portions of the script that feel forced to her. Marlon Brando was known to turn up for his Apocalypse Now shoot without having read the script at all and then proceeding to wing it! And there’s of course Robert Downey Jr. of Iron Man fame who is supposedly the creator of much of Tony Stark’s clever quips and banter. What happens in these moments when actors move away from the script? They are not breaking character but building it in the way they see fit. The exact same thing can be said of a good event host. Knowing how to build an event from the ground up is hard work but the results of a good, unscripted event are so worth it!
Let me end by sharing a small story from my personal experience. I was working with a governmental agency for an event. They had a very detailed script even for the conversation that was supposed to happen onstage. I was to interview a minister and met with him a few minutes before going onstage. He seemed open and when I asked him if he would be willing to answer some questions I had for him, he was game! So, with that green signal, I went ahead onstage and moved away from the script. The organizers were so alarmed that they kept messaging me on the tab asking me to finish up quickly and ask no more questions. But the minister was a good sport and answered the questions asked and we ended up having a good, meaningful conversation. The organizers came and expressed relief after the event and said they were glad that the minister had been able to answer ALL the questions. What a disaster it would have been if he couldn’t have answered, they exclaimed! But why? I asked. Is a minister supposed to know everything? Can there be some questions that he or she truly does not have an answer to? Like any human being? The organizers were shocked at my response…
This is the mentality to change in the world of events. Everything is happening at events around human beings. Our humanness includes our flaws and imperfections. That means that there may be some awkward moments, silences, lags in an event and it can still turn out to be great overall. Chris Rock’s graceful dealing of the situation turned the night back on its course. So, there’s a possibility of moments being redeemed if people are allowed the space to be who they are—good and not-so-good both.