By some accounts it was the perfect ending to the weird year that was 2016: Mariah Carey’s disastrous New Year’s Eve performance.

What should have been a fun send-off to 2016 by an experienced pop star turned into a nightmare for the singer. Unable to hear the pre-recorded music, she barely managed to move her lips along to one of her most famous singles. As the debacle unfolded she became increasingly irritated, lashing out as she paced the stage.

So what can we advertising folks (and anyone who has to present ideas to a group) learn from the diva’s downfall? A lot, as it turns out.

Practice, practice, practice

Guess what Mariah didn’t do? (According to her “we didn’t [sound]check this one” comment mid-performance, anyway.)

No matter how experienced you are, no matter how many times you’ve pitched, take the time to practice your presentation with your team. You’ll be able to iron out any kinks in your pitch, become more comfortable with your team, and feel more confident when the big day comes.

Roll with it

Sometimes, even with all the practice and confidence in the world – for example, when you’re an international superstar – things go awry. Your technology might fail, someone might have forgotten to bring a presentation board, or maybe you wind up presenting to a huge group rather than the three people you originally planned for. Don’t let it faze you (and if you practiced, it probably won’t).

Understand that even the best plans sometimes need to change. Have a plan B (and maybe a C or D too), and be ready to think on your feet. Getting flustered and upset won’t make the situation better and can leave a terrible impression on the very people you’re trying to wow.

Be gracious

When things go wrong don’t make them worse by throwing blame or turning on members of your team – especially in front your clients. Instead, do all you can to stay calm and be understanding.

Unfortunately for Mariah’s sound guy, she wasn’t feeling too gracious on stage that night, but throwing someone under the bus doesn’t solve anything. Look at it as a chance to assess what went wrong and learn from the situation. Maybe you needed to spend more time practicing. Maybe your teammate needs you to communicate better. Whatever it is, try to remember we’re all human and mistakes, however unpleasant and embarrassing, happen from time to time.

When you can do all of that, it will be easier to pull on your sequined bodysuit* and dazzle the crowd next time around.


*Note: I will not be pulling on a sequined bodysuit for any client pitches. Sorry to disappoint!


-Jeff Faralli, Creative Director