As Chris Rock took the stage at the 88th annual Academy Awards on Sunday night, the biggest question on the audience's mind was how he would address the recent discussions around racial discrimination in Hollywood.
The two-time Academy Award host did not disappoint: "Thank you thank you. I counted at least 15 black people in that montage," Rock announced as he took the stage.
For the second straight year in a row, the Oscar nominations did not include any actors of color in one of the four main acting categories. As a number of black actors and directors--including Spike Lee, Will Smith, and Jada Pinkett Smith--proclaimed they would boycott this year's ceremony, the #OscarsSoWhite movement went from a hashtag to something the academy could no longer ignore.
As the host, Rock ensured that viewers wouldn't forget the controversy surrounding this year's ceremony. Straight into his highly anticipated opening monologue, he wasted no time in directly addressing the controversy.
Here's what you can learn from the comedian--and the entire event itself--about how to communicate effectively and transparently about a serious issue.
1. Commit to the awkwardness.
Rock was determined to make the audience squirm. His opening remarks were peppered with digs at Hollywood's lack of diversity, quipping that the Oscars were "otherwise known as the White People's Choice Awards."
Another memorable bit included a sketch where several black actors (Whoopi Goldberg, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, and Rock himself) reimagined the roles of characters in some of this year's Oscar-nominated films.
Instead of shying away from a controversial topic, he embraced it.
2. Spread thoughtfulness and positivity into a discouraging topic.
While Rock indeed brought the majority of laughs, other presenters brought the heart. Actor Kevin Hart gave a pep talk to the actors of color who weren't nominated for any awards this year.
"I'm a positive guy. But I want to take a moment to applaud all my actors and actresses of color who did not get nominated," he said. "Let's not let this negative issue of diversity beat us. Let's do what we do best and work hard."
Meanwhile, academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs took stage to implore the audience to do their part in making Hollywood a more diverse culture. "Our audience is global and rich in diversity, and every facet of our industry should be as well. It's not enough to just listen and agree--we must take action," she said.
3. Keep your message consistent.
Rock's comments on the lack of opportunity for actors, writers, and directors of color hit home for many.
They weren't all good, though. The host poked fun at the #AskHerMore campaign, which immediately garnered grumbles on Twitter. He expressed that people shouldn't be so upset that women are asked more than men about their fashion choices on the red carpet, he expressed.
"Everything is not sexism, everything is not racism. They ask the men more because they're all wearing the same outfit," joked Rock.
To many, this had missed the mark.
4. Avoid any traditions that could turn into a blooper.
The great lighting illuminated the stage and its winners, but a few technical flaws turned into uncomfortable moments.
In one instance, the academy had to quickly backtrack during Alejandro Iñárritu's acceptance speech for best director (The Revenant) when they accidentally cued the music to guide him off stage when he began to comment on his hope that people would stop judging others on the color of their skin.
Before your event, make sure that you and your team come up with a strategy on how to deal with any awkward situations.