Monday, May 8, 2023

Paula Scher Explains When to End a Meeting.

The best thing I ever heard about when to stop a creative presentation, I heard from the Head Mistress of the pre-school my daughters went to: The All Souls School, on Lexington and 80th in Manhattan.

At a parents-teachers night a parent got up and asked a question. 

"Before my daughter got here, her art work sucked. After she left here, her art worked sucked. But while she was here, her art work was great. What's your secret?"

The Head Mistress walked to the front of the stage and chuckled. "No secret," she said. "We just know when to take the paper away."

I heard that for myself almost 30 years ago and have repeated it dozens of times since then. On Friday, someone sent me a link to a 40-minute video on Paula Scher--you can watch it here. 

In it, at about 34:00, Scher is presenting to Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the New York Public Theatre. In just two-minutes, Scher explains it all.

If I ran an agency, I'd make this required viewing for everyone--everyone, at least once a month. I will probably keep it on hand to share with perseverating clients.

Outside of what I heard back in the 90s at my daughters' pre-school, it's some of the best advice I've ever heard.

"So this is the diagram of a meeting.

You are giving a presentation.

This line is the line of the reasonable level of expectation that everyone has

when you walk into the room.

You begin to present

and you come above the reasonable level of expectation.

Everybody gets enthusiastic, people begin to start asking questions.

And right about here, you've reached the height of appreciation 

that you're gonna get for this presentation.

And at this point,

somebody's going to make a rebuttal to your presentation.

You're going to sink a little bit below that line of expectation.

You grab it back and you make some concessions.

And you get up to about here.

And at this point, this is about as high as you're ever gonna get.

It's not as high as here, but it's good.

The meeting must end here,

because what will happen is a counter-rebuttal to your offer,

it will go down below the reasonable level of expectation

And then come back only nearly above it.

And will continue on, until you reach sudden death."


Not to step on Paula's wisdom, but know when to take the paper away.

Oh, and watch the damn video.

You'll learn something.

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