Presentation is everything

This post is in honor of what would have been my grandmother’s 100th birthday–today. There’s a good lesson in it for any marketer, so please forgive the length.


Imagine back to your childhood.
You’re about four or five. Christmas morning has arrived and you can’t wait to unwrap your presents.

Did you ever break the ribbon, tear off the paper, open the lid, only to reveal . . . a fork???!

I can say with relative certainty that I was the only little girl on N.W. 69th Street in Oklahoma City that opened a sterling silver eating utensil each Christmas. Forks, spoons, knives. Reed & Barton. Pattern: Francis I.

Eventually, I started getting larger boxes. You know what was inside of them, don’t you? My china. Lenox. Pattern: Rutledge. It was selected for me at about the same time as my silver was because my favorite color was purple. “Poorpuh,” as I was later reminded of my pronunciation, was a standout word in my immature vocabulary.

MomMom-corsage The silver, the china, the crystal chandelier in my bedroom . . . These were gifts from my grandmother: Mom-Mom.

Mom-Mom operated a gift shop out of Stanfield Drugstore for most of her life. My grandfather (Bandaddy) was the pharmacist in the other half of the building. As the proprietress, Mom-Mom outfitted not only her young granddaughter, but also most of the new brides in Seminole County.

Mom-Mom and Bandaddy (I KNOW! I didn’t name them!) lived about four blocks down the street from Stanfield Drug–in a two-story, English-style, red-brick house on a small hill in Seminole. To me, it was one of the grandest I had ever seen or been in. No, they weren’t rich, but it sure seemed that way. Mom-Mom made the house both elegant and home. Special touches were everywhere.

A pair of golden Lovebirds tweeted in the sunroom. Her black standard poodle paraded around with sparkling rhinestone collar. A fountain bubbled in the garden underneath the pink, feathery blossoms of the mimosa tree.

There was never a paper plate or plastic cup in Mom-Mom’s home. Lettuce leaves were carefully washed and put between paper towels to dry and take their place as the prop for a cottage cheese and fruit salad.

The Lesson

One time I was helping Mom-Mom serve a meal to family members and got about halfway to the table before she called me back. She added a garnish of parsley to the plates I had been carrying. “Presentation is everything,” she said.

This is how everyone knew and remembers Mom-Mom.

The advice has served me well in all aspects of my life. “Presentation is everything.” It’s the small things that make a difference and distinguish us from others. As an artist, it’s your attention to the detail of your matting, framing, and display. It’s the care you give your printed materials and your Web site that announce to the world that you’re a professional. It’s the care with which you treat each person you run into because you know they might be a customer one day—that you show them respect and trust.

So, how are you doing on your presentation? Is the language on your Web site inviting? Or does it reveal suspicion and distrust? Does your photography show your work in its best light or will others have to guess at the quality and colors? When you talk about your work, do you do it with enthusiasm and passion or are you timid and lacking confidence?

Remember: Presentation is everything. And you just get one chance to make a first impression.

As you can imagine, I grew to love the forks, plates, and saucers that were given to me as a child. I couldn’t wait to use mine as an adult and still look for excuses to set the table with the good china. I refuse to save it only for so-called special occasions.

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18 comments to Presentation is everything

  • What wonderful advice, and a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it!

  • What a lovely tribute! My great Aunt Louise always gifted us with beautiful antique jewelry and handbags- things I didn’t appreciate until much later. Francis I was also her pattern and I eventually came to have it and cherish it, along with her china. Good advice wrapped up in a beautiful story.

  • Beautiful story, Alyson. Generously written. Thank you.

  • What a heart-warming remembrance! Your Mom-Mom sounds so much like “Mom” my grandmother, who lived on NW 20th St in OKC and was also born in 1909. Any time someone in our family sets a carton of milk or jar of mayonnaise directly on the table, someone inevitably says, “uh-oh, what would Mom say?” Milk was served in a pitcher, even for family breakfasts. Condiments got their own serving dishes or relish trays. How far we’ve come! (Or how low we’ve fallen!) Paper plates and plastic spoons even in the day of dishwashers… Even in hard times (and there were many), Mom dressed sharply and pulled her white hair up in a simple, but elegant bun or braid. Two minutes with a blow dryer is about my limit! As a matter of fact, just before Christmas, I finished a portrait of her for my aunt: http://www.susandonley.com/people/mom_garlock.html Thanks for prompting these fond memories (and reminding us that our grandmothers are looking over our shoulders when we try to cut corners! ;-)

  • This is a lovely tribute. I can only hope my granddaughter has such fond memories of me one day. However, it is my hope that we could all aspire to treat each other with care, not “because you know they might be a customer one day” but merely because everyone deserves to be treated with respect. To me, that is true attention to detail. Thanks for sharing your memories, Faye

  • Ah Alyson, such a different time it was. My grandmother did the same and I, too, recall the care that was taken in truly making a home a place of caring presentation not only to guests, but to ourselves as well – family members. Maybe that is another aspect to write about…what it does for OUR artist souls to present all we do with the loving care we put into our presentations. Lynne

  • Thank you for sharing your Mom-Mom. You look a little like her. My Grammie instilled the same in me. I was so moved by your story that I wrote about my grammie on my blog. I tried to do a track back but I’m not sure if I did it right.

  • Oh Alyson, what a splendid story about your grandmother. My gramma still holds a very special place in my heart also, and she was my best friend until she died when I was 40. Coincidentally, she was born in Enid, Oklahoma in 1898 and lived many years in Yukon. I later went on to do a series of drawings of her and her life for my thesis exhibition when I graduated from college in 1984. She did not get to see the collection as she died just the year before, but I know she was there in spirit because she lives on through my memories and love for her. Thank you for bringing back those wonderful times. Margret Short

  • Thanks, all, for letting me share this story with you. Judy: I do look like her. I have her white streak and her nose and her coloring. They say I really look like my mother, but we have different coloring, a different nose, completely different hair (mine is naturally curly and thick and she has thin, straight hair), I have dimples and a neck (Mom has no neck). Mostly, Mom and I have the same mouth and that’s about it, but I guess we look alike.

  • Faye: You’re 100% right! I love this! I learn so much from everyone who reads this blog. You wrote . . . However, it is my hope that we could all aspire to treat each other with care, not “because you know they might be a customer one day” but merely because everyone deserves to be treated with respect. To me, that is true attention to detail. Thanks so much for the reminder.

  • Alyson, thank you for sharing such a wonderful story. You have not only given us lesson in life and marketing, but also how to use your business blog to become more personable with your clients. I don’t think anyone could compose a more perfect blog post!

  • What a lovely well written post. Thanks for sharing such a personal story, you crafted this as well as one of MomMom’s table settings, she would be proud.

  • I really enjoyed this post and what a nice tribute to her. I feel the same about presentation in my job and also in my own crafts. I also have a mother who goes out of her way to make everything so beautiful and is so much more talented than I am at it!

  • Thanks for sharing Alyson. I too received sterling silver, one fork at a time, from a favorite aunt at Christmas. I don’t think she or anyone else in my family had sterling silverware, but she gifted me with her aspirations every holiday. Regarding presentation, I’ve heard many an artist say the back should look as good as the front.

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  • Nice story and good advice.
    I agree…use your china, glass wear etc…..if not , when you’re gone, they will find the unopened box in the closet , never used! Who wants someone else to enjoy it if you never have?