Historically, the purpose of a salon was to bring people together from all walks of life and across generations. And for Susan, it remains one of the primary reasons to host a salon. It’s so rare these days to meet people of different ages and backgrounds in one place, so we decided to ask for some of her secrets on how to achieve true salon guest-list alchemy.
According to Susan, “A salon is curated, that’s the art of hosting. The more care you bring to stocking your guest list full of enthusiastic salon participants and topic experts from diverse backgrounds, the most social alchemy you’re liable to create.”
“Creating a guest list is like writing a recipe for a delicious dish. What mix of people will result in unlikely conversations and surprising friendships? Like with like is not the point of a salon,” Susan emphasizes.
“Your guests should be from all walks of life. This is where the exciting ideas come from, unlikely people speaking to each other. Do you have a younger or older friend who is well connected? Fantastic! Ask them to bring a plus one or two to the salon. Bonus – you’ll spice up your guest list by adding some new people into the curated mix AND you’ll get to meet a couple of new potential friends. My salons tend to span in age over three generations, 60 years or so, and that’s just how I like it.”
“SIDEBAR : When I’m hosting a salon in a city I don’t live in, I always ask my friends who they know in that city that would enjoy a salon. I’ve met so many interesting and engaged people that way, and both parties are always so appreciative.”
“You know you, but do not dive into your first salon with 70 guests! That’s far too many. Why don’t you start with about 10-12 people; that ensures that you can have a really diverse group of guests. Is that too many? Ok, fine. Try 8. But no fewer!” Susan insists.
“I always invite guests to a salon by email. I mix both personal one-on-one emails to friends as well as sending out a larger email where I blind-copy the guests. Email ensures you can put all the details tidily in one place so guests can go back and refer to it. Practically everyone uses email so that ensures you’re not missing out on anyone when inviting,” she says.
“You can set an RSVP by a certain date if that helps you on the organizing front. But be flexible! People’s lives are so busy, and they often don’t know their schedule til right close to the date.”
No disrespect to Susan’s pooch Islay MacTavish, but she’s extremely food-motivated and thus not a very curious or considerate salon guest.
“To create true guest list alchemy, everyone invited to your salon must be a curious person. Please do not invite know-it-alls, sloppy drunks or anyone that’s generally bad at listening. And don’t invite groups of friends who all have the same interests, backgrounds or professional lives. Unless your salon is focused around a very specific topic that would be enhanced by having a group of similarly-minded individuals, err on the side of diversifying your guest list and creating the opportunity for new connections.”