You’ve now stepped into your hosting prowess and decided you’re ready for the challenge, so it’s time to run down the optimal activity sequence to ensure you, your guests and speakers are prepared for a fabulous evening.
When Should You Send Out the Salon Invite?
I know I can invite people to a salon next week and they will come eagerly, BUT for one’s sanity, I like to invite people about a month in advance. That’s probably far too out for you, so try two weeks instead and ensure a little spontaneity and a little time for organisation.
- Do not use a mass email program like Constant Contact as these emails tend to get filtered into spam.
- I often supplement email invites with a text, a phone call, a message on Instagram … some personal encouragement that I am so keen to see my friends in my living room.
- Reminders: Send one out towards the end of the prior week. And then a final one the day before. Do not lose your cool if people’s plans have changed. We’re all just trying to get through life as best we can, and plans and desires change. If someone keeps bailing at the last minute, stop inviting them. It is your salon in your home, after all.
What Is the Optimal Order of Activities?
I like a 7 pm arrival time with the emphasis on food and drink first. I usually take the first hour or so to keep cooking and save my energy while letting my close friends welcome guests so I don’t have to be responsible for making everyone feel comfortable. And I tell my guests to be on time! A 15-20 minute grace period is fine, but if you’re hosting on the East Coast there’s a far greater chance of the party starting relatively on time than on the West Coast.
How Do We Transition From Dinner to Discussion?
Keep in mind it’s your salon and you can structure it however you’d like, but the I typically do it with one to two guest speakers I ask questions to (let’s start with just one for first timers). I’m not prepared to moderate a huge conversation, may you are, but I don’t recommend it. My format is a great way to keep on track while allowing a window of time for guest questions at the end.
At 8:20-8:25 I ring the bell to give people a five-minute heads-up that we’re about to start the conversation, or music, or poetry – whatever the evening’s entertainment may be. Then there’s another bell 5 minute later to begin the conversation. I typically have five to eight questions prepared on notecards and keep the discussion going until 9 pm. I also keep a timer to make sure we don’t go on too long and I always start with a quote from the speaker, which is a great way to break the ice.
How Long Should the Conversation Last?
The essence of the evening is entertainment, so don’t let conversations drag on to the point where they stop being entertaining. That’s why I set the conversation up to be about half an hour, because I know if it’s going really well and guests want to keep asking questions, it’ll go for an hour. But sometimes the best conversations don’t happen in the big group, they happen when the evening disperses into small group conversations where your guests can talk together and with the speaker more intimately.
Then What Happens?
Whatever you want! We recommend a bit of music, and a lot of encouraging sidebar conversations breaking off from the group discussion. If your topic is of interest, it’ll happen naturally and spark all kinds of other interesting discussion. Salons are meant to be a bit sexy, so definitely leave space in your agenda for mingling. And always remember to observe the golden rule of hosting: everyone looks better in warm, low-lighting.
How Do I Get Everyone to Leave?
There have been times when I’ve simply gone to bed. But I don’t recommend that as your go-to strategy to end a salon. One option is setting an end time on the invite especially if you for sure want to get to bed relatively early. And consider having your salon on a weeknight if you’re trying to wrap it up by 10, If it’s the end of the week people will probably want to party but if not they usually want to go home early. The end of the night is another opportunity for your close friends to help you co-host by ushering out any lingering stragglers, which can typically accelerated by asking if they’d like to help clean up. This is the strategy that I use most often. And finally, if some of the last guests don’t pick up on the hint, I simply say, “I’m exhausted. I need to go to bed!” Very clear.