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Tired of trying to get your book club friends to discuss the book? Why not call the monthly chat session what it really is: a salon, or a meeting of people to exchange ideas, learn new things and, hey, squeeze in a little networking.

To put together your own salon, start with these ten tips and visual cues from the inventive hosts of Forth, a quarterly salon for creative Chicago women.

Wanna go? Sign up here to snag an invite to a future event. 

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all photos by Kelly Allison for Forth Chicago

Set the Stage

The events starts before people arrive with how you present the salon to potential guests. Set an intention and share it in your invite so everyone knows what to expect. 

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Pick a Theme

If you're not sure what to talk about, try topics like balancing passion projects with day-to-day life, how women work together, loving your now while planning your next and authenticity in social media. Each salon’s topic and guest list should play nicely together. Ask your guests questions about what they hope to get out of the salon and let that help shape your planning.

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Get the Details Right

Help guests open up. People share when they feel wanted, welcome and special. Small details like accommodating dietary needs evoke intimacy and trust.

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Be a Good Ringleader

Set an event flow, then gleefully deviate. Think in blocks of time (15-minute, 30-minute, etc.) and have blocks that are essential, ones that can be discarded and ones that you know will be successful. With a plan, your guests will feel more comfortable and you can be fully present. 

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Manage Your Time

Allot about 30 minutes at the beginning for participants to arrive and informally connect. Then offer a shorter block (about 15 minutes) for an all-group introduction once everyone is seated. 

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Get People Talking

A flexible way to kick things off is to have volunteers respond to quotes connected to your theme until a conversation flows from other guests’ reactions. At the end of the salon, ask about next steps or how the conversation might impact guests moving forward. 

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Be Quiet

A good conversation includes silence. To give every voice some room, don’t fear pauses. Wait up to eight seconds after you’ve asked a question. If no one has spoken, ask something new.

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Make Connections

The event lasts after people leave. Encourage everyone to share contact information so new friendships flourish. Follow up and stay in touch--don’t forget those bright ideas.

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Feed Your Friends

If you can make the food yourself, wonderful, but think wisely about your time leading up to your event. Your guests would much rather you be well rested and excited with yummy store-bought goodies than exhausted and covered in flour. Always have bags or boxes for leftovers so guests can enjoy a tomorrow treat.

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Wrap It Up

Salons get easier the more you host, so take time to jot down what worked well and ask guests for feedback after each event.

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