In the fall of 2013, a friend surprised a group of us with a night out to see a show and have dinner together. It was wonderful and two of us (myself and Eric Rosenbaum) decided we wanted to find a way to return the favor. Our friend, however, wanted no part of that, and told us instead to "pay it forward." While we liked that idea, we wanted to pay it forward and backward at the same time. We decided to host a monthly gathering of some interesting people we wanted to get to know better, despite living in different time zones. We toyed with the idea of a virtual book club, but knew that none of our friends had time to read an assigned book each month. I'm pretty proud of the solution we came up with...:
Short Version of salon: Once a month, on a google hangout, a group of 10 of us gather and simultaneously open the mystery package that one of our members has sent to each of us. We then spend an hour chatting and completing an experience that incorporates the packages contents. Each of the 10 members leads once, and we end with a gift exchange.
Detailed Version (in which the magic is found...):
Someone to organize (and be first host): I recommend a pair of hosts. For the 2014 salon group, I hosted with Eric Rosenbaum. For 2016, I am currently hosting with Lenore Edman. The co-hosts plan the invite list, handle inquiries, and generally assist all of the salon members with logistics.
Time/"Place" : I suggest that the two co-hosts pick a monthly time that works for them and uses that as a starting point. For example, "the second Monday of the month, at 6:30pmPT/7:30pmMT/8:30pmCT/9:30pmET." I use Google hangouts to run our salons.
People: I have limited the cohort for the 2014 and 2016 salons to 10 people. That works on Google hangouts, and is big enough to have really interesting discussions. For both of the cohorts that I've had, we used the following guidelines for deciding who to invite:
- One of the co-hosts should know the person, and be known by the person, but it shouldn't be a co-host's close friend. The goal is to invite people that you wish you knew better.
- No more than one person from a given company.
- No more than one person from a given household.
- The more varied the group, the more fun we'll have. We have had writers, scientists, artists, a minister, CEOs, circus performers, singers, early childhood educators, editors, high school teacher, etc.
Monthly routine: Whichever salon member is presenting that month is responsible for sending out supplies to the other members. Who doesn't love getting a surprise in the mail? But no peeking... salon members open the packages together at the monthly meeting. Our groups have kept a mailing list with everyone's addresses in a shared Google drive.
Final Meeting (gift exchange): Celebrate the final meeting by having each salon member mail a gift to each of the other 9 members. This doesn't have to be fancy... it could be a letter, a book, a donation to a non-profit. Be creative!
One Year Only: Salon lasts a year. Only one year. Then the members are encouraged to start their own, new, salon cohorts.
The Invitation: Here is the invitation I used this year.
Subject: Invitation: “2016 Salon”
Hello Friends and Friends To Be-
In 2014, a group of friends/artists/scientists, including the two of us, started a monthly virtual salon. It was a wonderful experience, and we’ve decided to start another salon group for 2016.
Salon ’14 began as a way to do creative things with creative people, even though we live in different time zones. A way to spend one night a month together playing, chatting, learning, doing and making. (Also: we love getting fun things in the mail. Don’t you?)
We would like to invite you to participate in the 2016 Salon.
We invite you to a monthly google+ hangout salon. Each month one group member will be in charge of the program, and of (optionally) mailing out materials in advance to everyone else. Yes, physical mail! It could be some crafts materials, a mystery box to open during the salon, a weird food item, a papercraft kit, pigments to mix, a thumb drive, dried flowers… what will you send out?
WHAT: 60-90 minutes, hosted by a different group member each month.
WHEN: 2rd ___day of the Month (Starting 1/12/16) at 6:30pm Pacific, 7:30pm Mountain, 8:30 pm Central, 9:30 pm Eastern. (1/12/16, 2/9/16, 3/8/16, 4/12/16, 5/10/16, 6/14/16, 7/12/16, 8/9/16, 9/13/16, 10/11/16, 11/8/16, 12/13/16)
WHERE: Google+ Hangout (so we can all see each other.) You will need a gmail address for this to work.
WHO: You, of course. A total of 10 people, as broad a mix as we could come up with between us of artists, technologists, scientists, humanists, and everything in between. To help us pare down the list, we decided that we would only invite a single person from any given company, organization, or household.
Are you in? We hope so.
What's required of you:
- ATTEND! Each month. (Yes we all travel. We know you'll likely miss one or two over the year, but we wish you wouldn't. We promise that all salons are designed such that you can do them from a hotel room. :-) )
- HOST! We’ll each host one salon in 2016. Hosting means planning a way to engage the ~10 of us for 60-90 minutes. Be creative. (But also be respectful of everyone's time. We're not a book club. Pre-meeting prep for participants should take no longer than 30 minutes.) Want to teach us a math puzzle? Debate a topic? Teach origami (if so, send some paper in advance)? Have us taste some interesting edible thing? Collaboratively write a story?
- SIGN UP! Reply to this invitation by December 31, 2015 to let us know if you'll be participating. Please send us: your gmail address, your mailing address, and whether you have a preferred month to lead the salon. (January and February are already booked.)
AnnMarie Thomas and Lenore Edman