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Tips for successful salons

  1. Have food. If you are hosting people from different religions, be aware of religious restrictions.
  2. Find a location that is comfortable, relaxed and neutral. A living room setting is preferable to board room-style (around a table).
  3. Invite specific people to participate to enhance the discussion. This allows you to seek the balance and diversity necessary for a satisfying discussion. Consider gender balance, as well as diverse opinions. Be sure you have political and religious diversity. Ask how they feel about issues you plan to discuss.
  4. A group of 10 to 12 seems ideal. Invited participants tend to show up, so inviting 12 should work.
  5. Have a moderator whose job it is to keep people on task, on topic, and to move from one subject to the next.
  6. Provide background material, or "think pieces" about 1 week before the salon. These selections should represent a range of opinions on each topic.
  7. Establish that participants are not representing their religion, but their personal beliefs. Omitting their religious preference in the introductions will reinforce this.
  8. Remind people that they are not there to change others' minds, but to state their own opinions and to listen to those of others. The goal is to understand where people with opinions differing from one's own are coming from. Everyone and everyone's' viewpoint is to be treated with respect.
  9. Allow 2 to 2 1/2 hours for the discussion. Ask participants to arrive at 6:30 and plan to leave by 9:30. Offer food and socializing until about 6:50, begin the discussion and begin to wrap up about 9:00.