Terrified, speaker finds herself on cutting edge

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Hagar

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Sallyann Corn

I have this bad thing I do to myself and I did it just last month.

I accepted an invitation for public speaking.

Might as well inject myself with flu virus, eat moldy bread and rub someone's used Kleenex on my tongue -- that's how sick I feel after I say "yes" to such things.

But I do, in order to not be held hostage by my unwelcome fear of talking to people face-to-face, rather than through venues like this column.

I mean, I chat just fine, you understand, I'm a phone-caller without compare. But when people expect me to have something worthwhile to say, well ... let's just say I die a thousand deaths when I prove them mostly wrong. Not false modestly, I promise.

All to say, I vaccinate against being stalled in my development by typing O ... K ... when asked. Mostly.

The invitation came in early July. Would I be willing to participate in Impress Salon's "Invest" series in mid-August?

On that day, at least, the event date seemed well into the future. Six weeks from now? Sure! That's forever!

Besides, I was more than a little intrigued. A lecture series at a beauty parlor? On the same floor as leftover hair and mistings of spray gel?

Not exactly. The floor is clean and chairs rented for the vision conceived by Impress Salon owner Jan Corn and her daughter, Sallyann Corn.

Initially, the two were looking for an appropriate public relations tool and a way to give back to the salon's loyal customers, many of whom have been regulars since the business opened in 1998.

Sallyann and her husband, freshly relocated in Seattle from New York, claim the title of "museum and lecture junkies."

The idea of attending an event where you can learn something about your community and get a little introduction into other people's lives has always intrigued Sallyann.

So why not for Walla Walla? And why not at her mom's beauty parlor? The fact that it's "a little out there" makes it that much better, mother and daughter agreed. Both are adventurous and Sallyann is no slouch at marketing concepts.

The shop on Plaza Way lends itself to the venue, she feels. With styling chairs removed, the hardwood expanse gleams invitingly, begging to be filled.

Mom and daughter began brainstorming topics, leaning toward a diverse group of subjects. "We thought it would be good that if you weren't interested in one, you could come to another," Sallyann explained.

Thus, the "Invest in" series was born, launching with "Invest in Architecture and Design" in June.

With that under the belt, the Corns found more speakers agreeing to come, even as folks scratched their heads over salon-turned-lecture-hall, Sallyann said.

Even better is what comes with the price of a free ticket. In addition to listening to four or so speakers -- and on the "Invest In Community" night, we all had very different approaches to the theme ­-- audience members were treated to a spread of absolutely delicious food.

I couldn't eat until after it was over (see above symptoms) but I did eventually go a little crazy over the hummus.

Her mom's business lays out about $600 for each event, Sallyann said. Which, she pointed out, is less than the cost of traditional advertising. "It's an opportunity to reach many more people ... it's money well spent."

And, it has to be said, it's nice that nothing is being asked in return, save for some applause.

The women decided to spread the series out, allowing about six weeks between each lecture night, "to not just inundate people," Sallyann said.

The final night of the series is Thursday at 7 p.m., and the topic is "Invest in Environment." It features a rather heavy-hitting list of speakers, which you can see at www.impresssalon.net.

If you're going at all, go. This is the last one, then it will be time to try something new, Sallyann explained.

"Whatever that might be to keep it fresh."

As for me, I'm grateful my gig is over, even as I enjoyed listening to the other presenters.The audience was very nice, and I sort of liked the fact I was standing just in front of hair washing sinks to speak.

Sort of like being on the edge of some new trend, and when's the last time I've ever been there? It feels, I dunno, fresh.

....and, no, she doesn't get her hair cut at Impress but she has fallen in love with some shampoo that lives there.

Sheila Hagar can be reached by e-mail at sheilahagar@wwub.com or at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom or by calling 509-526-8322.

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