Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Communication Pro: Effective use of e-mails, part 1

Tips to communicating effectively via e-mail…

Over the course of my career, I have learned how critical and important it is to be savvy with e-mails. E-mail communication offers an easy and effective way to coordinate projects, communicate needs, prioritize requests and the list goes on and on. However, I have become painfully aware that many professionals I work and interact with have not quite mastered the effective use of e-mail communication.  The goal of this post is to highlight some useful tips to consider when it comes to e-mailing effectively.  I am certain this will be one of many posts on the subject.  

Assume everyone is twice as busy as you…

I have found that if I write e-mails from the position where I assume the recipient of my message is extremely busy, it helps me plan for a succinct message. If I have a request for the recipient, I make it a point to get “the ask” at the start of the message and context and background later in the message.   If the context and background is a bit lengthy—meaning three lines of more—then I try to underline or bold “the ask.”   I might even use the heading “Background” to differentiate between “the ask” and what’s just context.

When I assume my recipient is extremely busy, it helps me shape my message so that it is easy to scan because I know the reader doesn’t have time or attention space to read detailed background.  When there is need to provide more context that can't be shared in 2 or 3 paragraphs, that’s when I know I have to pick up the phone and provide the background in a conversation instead of a wordy e-mail.

Help your recipient prioritize your message…

Assume your e-mail is one of dozens your reader receives each hour.  Your goal is to make sure your note is easy to identify and does not get lost within the crowded in-box of the recipient. This is where subject lines come to play.  Never, ever send a message without a subject line.  I am indentified as a contact for over 20,000 employees and often receive over 100 e-mails on a given day. It can be extremely challenging to prioritize and organize my e-mail in-box, but subject lines certainly help. When I receive a message without a subject line, that message receives last priority.  

The subject line can help alert the recipient of your e-mail as she organizes her plan for responding to messages.  Words like “Action Required,” “Response Requested,” “ Information Only,” before the general topic of your message will help your reader prioritize her messages and she will appreciate you for it.

Courtesy goes a long way….

If you are like me and work in a large corporation, you might have colleagues in different time zones and your only interaction may be via e-mail. When you depend solely on e-mail, it can be difficult to convey your personality or tone since you can’t rely on your facial expressions or body language to build rapport.  But there are some simple and subtle ways that you can genuinely convey a friendly and charming tone which will help you collaborate and build rapport with others. Likewise, there are practices you can avoid so you don’t come off as rude.

One simple way to build rapport is to always reply with a greeting and name, like “Hello John,” “Good evening Maria”, etc.  It can be easy to be busy and want to reply curtly, but I have found that adding a greeting is warmer and friendly.  

Do not use caps locks or an obnoxiously large font.  Did you know that if you use caps lock, it is considered yelling?  It surprises me to learn that many folks are not aware of this. So, even if you like the way it looks, keep your notes professional and don’t use caps locks, not even if you want to make part of your message stand out. If there is something you would like to highlight, consider a change in font color, underlying it or bolding it.  Stick with black or blue for most of your message and reserve red to differentiate something important.  Keep messages at 10-14 size font.

I can go on and on about the subject of e-mail etiquette. So for now, these a few tips to consider next time you craft an e-mail.

1 comment:

  1. I have to give a short presentation on this at work next week! If you have any other tips please let me know! :)