Getting People to Read Your Email

9 August 2012

 Image by LeeBrimelow


Getting readers to open and read your email is sometimes a big problem. People often get so much email every day that they simply don’t have time to read them all.


Scott, one of the readers of this blog, mentioned this problem as it relates to meetings:


Business experts say not to waste time giving information in meetings that could be done in emails. I put out a weekly newsletter containing routine information. I also send extra emails highlighting vital concerns and assignments. However, I still find that some people just don't read the emails. So, how do I know when info meetings are necessary or what's good enough for email?


We’ve talked about this subject previously and discussed the importance of a meaningful and attention-grabbing subject line.


How to ruin a meeting

Recently, I found some answers to Scott’s question in an article called The Top 9 Stupid Ways to Ruin a Meeting.


According to the author, Jeff Haden, the primary purpose of meetings should be either to make decisions or celebrate successes. So Scott is right not to take meeting time to give information (like announcements). As far as possible, send out information before a meeting, so people will know what they need to make decisions during the meeting itself.


How to get readers’ attention

But Scott’s problem is that people often do not read announcements or other information that he sends them in advance.


Some of the other ideas in Haden’s article offer ways that could help with this problem.


1.    Think about a different (more interesting) way to write emails that give announcements. Rather than just a long list of announcements, organize them in a table form that includes these column headings: what, why, who, when, where. For example, when a meeting will be held, who should attend, what it will be about (and why that’s important), and where it will be held. (You could also add an ‘action’ column that lists what needs to be done to prepare for the meeting.)


Table formats often make it easier for people to see information.

By stating the ‘who’, you establish accountability for specific readers.


2.   Write a subject line that calls attention directly to the reader, for example, ‘Your role in next Tuesday’s meeting’. That might get people to open it and read it.


3.   Get buy-in by asking your colleagues, ‘Do you have any suggestions on how I might encourage everyone to read emails – so we can achieve more when we meet and save time?’


Another tip

Since I sent Scott these suggestions, I’ve thought of another tip.


After you send an email, text the readers something like this: Important information for next week’s meeting: see email I sent today.


If the announcement is short enough, just text it instead of emailing.


I’ve found that people usually respond to text messages more quickly than to emails. Of course, this may require a bit more of your time. But your job as a writer is to make things easy for your readers. And if it gets people to respond, then it’s time well spent.


Do you have any other ideas on how to get people to read your email? Please add them to the comments. Thanks!





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