Hey there Abundant Musicians!
We've talked a lot about networking and collaboration here in the past (and I have much more to come!), because there's absolutely zero doubt in my mind that being able to effectively communicate with people is paramount to success in your career and business life. Zero doubt. On that note, I want to talk today about how to email people like a boss! (And bonus... Get people to reply positively!)
Do you ever receive emails in your inbox that drive you crazy?
I get them all the time, and today I wanted to talk a little about the art of email communication - because I really do believe its a skill that is sorely lacking in our current world of communication and networking.
All too often, I receive an email, or read an email from someone who fails to understand that their emails speak much louder than anything else I know about them.
If someone is wishing to work with me, or get something from me, it's important that I feel respected and appreciated so that our communication starts off in a positive manner. When you email someone, you're asking for a little bit of their time as they consider your request or question, or even just reply to you, so it's important to really value that person's precious time as it's likely the most important thing they have.
I remember learning about writing emails when I was in seventh grade. We were in computer science and it was the first class of my high school career. In that class, we sat in front of these super fancy computers, and learned how to create our school email addresses. We then had an assignment to send a number of emails to each other and our teacher to not only get to know how the whole email thing worked but also to understand that a well crafted email is just as important as a well crafted hand written letter.
We learned about the structure of an email, how the words we used affected the tone of the email, and how important it was to treat email like a formal method of communication between people.
I know this isn't necessary for friends and family, but a well crafted email can make a huge difference in the way you are perceived in the community around you.
I also know that receiving a well structured and thought out email makes me feel more inclined to reply (and reply positively) than one that is demanding, pushy or just poorly formatted.
So, I want to run through a few tips about emails I've learned through the years and which have given me the best responses from the people I've reached out to.
There are two main ways to handle the subject.
If you have something to promote, offer or a specific subject you are needing to discuss, a brief and to the point subject line is excellent. When the responder sees the email, they will know exactly what you are contacting them about, and they can open it when they have time to consider and answer your email. This is the best approach to email in most cases.
The second way is if you are sending out an enquiry or an email out of the blue. In this case, it's a pretty good idea to send an email with a subject such as "message from (insert name)" rather than the specific topic, because they may not realize your email isn't spam. This is also a good way to email someone if you want them to read the content of the email before they've made up their mind on their reply. Be careful with this however, as you don't want people to associate this type of subject line from you as a negative thing. Only use this when truly necessary.
There are so many times that this greeting is forgotten, ignored, or used incorrectly. One of my pet peeves is for emails to be addressed poorly, or not at all. This doesn't have to be anything special or fancy, and can literally just be the person's name, but it makes a huge difference in the world of emails. Being specific with your audience is very important for a number of reasons.
When you address an email to someone and use their name in the greeting, they feel like they are the direct focus of the email right from the start! This is pretty obvious if you're writing to one person directly, but if you're sending multiple emails, it's super tempting to just be like "Greetings!" As you send a form letter to multiple people BCC'd. This is fine to do in some instances, but you will always get a more positive response if you communicate directly and individually with your target audience.
Another reason this is important ties in with professional courtesy. You want to be sure you address someone by their correct title, so they know you respect them, their work and of course their time. If you addressed a professor who had a PhD as Mr. or Mrs, chances are, they're going to at least have a slightly negative view from the beginning of the email. They worked incredibly hard to earn those degrees, so call them by their title! (If you are emailing a professor and don't know if they're a Dr. Or not, a good alternative that works well is "Professor."
The main thing to remember here is that you must address and email to the receiver in the greeting. Show them you're actually talking to them, and that you respect their position and time.
3. A LITTLE BIT OF SMALL TALK
I love adding a little bit of small talk at the start of the emails I send. It's usually something short, maybe one sentence, but it helps to set the tone of the email. If it's someone I know and work with regularly, I usually try to make sure it's something relevant " I hope you had a great concert last week", or "I hope your business is having a successful quarter!". Just something to let the recipient know that you genuinely care about them band are aware of what they're doing.
If they are someone you don't know, you can always say something like "I hope all is well for you." Remember, you're communicating with someone, and communication is a two way street, so start off with something warm and polite to open the channels of communication and set the positive tone of the email.
4. SUBJECT MATERIAL
Here's the good stuff in your email. The meat and potatoes, the vegemite in your sandwich. (You're welcome)
This is the content of your email. Are you asking a question? Are you sharing information?
I have found that after politely greeting and including a brief amount of small talk, the reader of my email is ready to know why I'm emailing.
The time is now!
Whatever it is that you're contacting your recipient about, you want to provide them with a clear and actionable amount of information that intrigues them, gets them excited, or clearly explains what you need them to do.
Of course, we are being polite and professional, so please don't just go in to a diatribe about what you need from the recipient and demand their action and attention. That comes across like you're yelling at them. Also, don't yell at them. ALL CAPS FEELS ANGRY NO MATTER WHAT YOUR PURPOSE IS!
Are you trying to emphasize something? Use italics of bold font. Or even a different color font.
Don't yell at people. They don't like it. I don't like it. Don't yell at me.
You definitely what to be clear in your communication, and if you need them to do something in particular, don't make it hard for them to do that thing. It's like in business - don't make it hard for someone to give you their money! I have this issue with online businesses all the time. If you want my money, don't make it hard for me to give it to you! Anyway...
If you need the recipient of your email to do something for you, make it clear and easy for them to do said things. If you need to give them directions, make them simple to follow and foolproof. If you're asking a question, please don't dance around it because you're uncomfortable. Be polite of course, but also be clear.
E.g. What's clearer?
1. With my extensive training, and my track record of success with young students, I would love an opportunity to talk with you about teaching saxophone students at Smithtown middle school and can be available to your convenience in the next two weeks.
2. I have taught saxophone lessons at twelve different schools and know that if there was an opportunity to teach at Smithtown Middle school, I could offer a lot to your students.
Both options are polite, of course option 1 is more direct, but it also encourages the recipient to reply. It's easy to dismiss option 2. Option one also offers a time frame and some context for your expertise.
Be sure that your recipient doesn't have to have a degree in philosophy to decipher your meaning in your email, and give them the opportunity to say yes to you.
Make it easy for them. Give them all of the information they would need to make an informed decision. Don't make them ask you for more information in order to say yes to you.
Just quickly on this note, when you do write an email to someone whom you may not know personally (or even if you do know them and the purpose for the email is not informal), be sure to write your content as a professional would.
Don't use slang, or nicknames, or talk about the party you were at on the weekend. Always write an email with the idea that some day, that email might find its way to your future boss, or appear on the Internet - who knows, one day you might run for President and your email history will be scoured through for skeletons in your closet. It's much better to be overly formal than too casual, and being aware of your situation on the page will more often than not serve you well.
4. END WITH SMALL TALK
After you've completed your main body of your email, be sure to sign off with a short sentence of small talk, like you did at the beginning. It shows you value their time, and are interested in building a relationship with them.
Something small like "again, I hope all is well" or something light like that is perfect.
5. SIGN OFF
Something simple and elegant is a perfect sign off. It might seem superfluous, however it's always nice to end with a pleasantry. I enjoy things like "sincerely", "thank you for your time" or even "many thanks".Something simple and genuine is perfect here.
Ive seen some amazingly over the top sign offs in my time, and this is another thing you should try to avoid. Being overly flowery isn't going to do you any favors here. Your recipient can smell fake a mile away and if you sign off with things like "your most ardent admirer", or "until next we meet", is going to make them cringe, you're going to sound like you've read too much Dickens or Austen (even though I'm not sure that's actually possible to do), and it's totally unnecessary.
Please use your actual name! Not a nickname, not a shortened version, USE YOUR NAME! And yes, I am yelling this at you.
Use your full name. If you want to, you can also include the prefix for your name in a formal email. And if you want to get ultra fancy, use your middle initial too!
If someone wants you to call them something more casual, they will tell you, and then you can reply in a more casual format if you choose to, but until you're offered that courtesy, play it safe and be formal.
No one will think you're weird for using your actual name. But they will think you're weird if you sign off as J-Rae or Nate-dog. Just. No.
(Shout out to my friend, Nathan who hates being called Nate-dog, you're welcome.)
So, whether you're emailing a Professor, family member, famous person or the President, I hope this little email guide can help you feel confident in your ability to email successfully, professionally and get some results from all of your hard work!
Now it's your turn - what are some of the most outstanding email sign offs you've ever received? Outstanding can be both good and bad, so tell me your favorites and your horror stories! I love this stuff!