I realise in some ways emails seem a bit basic, or even hum drum. We receive tens if not hundreds daily.
And, if we are honest, we read them quite selectively. How many unopened emails are lurking in the bottom of your inbox?
So, if we are selective … so are the people who receive emails from us.
How do we make sure our audiences read and reply with what we need from them quickly? Here are three ideas to help:
#1 – Say something useful. Basic, I know, but often not so.
#2 – Use simple visual formatting so your message is easy to find
#2 – Insert tables, screenshots and other images with care.
Let me unpack each of those for you.
Say something useful. How many emails are never opened and not missed?
To be useful, think super carefully about your purpose and make sure you are adding value to your recipients before you hit send. In particular,
- Think twice if your purpose is ‘so they know what is going on'. Ask yourself WHY they need to know what is going on? What will they do with that information? Do they really need to know?
- Minimise the number of people you CC. If your recipients receive loads of emails from you, important ones won't stand out.
Use simple visual formatting so your message is easy to find. I am shocked at how often I brace myself to read emails that appear in my inbox. Here are three tips to reduce this shock for your recipients:
- Include plenty of white space. You will note that in this and other emails from me, I allow white space before and after sections and in particular around my (usually bolded) main message.
- Avoid underline. It clutters the page and makes the words hard to read, even though it does draw your eye to the line itself (but not to the word).
- Only highlight the key message unless your email is long. If long, highlight the top line supporting points as I have done here.
Insert tables, screenshots and other images with care. A great example of this came across my desk this week, which in part stimulated this post.
My client offered about six screenshots along with five lines of text to explain her problem. However, she inserted the text in between the screenshots, which rendered them invisible.
To avoid that happening to you, I suggest keeping tables, screenshots and other images to the end of your email.
The only exception is where there is just one visual followed by a big block of text. If you add just a few words after an image they will be lost.
I hope that helps and look forward to providing more ideas next week.
PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY
Davina has helped smart people all over the world clarify and communicate complex ideas for 20+ years.
She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company as a communication specialist in Hong Kong where she helped others use the Minto Pyramid PrincipleⓇ.
She continued helping others when living in New York, Tokyo and now back in Australia where she was approved by Barbara Minto herself to teach Pyramid.
Her clients include experts across many disciplines across Australia, Asia Pacific, New Zealand, the UK and the US. She currently coaches a number of C-suite executives as well as many mid-level folk and the occasional graduate.
Get her 4 Tips for Communicating Complex Ideas here.