Most emails exist for the same reason: Someone wants something.
There’s nothing wrong with that. If you never ask for what you want, you never get it, right?
But if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a request or invitation — to speak on a panel, to attend a get-to-know-you coffee, to provide a job recommendation — you know it’s easy for the asker to seem presumptuous, pushy, or just plain annoying.
All things you don’t want to be.
In “Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distractions, and Get Real Work Done,” Jocelyn K. Glei writes that it’s critical to put your ask in the first few lines of your note, lest it get lost in pleasantries or rambling.
“In a short-attention span world, it’s best to get right to the point immediately and do your explaining later,” she writes. “Think about what will appear in the two-line message preview the recipient will see as she scrolls through her inbox: Will it capture her attention?”
Hi Catherine — This is Mark Holland. I run the popular Firestarters conference, which draws over 5,000 entrepreneurs to the Staples Center in LA each year. I’m writing to extend an invitation for you to speak at our event on March 5th, 2016.”
The ask is clear and upfront. Plus, as a relative stranger, the sender immediately established some context and made it clear who he is. As Glei writes, “Why should I care? is the tacit question hovering in most people’s minds as they open an email, especially if it’s from someone they don’t know. That’s why establishing your credibility early on in the message is critical.”
In the first few lines, it should be clear who you are and what you want. Then, you can go on to add details and charm — and, most importantly, what exactly it is you need from the recipient. When do you need an answer by? Did you want a phone call or a meeting or just an email reply?
If they know what you want and what you expect, chances are much higher you’ll get a reply instead of an eye roll.
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