As you all can probably imagine, I get a lot of email and phone calls every day.
A previous editorial of mine titled “Say what?” focused on the content of your message. Tonight’s editorial is a little more on the mechanical side and touches on providing sufficient information to the person on the receiving end to enable them to take appropriate action.
I know everyone is probably getting a headache from my mentioning outgoing signatures one more time, but until I see them on 80% of the messages I get on a daily basis, instead of the 20% I would venture to say is my normal average, I will continue to beat the drum on this important feature of your communications. Even though no one seems to think it should be the default, outgoing signatures also belong on replies.
For those who don’t know how to set one up, may I suggest “Help” and “Outgoing Signature?” If you don’t get a hit, try “Signature” on your email system. One of them will work. Once you see how easy it was to set up, you will kick yourself around the room (several times) for not having done it sooner. For those who have been typing this vital information in each time, I would point out how often it is that people can’t seem to spell their own names and/or email addresses correctly. (Yes, some things are REALLY hard to believe and this is one of them.)
Most emails want the recipient to do something – either to call or to write, and a good outgoing signature should provide all of your key points of contact. (Mine appears below if you want to check it out.) For those who would argue about not including your physical address, I would point out the possibility, however remote, that someone might want to send you a gift. (Now if only they had your address.)
Being a total and complete compulsive, I check every outgoing signature in messages I get against your directory listing. In this way I know if you are starting a new job or have moved. All part and parcel of my efforts to keep our membership directory as up to date as possible.
Now let’s turn our attention to the phone. Yes, I know on an outgoing basis it weighs 400 lbs., but if you have been working out at the gym and have made the effort to communicate a message of sufficient interest for me to consider calling you, could you leave me a phone number? Of course, I have you in my address book if you are a member of The FENG, but often times you are calling me from a cell phone, and I know it is hard to believe, but some of you who call have common or hard to spell names. If you leave me just one more clue, like your phone number, I can usually connect the dots. For those of you who actually believe the cell phone company commercial “Can you hear me now?,” please be aware that I CAN’T hear you now. Most cell phone calls I pick up in my voice mail have at least 20-40% of the message a little garbled.
The phone number, by the way, should be provided at the very end of your message with nothing following it. I assume my phone system is not unusual in allowing easy replay of the last 10 seconds. When placed there, I can easily replay it as many times as I need to ensure that I have copied it correctly. Your name “This is Matt Bud” (please substitute your name here) should be at the very beginning. Replaying the beginning is also very easy.
Moving back to email messages, their length should be targeted at one computer screen. If I can see what you want without scrolling, I am more likely to read it the first time I open it and not put it away for later reading. (By the way, later often ends up being MUCH later.)
An interesting discussion point from a recent chapter meeting was on including your resume in a networking email. I vote yes, but it appears that several outplacement firms recommend no.
My rationale begins with the idea that speech is the slowest form of communication. (Smoke signals are probably slower, but they are not easily used and require line of sight contact.) If you accept this fact, consider the amount of time it will take you to “explain” your background to me when you call. Trust me, I can absorb your background in less than 30 seconds in writing. Although I am a speed reader, my ears don’t work as well. We can save each other a lot of time if you attach a document that is well known for its consistent structure and ability to communicate.
Yes, I may suspect you are looking for a job, but then, I thought you were. We can both play the game that you aren’t looking for a job at my firm, and if you think this is what I may be thinking, you can put my foolish suspicions aside in your cover note. A “spin off benefit” is that when our conversation has ended, you don’t need to send me your resume and risk my forgetting why. I can IMMEDIATELY forward it to my 10 best friends who should meet you. (If I don’t have it “Do not pass go, do not collect $200.”)
I am probably not the only impulsive and full of surprises person you know. If you give others the tools and information they need to get back to you and help you, you just may be shocked how quickly it happens.