Email is the *&#^$% bane of the meetings, events, and association industries. I shit you not. It is so bleeping annoying that I used one swear and two implied swears in my opening paragraph. Email is also one of the best business tools out there, so get used to it, Mary Sunshine, stop complaining, and just learn to deal with it. Here are some ways I have found to keep me sane.
Get Your Team off of Email
Teams need to communicate, and email is not an effective way to do so. We use Slack. It is like instant messaging on Steroids… Upload files, group chats, private messages… It is so much quicker and easier and it frees email up for clients and vendors. Oh, and with clients…if they use Slack, they can get their own channel and be in on the fun. Slack is also really practical when you are on-site for a meeting or conference. Bob, down at the registration desk, forgot the login to the reg system… Bam… Send it without giving the password away over the walkie-talkies and much faster than email. Watch the video here because it reminds me of Camp PlannerWire before we got Slack.
Set Email Times and Stick to Them
This is not a fancy high-priced consulting firm: “check email once in the morning and once in the afternoon and never look at emails during the rest of the day” advice because that is total BS for dip-wads that are not in the event or association industries. This is just a dose of reality. I check email at the top of the hour by looking at subject lines. Emails that need an immediate response get it; others wait until I am a little less busy… If now is less busy, I respond right away. I do not check email while I am doing something else because then something else gets screwed up, and that causes someone else’s day to get messed up. Don’t be the guy or gal that screws up someone else’s day because you were checking email.
I am not talking about your out-of-office messages that tell your adoring clients and your mom that you are off in Tahiti sipping margs with the Queen of Sheeba while the pool boy fetches snacks. Those are useful. What I am talking about are those idiots that have autoresponders that say, “I only respond to emails between 3 and 5 on the third Tuesday of the month during total eclipses.”… That guy is an ass. I got one of those this morning. I just about puked. If this is you, stop. We beg you… and then we laugh at you.
No kidding. I do this sometimes, especially in the run-up to a huge event. I turn off the wifi, open up Gmail (yes Veronica, it has an offline mode), read, and respond. Then I shut the lid. When I log back in, the emails are sent. Outlook users can do this just by hitting send/receive in the ribbon and clicking “Offline Mode.” You can also use a tool like Boomerang to help with this. You should set responses to happen after 10 pm; that way you can enjoy your evening and know that the responses won’t need a reply until the next morning.
Stop Checking Email at Night
This is different than setting email times. This is just common sense. Do NOT check your email when you are in bed, while you are hanging out with your kids, or while you are having a glass of wine with your significant-other-type-person. No one is expecting a response at 11 pm, and if they are, they have issues, not you. Set boundaries and enjoy life.
Turn off Notifications
For heaven’s sake, turn off the new mail notification thing that pops up every time you get a new message. Those sounds must be driving you nuts, and if they are driving you insane, they are about to make the guy sitting next to you homicidal. Why do you need notifications anyway? We all check our email 100 times a day, including three times at dinner (no matter what I say), so just turn them off. One more distraction in your day is going to cause that big vein in your head to explode. Ewww. No one wants to clean that up.
Be Direct and On Point
Your hotelier, vendor, and co-workers do not care about what you ate for dinner, how your kid is, or how hard you are working, and you don’t care about their stuff either. Let’s be honest. Small talk in email sucks. Just be direct. If you have a question about the BEOs, ask about the BEOs; let them know when you need a response and why you are asking the question so that they can give you a proper answer quickly.
Use Bullet Points, not Paragraphs
I have a client that, bless her soul, is a wonderful person that I love but she writes emails that will bring you to tears. She is kinda direct, she is mostly on point, she is just so freaking long-winded that I will go and get a cup of coffee before I open her email because I know that I am going to be reading War and Peace. She pays me. She can do that. You, however, should avoid this and write one or two sentences and then summarize with bullet points. Hi Cindy, yes, I am talking about you… but you already know that because I always tell you that your emails drive me nuts.
Use Specific Subject Lines
When I am dealing with a hotel or event vendor, I make sure that my subject line is spot on. It saves them time because they know what I want, and it saves me time because I know what the reply is about. If the subject of the email changes, I change the subject line. So, if you are discussing the A/V set for Saturday’s reception, my subject line would be “Saturday Hilton A/V Set – ABC Group.” Trust me… the emailverse will breathe a sigh of relief.
Ditch the Folders
Folders. We have folders for everything. Little Timmy, your new intern, even has subfolders in his folders so that he can find that one email that you sent about what his call time is for that event that is happening next month. Pat him on the head and tell him to just hit archive and be done. Search is not new; it is not hip, and even Outlook does search really, really, well. If you want to find an email from Human Resources, just search that person’s email address. Better yet, learn the search functions of your email client to get really specific. In Gmail, you can use advanced search operators like “from:email@example.com” and every email from that person will magically appear. You can also add the operator “has:attachment” and any email from that person with an attachment will pop up. The year is 2015. Timmy should stop acting like technology is new and scary.
Unsubscribe or use Unroll.me
I actually like the email newsletters that I subscribe to. I just want them on my time. Maybe you don’t like the junk that you signed up for… if that is the case, just hit unsubscribe… Be done with it. You will not be hurting anyone’s feelings. If you want that stuff (like me) then use Unroll.me. It gathers up all of your subscription emails and sends them in one nice bundle every morning. Grab your coffee and read before everyone gets into the office. Oh heck. Watch their video, too. Cool stuff I bring you. Cool stuff.
These are just some simple ways to combat the evil scourge that is email. I would like to think that if you implemented half of these, you would not only get some time back, but you might find some new respect for a tool that gets dumped on. Remember, email is not the problem… We are…