Four Data-Supported Email Productivity Hacks For Planners
Once upon a time, I was responsible for a conference’s communications and event registration. For nine months, I badgered the 1,500+ participants to pay their fees, and fielded emails ranging from simple refund requests to more unique or difficult questions. For every hour of the conference weekend, I dealt with ten hours of email. I learned a slew of ways to email better.
While searching for a better way to send emails, I stumbled across a tool called Boomerang, I’ve since gone on to work for this company and am sharing my experience proven tips supported by Boomerang’s extensive work analyzing email data.
1. Templates Are Good, Text Expansion Is Better
Everyone knows the value of using email templates and canned responses to quickly reply to frequently asked questions. However, a template’s time-saving potential is limited in many instances, such as when a user has a multi-faceted question. Having to tweak or copy paste sections from different templates can sometimes take just as much time as writing a response from scratch.
But with text expansion, you can turn a three to four paragraph email into a three to four word email, without having to copy paste blocks of text from existing templates or past emails. Say you get an email from a prospective attendee who asks the following questions:
- Are any discounts available for students?
- What is the refund policy?
- Can I exchange my ticket for a different date if my plans change?
You probably have a template for refunds, and possibly one for exchanges or discounts, but definitely not one that covers all three questions. With a text expansion program you could quickly type a complete, multi-faceted response in shorthand, and get a well-crafted email ready to send with just eight words:
|tyfw||Thank you for writing!
|discpol||Our conference offers a number of discounts to attendees based on academic status, professional or association affiliations, and prior conferences attended. They are as follows:
|refund||Our refund policy as follows: We will refund 100% of ticket fees within a week of purchase, and 50% of the ticket cost up to 2 weeks prior to the conference. We cannot offer any partial refunds within two weeks up to the conference due to costs we’ve committed to at that point. One exception is that full refunds will be offered in the event of a medical emergency, as documented by a physician’s letter.|
|exchg||If you are unable to attend the original date that you have registered for, but can make our event on a different day, you can exchange your ticket for another day by filling out the form located here. We will respond to your request in 48 hours, and while we will try to honor every request, exchanges will not be possible if the date you request has already reached capacity.|
That’s a 246-word email generated in 8 words (saving nearly 6 minutes per email for someone who types 40 words per minute), freeing up hours of your time in the long-run.
Not only does text expansion improve the speed of your emails, it also improves their accuracy, detail, and consistency. You only need to proofread your typing once (when you input it to the text expansion software) and every recipient will receive the same, well-written response, reducing the chance you leave something out that results in an unnecessary follow-up or worse, accidentally tell attendees contradictory things. TextExpander is a popular tool for Apple devices, ActiveWords does text expansion for Windows, and there are plenty of alternative options out there as well.
2. Schedule And Defer Emails
The time at which an email hits someone’s inbox has a huge effect on whether or not they will respond. Boomerang found that an email sent at the start of a person’s workday (between 6am and 7am local time) is 30% more likely to receive a response than one that is poorly-timed (e.g., one sent toward the end of the workday, such as 4pm.)
People pay to optimize their event marketing emails, but then fail to do the same for individual emails. Whether you’re emailing a potential keynote speaker, an attendee who owes you money, or the caterer for your event, you want to maximize the chances that the recipient reads and responds to your email. This is especially important for events with an international reach, where an email sent off in the middle of your workday might hit someone’s inbox as they sleep.
That said sending a personal email at just the right time can be difficult to do with many other things swimming around your head. Boomerang is a tool for Gmail, Outlook and Android that allows you to schedule any message to go out at a time of your choosing. It also allows you to “boomerang” (snooze or defer) emails you receive so they will appear back at the top of your inbox when you need them, or if nobody responds, after a given amount of time. You can have that catering confirmation email appear at the top of your inbox an hour before the caterers arrive, or have an email you sent come back three days later if it didn’t get a response.
3. Become A Gmail Search Expert
There are people out there with elaborate, multi-tiered email labeling systems that are quite proud of their organized inbox. While labels are a great way to stay organized, learning how to search your Gmail inbox can still be the most efficient way to find a given email. Here are some Gmail search operators that have saved me on more than one occasion:
Imagine you’ve been running the same conference for five years, and suddenly need a file you knew you sent yourself a few years prior. Even if you limited your search to emails sent to and from yourself, you’d still have to go through pages and pages of more recent emails before you got to what you’re looking for. You could instead add “before:YYYY/MM/DD” to your search to ignore all emails since 2013, and cut out the step of scrolling through a dozen pages of irrelevant results.
By default, Gmail’s search does not include results from your spam folder. Rather than scrolling through weeks of email in your spam folder to *maybe* find an email someone swears they sent, you can append the “in:anywhere” to your search to include spam (and trash) items in your search.
If Bob (email@example.com) sent you an important email, but it’s in your spam folder you might search “firstname.lastname@example.org”, see no results, and tell him he needs to learn how to email. Had you searched “in:anywhere email@example.com”, you would have found his email hiding in your trash.
The filename: operator is one of my favorites, especially in tandem with the OR operator and the * wildcard character. It makes it easy to find certain types of files. If people email me PowerPoint presentations to load onto a computer for an event, I can simply search “filename:.pptx OR filename:.ppt”, and only emails with PowerPoint files attached will appear. Or to quickly find receipts for tax season, I could search “filename:*invoice* OR filename:*receipt*”.
I loved Google Drive until I realized its space was shared with my Gmail and I ran out of room for new emails. If your inbox is approaching its limit and you need to clear out space, this is a great operator to quickly find emails with large attachments to delete. Searching for “larger:10M” will show only those emails taking up 10MB or more of space. Delete 100 of these, and you’ve just gained back at least a gigabyte of space (that’s a lot).
4. Subject Your Subject To Scrutiny
Coming up with a catchy subject line or two for an event email is sometimes harder than writing the email itself. But it’s worth the investment, since the subject line, can affect whether the recipient even reads that witty, informative, and well-thought out email that lies past the subject field.
First, length matters. Boomerang found that emails with longer and extremely short (0 or 1 word) subjects fared poorly when it came to getting responses. Emails with three to four-word subjects garnered the best response rate, the response rates declined increasingly as subjects got longer (and shorter).
There’s very little you can communicate clearly in a single word (or with no words at all), so a low response rate for very short subject lines is pretty self-explanatory. The decline in response rate at five-words onward may be less clear. One explanation may be that we are living in an increasingly mobile world, and phone screens often do not have the screen size to display long subjects, and instead display them as incomplete thoughts with ellipses. Such emails may not be as compelling to open as those with complete, legible subject lines.
And then there’s word choice to consider, event has its own audience and vocabulary, so while there’s no one magic phrase to put in a subject to get an open or response, it’s worth experimenting with different phrases in your emails to see if certain words resonate with your audience.
Email Productivity Takeaways
Gaining control over your inbox will seem like a daunting task at the outset. But the key is mastering a few emailing best practices now, so that over time, you will be a better organized and more effective event planner.
FIrst, organizers who find themselves responding to many inquiries from event attendees should learn about text expansion, rather than typing a few hundred words, or relying on templates that don’t quite answer people’s questions, organizers can type a few letters and quickly respond to all inquiries.
Second, event planners should master their email search tools. Understandably, Google’s Gmail email client has the best email search functions, but regardless of the email client, mastering search will save your skin – guaranteed.
Finally, for event organizers sending one-off emails that need a response fast, planners need to master the art of a great subject line. Remember that three or four word subject lines have the best response rate.