Don’t make me wait

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I received a lengthy e-mail with a subject line that read something like, “a question.” The e-mail was multiple paragraphs long and each paragraph started with a sentence that required no action. I surveyed the e-mail, as I do with all incoming messages, and decided to archive it – no immediate action needed.

Turns out, the e-mail actually included a question that did require immediate action. The question was: “Do you want to grab a drink today?” I missed the request completely as it was buried in the message. You had to work to find the question or call-to-action. The work was reading all the other parts and sifting through the clutter to find out what I was supposed to do.

Messages get ignored when they aren’t clear and concise, and when they don’t quickly get to the point. All good messages get to the point quickly and then continue to reinforce the point. Like a great presentation, it starts with the main points or objectives. You then move to a discussion of each main point and finally you conclude with a summary of the main points again. Introduce. Discuss. Reinforce.

What if the subject line had included the request, and the opening line had been, “Do you want to get a drink today?” In that case, it wouldn’t have been missed and I would have known exactly what to do.

How we communicate hasn’t changed. If you want someone to do something, get to the point quickly and make it about them. My friend’s call-to-action needed to be more obvious and the discussion should be about me. It’s the not-so-secret secret of getting people to do what you want. Just ask my kids; they always make the call-to-action obvious and they repeat, repeat and repeat.


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