Writing Emails that Respond

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I’ve been programming chairs/chairs for 3 student-run business, arts, and technical conferences in the US and responsible for establishing connections with over 200+ speakers to share their experience at various conferences. In my first outreach attempt, out of 50 emails I sent to different speakers in the first round, only about <10 replied. However, this rate improved dramatically after I abandoned a template that I found online and created a new template.

It’s important to show genuine excitement, to deliberately distinguish yourself from others, and to show appreciation when writing emails that you can’t wait to receive responses from. These are some tips for writing effective emails that have worked:

1. Write a unique subject line that stands out.

It makes a lot of sense to jump to email templates that you find online or from other more experienced friends when you have little to no experience in the beginning. However, a lot of these email templates are also what a million other people also use when they send out cold emails. Therefore, it’s important to write one that stands out so at least you can make sure your email is clicked on out of a long list of emails in the inbox. Leverage prestige of your schools/companies/affiliated organizations (if applicable), show excitement, and think about how you can stand out and be different.

Some boring, standard subject lines that might not work are:

  • “Application for X position”
  • “Interest in Y company”
  • “Invitation to attend Z event”
  • “Thank You”

These subject lines are pretty standard and bland.

Some subject lines that I have found to be short but effective are:

  • “We’d love for you to speak at Harvard!” (the main attention-grabber here is “Harvard”)
  • “I’d love to grab coffee!” (casual and shows excitement)
  • “I’m really inspired by your X story” (clear, specific, shows appreciation)

2. Be concise and direct in your email.

Say what you have to say in few words if possible. Avoid redundancy and inserting unnecessary words because they are usually there in the standard email templates. Get straight to the point and keep your email content precise. If there’s any longer content you want to include, include it as an attachment or a link.

3. Format your email for easy, pleasant processing.

I really like formatting my email because visualizing information is very important to me personally. I tend to bolden and color important sentences or key words (such as names and dates of conferences and purpose of the email). Try to avoid bland red when you use color because there’s too much contrast and it actually doesn’t look as aesthetically pleasing or comfortable to the eyes. Use different shades of red/pink/blue/green as alternatives, for example. Bold is usually enough.

Break long paragraphs into smaller paragraphs for easier consumption. Use bullet points if needed. Keep the sentences short. Add in arrows, center, and separate certain content to be on a different line, such as:

>>> More Information Here <<<

for additional attention.

4. Write a non-generic final sentence that invites the recipient to respond.

I learned this from a venture capitalist who spoke at Harvard a few years ago. Don’t simply write: “Thank you so much and I hope to hear back from you soon.” Write a sentence that establishes that you appreciate their time and are really eager to hear from them. An example would be “I know you are super busy and it would mean the world to me to hear just a short response from you.”

5. Don’t end your email with “Best Regards.”

Write something that helps you show yourself more clearly in the email. So maybe something like “I’m very happy to have had to opportunity to meet you” or “Very appreciative and thankful” would make the email stand out more.

6. Be considerate in deciding when to send your email.

Avoid sending emails over the weekends or on Monday when people are trying to catch up with their work for the week. Put yourself in position of the recipient to determine the right timing. Be considerate. Usually I send cold contact emails out on Friday or Thursday morning when it seems to me like people would have more open time.

I hope these tips are helpful and best of luck!

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