Meeting professionals are coming on-line in record numbers. In a recent MPI survey, 100% (600 of 600 said that they were online. The number of emails sent on an average day is expected to exceed 10 billion worldwide in this coming year.  This exceeds the daily number of telephone calls, faxes and standard mail messages combined! If you already feel swamped by your burgeoning email box, you haven’t seen anything yet! It is expected that this number will swell to over 45 billion per day by the year 2005 Fortunately, there are ways to help remedy this situation.

Email literacy

We must learn, as meeting professionals, to become Internet and email literate! This begins at home and in the office – each of us should know how to send email properly to maximize impact and efficiency.

How to send good email:

1. Keep it short

Email is a new medium substantially different from normal writing. The rules of verbose, intricate sentence structure from Mrs. Jones’ 11th Grade English class no longer apply! Short is in. Short bullet points…short sentences…short messages are the ticket. Try to keep your messages under 25 lines (about one screen worth of words). Keep in mind that your recipient may be squinting through a variety of monitors. Long messages often won’t be read in their entirety.

2. Keep it conversational

Due to its immediacy and ability for quick response, email should be as much like conversation as it is like writing. Make your comments informal, lively, colorful...and even funny! The better you are at communicating these nuances, the more likely your message will be read and remembered.

However, unlike conversation, where much of the meaning is conveyed in inflection, gestures, and expression, you are dealing with text only. Therefore, use creative punctuation to help convey your meaning. For example: "Please send the contract to me by *Thursday*" puts the emphasis where you want it. You can SHOUT occasionally by using CAPS (Please do not overdo – as Mother said it is impolite to SHOUT!) Finally, emoticons (a.k.a. smileys) are a step to help convey feeling and informality for some occasions. The common ones when viewed from the side are :-) and :-( for happy and sad. Other emoticons as well as extensive email information can be found at the website:http://everythingemail.net.

3. Use meaningful subject lines

Be descriptive with your "subject line" in the messages you send. This is your first, and sometimes, only chance of getting your message read. Be descriptive about what you are saying. For example: "Meeting space change, ABC Co., 4/25 meeting" carries much more information than "Changes." If you need an immediate response to your message, start with "URGENT: Respond immediately…"

4. Quote the email you are responding to.

Make sure that your response to an email message contains the context of the sender’s message. Don’t simply say "yes" or "no" with no context as the sender may not remember what you are saying "yes" or "no" to. Many email readers (the software that allows you to read your email) will automatically quote the sender’s message – use this feature. However, in replying, narrow down an extended message quote just to the portion you are addressing.

How to protect yourself from those that don’t:

Is your email box getting loaded with SPAM (unsolicited junk email)? How can you protect yourself?

1. Break the chain

With its high speed and cheap broadcast capability, the Internet has been plagued by plethora of cyber chain letters. Virus hoaxes warn you not to open email messages with "Join the Crew" or "Pen Pal Greetings" in the subject line, because they supposedly contain viruses that will wreck your computer. I have received hundreds of such messages, and all, without exception, have been hoaxes. It is safe to say that just about any message that asks you to forward it to everyone you know is a hoax or a chain letter. In truth, you can’t get a virus from opening simple text email message!

Break these chains! Treat all such messages skeptically. A great web site that describes the popular virus hoaxes and chain letters that are circulating is www.vmyths.com If it is a hoax, inform the sender.

2. Use filters and Anti-Spam software

Some email readers allow message filtering. EudoraPro, for example, will allow you to automatically delete messages from senders that you wish never to hear from again. There are other anti-spam shareware programs available atwww.download.com such as: Dead Letter, Mail Guard. and Spam Exterminator which will help you fight getting your email box clogged with this unwanted junk (search for "spam filter". .

3. Consider multiple email addresses and anonymous email

In the same way that some people use an unlisted phone number to guard against unsolicited phone calls, consider getting an additional email address that you give out only to your close friends or high priority contacts. Conversely, if you post messages to public email forums or bulletin boards, do not use your "priority" email address. These forums are often scanned by spammers, who, in turn, send you unsolicited email. If your Internet Service Provider doesn’t provide multiple email address, try a free-mail address offered by Hotmail (www.hotmail.com), Rocketmail (www.rocketmail.com) or Juno (www.juno.com) to name a few. If you are super cautious, use an anonymous remailer that will make your mail message completely anonymous. See www.anonymizer.com for details.

We must work together, individually as we send email, and collectively as we help others in the meetings and hospitality industry, to use this increasingly mainstream method of communication effectively and efficiently. If we send effective email and guard against those that don’t, we will all be the beneficiaries.

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