HOW TO EMAIL A BUSY PERSON
We've all agonised over crafting an email to a person we know to be extremely busy, or faced the awkwardness of having multiple emails go unanswered. If you're procrastinating on reaching out to ask for a meeting, an introduction, or just some general advice, here's some email etiquette 101.
START AS YOU MEAN TO GO ON
First things first: your subject line matters. Most people (especially busy ones) will scan their inbox for important and/or interesting-looking emails, and simply delete the rest. Go for a clear and simple subject line that doesn't read like a promotional blast or spam: an easy way to do this is to include your name and the name of the person you're contacting, plus some indication of the email's content. For example, when I'm reaching out through The WW Club, I'll use something like:
Panel Conversation in NYC: [Person's Name] x The Working Women's Club?
Busy people are, um, busy. They don't have time to wade through six paragraphs of information. Aim to keep your emails to a paragraph or less - just enough to explain who you are, what you want, and why this person should (please) give it to you.
Here's a surefire way to ensure a busy person won't answer your email: If you write it in such a way that they read it all the way through and still can't decipher what you actually want. Don't ask 'for advice', don't ask 'for help' - break down exactly what you'd like from this person (i.e. an intro to X, sponsorship for X event) and when you ideally need it by. That way your correspondent can quickly decide whether he or she is in a position to help, and respond accordingly.
BIDE YOUR TIME
Don't email a busy person on a Friday afternoon, or at any point over the weekend - the email will get lost in the midst of an inbox, filed or, most often, forgotten. Send your request at a time when it might actually be read and processed - on a Wednesday afternoon, perhaps, or first thing on a Thursday morning.
Equally, be sure to factor plenty of time for a response into the equation, especially if you need a favour within the confines of a specific deadline. Expect to follow up, and maybe follow up again - but be sure to leave several days or even a week between each attempt to illicit a response.
If you're lucky enough to get a favourable response to your email request, then be sure to express your gratitude straightaway. You might also consider following up with a thank you note or gift - the handwritten word is more valuable than any email, no matter how perfectly crafted it might be.