If you’ve written an invitation to an event you know that, while it seems simple at first, you are very quickly faced with decisions about what information to include and what to leave on the cutting room floor. It should be easy right?
The trouble is, many invitations I receive seem to forget what they’re trying to achieve (asking me to attend an activity).
One common problem is invitations start by introducing a topic and then lead into explaining why it’s something I should know about. It’s not until I get towards the bottom of the screen, if I last that long, that I see that I’m actually being invited to something.
So here’s one rule. Be really clear right up front that you’re inviting the reader to attend something. Maybe start with “You’re invited to … “. That way you instantly address the big reader question, “Why are these people talking to me?”.
Next, move into a short description about the event and why the reader should turn up. Sure free food or alcohol could be an enticement (particularly if it’s an exclusive venue) but don’t get too hung up on that. You want people who are interested in your event content, not a good cheese platter to attend. So answer the “What’s in it for me?” question. You answer that by explaining as clearly as possible the benefits they will they receive by attending. The venue and food choices just make it easier for readers to say yes once they’re on the hook.
Lines like “In this one hour presentation you will learn xxx” is a lot better than “meet our global leader of XYZ or attend a demonstration of our latest product range.”
In these latter scenarios you’re hoping the reader will make the connection between what you’re talking about and what’s going in their world. If you’re not sure if you’ve got the message right, test it by taking the ‘so what?’ test. Simply read the invitation copy you’ve written, for example, “Get up close and personal to our new super-awesome product range.”
Now answer the question “So what?” (in this case why is it great to get up close and personal with your product range exactly?)
If the answer you come up is a really clear benefit then maybe that’s the copy you should lead with.
In terms of the language you use, try to be as specific as you can. Relevancy is key if you want to motivate people. Readers need to feel that you’re going to address issues that are relevant to people just like them. Refer to job titles, industries or behaviours that the people you want to attract are likely to have in common.
Once you’ve got the benefits laid out clearly (and keep it to two or three key bullet points or short sentences, move onto the rest of the critical information. When, where, start, finish) and other relevant details. Again, don’t forget simple things like:
a) the name of the room or suite number in your venue. No-one wants to get lost inside a hotel or function centre trying to find an event.
b) date and day of the event, double check that the day is right– how often do you see Wed 4th Feb (or something like that), only to find that Wed is actually the 5th. Which one is correct?
c) registration start time and event finish time. People want to know how long to book their diaries for.
d) an rsvp email address or phone number and an RSVP date. (Don’t have the RSVP date too close to the event day – you may need time to ring around and drive attendance and ringing with two days notice is not going to be well received).
e) the organiser’s contact number on the day (people get lost or run late and may want to ring you to ask for help or to check something on the day)
f) advice about transport or parking to the event.
g) if you’ve set up a registration system, double, double check that the links in the email work properly.
h) test the email outside your domain. You’d be amazed how often emails get distributed but the graphics don’t display because they’re being hosted internally. The email will look fine when you view it on your own network, but not from the internet.
i) if you have space, consider an agenda so people have an idea of the topics that will be covered. This is useful for longer events, not as much so for one or two-hour activities.
j) view the email using a few different mail clients. There are free and low-cost tools available that will provide previews of how your email is going to look in a range of email clients such as Lotus Notes, gmail, Outlook and others. HTML is not rendered the same way in all mail clients, unlike web browsers.
k) make sure you include an unsubscribe function (and manage unsubscribes properly). It is unlawful, except in a handful of cases, not to do this.
l) consider whether graphic, HTML or plain text emails are best suited for your audience. There seems to be a whole range of opinions on which has the best response rate and I’m not foolish enough to recommend one over the other.
m) make the ‘from’ address a real person, not a company.
n) monitor for email bounces or fails and decide what to do about them.
o) check for spam compliance. There are low-cost tools around which let you ‘test’ your email for its likelihood of being picked up by spam filters. The good tools will highlight key words or phrases that may be causing your email problems.
Once the critical information is dispensed with (and this should all be on the first screen) you can offer more detail for those who want to keep reading. You might want to provide presenter bios, pertinent host company information or go into more detail about the topic.
Last, be wary of including links to anything except an event registration page in your invitation email. Once people click off the email to other sites or locations you may lose them.
The next time you get a great email invitation, stop and think about why it has appealed to you and see if there are some lessons you can apply. I’ve found this to be one of the best exercises of all.