You start a conversation, Cc: a group of folks and click Send. Next thing you know everyone is replying, some are Replying to All and others do not reply at all — or so it appears. How do you know who received what and from whom?
All of this is in your control to control from the start!
Control Your Group Email Communications
You gain and maintain control by how you start with the very first email communication. You can make sure that you are perceived as a professional communicator and that everyone involved is on point to avoid misunderstandings or unnecessary confusion. As the initiator, you are the conversation monitor.
First consider using BCc: in lieu of Cc:. This prevents folks from hitting “Reply to All” on impulse which can quickly spiral out of control. BCc:, however, turns the communication into a one way channel back to you alone. None of the other recipients will see what others responded with.
So, to have a discussion we use the To: field and Cc:. You get to set ground rules with your initial conversation. One way to accomplish this is by noting the specific questions you want input on in a bulleted list. After typing the primary message you then note:
I would like your input on the following:
This allows recipients to focus on, and respond to, the specific answers that you are seeking.
Reply to All Discretion
All too often there is a lack of thought when clicking “Reply to All”. Unless “all” needs to be aware of your comments, you should remove any email address of those that do not need to know (or wouldn’t be interested in) your comments. This applies to you as the original Sender as well!
To avoid this happening you can add a note that states “Please do not reply to all unless your comments apply to all. Thank you!” All you have to do is guide those you are communicating with on how to respond.
You also want to make the effort to down-edit the ongoing conversation. I’m sure you can relate to weeding through ongoing back and forths looking for a bit of text and giving up because it is nowhere to be found! When everyone has to weed through all the back and forths, the conversation loses its focus. Nor is the thread easy to follow because it doesn’t have the entire conversation.
Group Email Conversation Tips
Here are three little tips to consider when you find yourself involved in an ongoing back and forth email conversation:
- Use Reply to All sparingly and only when absolutely necessary. Edit down the list of addresses to only those who your comments directly apply.
- Always down-edit your email so it includes only what you are specifically responding to.
- If the overall topic of the conversation takes a new direction, change the Subject: field to note the new focus. For example: Subject: Trade Show Itinerary Changes WAS: Trade Show Participant Responsibilities. You can see how each would hold a different set of details you may want to refer to in the future.
By integrating these tips you can help to add clarity and efficiency to your communications. And avoid unnecessary misunderstandings.
Keep in mind that email is not meant to replace all modes of communication. Nor is it always the best venue if you want to have a robust discussion. Use your discretion and know when to move the conversation to an group video-con, phone call or in-person meeting.