By Matt Dickens – LX Product Manager
When annual meeting season rolls around, the out-of-office emails start coming in droves. And once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, right?
Maybe this sounds familiar:
“I am attending [our annual meeting] in [a city] from [start date] to [end date]. I will return [on this date].
I will have limited access to email, but will check periodically.
There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, feel free to save it as a template to use when you’re rushing out of the door. But, before you do, try to imagine how the recipient of that out-of-office message feels. For instance, what should the recipient do if the person they really need to get in touch with this person?
The out-of-office message is deservedly low on the annual meeting priority list, so it’s understandable that most people keep it simple. But this is a missed opportunity for engagement. Consider the members who can’t attend the conference or those with an urgent matter than happens to coincide with your annual meeting.
I’ve put together a list of best practices to get your auto-reply email in top shape, and help members and partners avoid frustration due to their inability to reach you.
5 Great Ideas for Your Next Out-of-office Message
1 – Add Additional Contact Information
Anecdotally, alternate contact information is included approximately half of the time. Sometimes, that makes sense. The annual meeting is an all-hands-on-deck affair, so it’s quite possible that the majority of the movers and shakers at the association are on site.
There are two ways to combat this situation. First, determine whether you’re a critical piece to the puzzle in maintaining order at the conference. If you’re not, maybe leave the auto-reply emails to the folks at your association who really need them.
Or, more simply, add the contact information of someone who stayed behind at the association headquarters. In an emergency, members and partners will have some peace of mind knowing who to turn to if a crisis arises.
2 – Include Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
Do members ask you similar questions over and over again? Include those answers in the body of your out-of-office email.
Here’s a great example: Let’s say you’re an events manager and you constantly get registration questions about upcoming events. You can leave a line saying, “Registration is closed for this event,” or include a link where members can quickly register.
3 – Set a Personal Deadline
It’s easy to avoid emails. It’s even easier when you have the cover of an out-of-office message. Ignoring those emails, however, was recently deemed “digital snobbery,” in an opinion piece written by Dr. Adam Grant — an organizational psychologist — for The New York Times.
A great way to avoid such snobbery is to set your own deadline, like so:
“I will do my best to respond to your email within 24 hours.”
Tethering yourself to a deadline offers hope. Members know that you’re willing to hear them, will prioritize their questions and will help them as soon as possible despite the ongoing annual meeting.
4 – Avoid Typos
So many hastily written out-of-office messages. So many typos.
Consider this scenario: You’re on the membership team at the association. Your annual event has received some attention on social media, and a prospective member reaches out via email. Then, they receive an email with a glaring typo.
In that case, there’s a slim chance that prospect gets second thoughts. Why? According to a study by Website Planet, typos can cost businesses prospective customers.
5 – Translate for Multiple Languages
For international associations, this one’s a must.
When you receive an email in Spanish or Mandarin, for example, you wouldn’t respond in Russian, would you? Probably not. If you can, try to cover all bases and make sure you include a translation of your initial message into the most commonly used languages among your members.
For more tips to make the most of annual meeting season, check out another blog post, “How to Amplify Association Networking at Your Next Annual Meeting.”