Dear Organizer,

When you are sending an email with the announcement of your event, please consider not how you want to present the event, but whether you want anyone to show up. In that light, think about how people will read the email, and recognize that we are all snowed under with too much email and want to move through it as quickly as possible. Take me as an example.

First, I will look at the subject line. Thus, the subject line should communicate enough information that I can instantly decide whether I want to read further. It is nice to precede the main subject with something like TALK, FILM, etc. People who are not interested in talks can immediately stop reading.

Do not use the title of the talk in the subject line. Talk titles are evocative, metaphorical things. They are not well suited to actually communicating what the talk is about. Use a vocabulary that the non-specialist will recognize, preferably not more than three or four pithy words. All you are trying to do here is state the general topic so that people who are interested in that field will actually open the email instead deciding that it needs some time to evaluate, and never getting around to going back to it.

Consider that a long subject line may get cut off. Get the important information out first. The most important information is not the date and time, because I am never going to say, “oh, I’m free for a talk Thursday. I wonder what the talk is on?” I am going to say “oh, talk on MyFavoriteTopic. I wonder when, and if I can fit it in?” It’s okay if I have to read to the end of the subject line for when.

In the email itself:
Do not expect people to forward a big flyer, or even to open a flyer. If you want to use a flyer, put it on the web and send around a link to it. Nevertheless, always include a short plain text statement of what/when/where. Again, people who are interested will click on the link—people who are not sure may never get around to clicking on the link, as they will set it aside to think about later.

People who are forwarding announcements–please edit the subject line if necessary, and be sure to delete all the forwarding information. It only takes you a few seconds, and you will save countless people the second it takes to scroll past it.