5 Tips for Getting Email Discussions Rolling

Whether you’re launching a new email discussion list, or trying to liven up the chat on a existing list, here are a few tips to get your virtual conversations flowing.

Establish clear guidelines.  Take some time to draft a document covering what sort of contribution is welcome and what is not – self promotion or off-topic comments, for example.  Share these guidelines with new members and perhaps include a link in your footer.  Have a plan of action in mind if these guidelines are not followed, such as a policy to issue three private warnings followed by removal from the list.

Pay attention to subject lines.  Most people’s inboxes are inundated with emails they never read.  Informative subject lines help members identify the messages that really interest them, making it less likely that they’ll overlook them.

Ask questions.  Whether you’re sharing an opinion, article, or piece of work, always try to end with a question.  You’d be surprised how far a simple “Do you agree?” or “What do you think?” will go.

Offer feedback.  Especially in the early days of a list, it’s a good idea to message members privately to thank them for their contributions and encourage them to continue.

Enlist help.  If you feel overwhelmed, reach out to members who are already participating, let them know how valuable their contributions have been thus far, and ask if they’d be interested in helping to facilitate discussions in a more official capacity.  Offer them a moderator title and give them clear responsibilities – such as starting one discussion per week – so they know what is expected of them.  Many people will be happy to take on a small responsibility in exchange for the acknowledgement, and even those who decline will be flattered by the offer.

How do you facilitate email discussions amongst your members?

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