Learning some basics: contacting important people

You may initially laugh at it, but good communication skills are important in just about every aspect in life. Whether it’s getting to the point in ten seconds to pitch your idea to someone in an elevator or getting an e-mail that won’t be skimmed or ignored, a lot of assumptions need to be dismissed before being able talk to whom you want when you want. Hit the jump to read more.

Just some basics here and a couple links that I’ve had to make use of today and probably would have been good reminders before I contacted some people recently. I sent some e-mails to a number of organizations to volunteer with, as well as some individuals who have been very influential to me or at least active in pursuing similar goals. How many have responded? One person (Lynn Chen, who granted me a quick e-mail interview) and two organizations (Toy Gun Films and Invisible Children) have responded so far, the rest have either ignored me or listed my e-mail as spam.

The first thing I’m going to say is that a lot of people can be found on Facebook or doing some Google searching. The only issue with contacting people on Facebook is you want to make sure that you’ve checked all ways to contact them, otherwise, in the case of one individual, I ended up getting blocked by him, only for a friend to point out that on his personal website, he clearly indicated that you should e-mail him, not send a friend request or private messages. Oops.

The second bit can be better summarized in this link, from Passive Panda: http://passivepanda.com/how-email. In short, just know that you need to be on point and do your research about the person so that they know you aren’t a spam algorithm. If you’re really interested, they have a great class right now for learning how to e-mail important people properly and improve your overall communication.

The third probably would be better as the first insight I have, but I also believe it would be better hammered in by making it my final point: don’t be shy to contact people when you find out how to contact them. The worst they can do is ignore you, and if they are rude or uncivil, then you probably won’t need to deal with them–do try to remain professional.

Moving on to contacting people in person, this is an interesting article I found on approaching strangers, whether for casual conversation or to engage in talk with busy people from Lifehack: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/start-a-conversation-with-a-stranger-without-sounding-desperate.html. My personal experience? Just say “Hi” and let them know you aren’t a threat.

Ultimately, the best I can say is to make sure everyone understands what you are trying to say, be concise, and considerate of their time, especially if you need something from them, and most especially if you are asking for money. Good stuff to know when writing grants or trying to organize an event, interview people, or just say hi to someone. Everyone is a little shy, and you don’t want to come off as desperate, unprofessional, or unfocused.


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