This morning as my blog post is sent out, I will receive hundreds of automatically-generated Out Of Office responses from people who are traveling. Most of them contain standard language about how long someone will be away from the office and who to contact in their absence. Every once in a while, I’ll stumble across an Out Of Office notification that makes me want to read the whole message.
Out Of Office messages are currently the “lecture” of the email world – lots of people send them out, but few people pay attention to them. With summer vacation season around the corner, why not use your Out Of Office message to bring a smile to others’ faces, give them some fun facts or even equip people with new ideas or knowledge?
Following are five ideas for training professionals to use for their Out Of Office messages:
1. Change Your Subject Line
Before you find something that can hold people’s attention in the body of your Out Of Office message, you first need to catch their attention. Be sure to go into your settings and write something in your subject line:
2. Add a Topical Joke
Imagine this: You receive an Out Of Office message from a colleague with the subject line: What’s the difference between a PPT deck and a phone book?
Would you open the email to see what it says?
What if the body of the email said:
Phone books are often easier to read and more interesting!
I’ll be out of the office until Friday, but in the meantime, if you’d like to add some spice to your next PowerPoint deck, check out this link!
If your training team has just rolled out an organization-wide initiative, this would be a perfect opportunity to share information, web sites or links regarding your initiative!
3. Offer a Personal Connection
If we want to know what the biggest learning needs are across an organization, it’s important to be able to connect with employees at all levels and in all positions. Simply asking “what are your learning needs” may yield limited results. It’s been my experience that better learning needs assessment comes through relationships and genuine conversations.
Developing relationships takes time and a level of trust, which in turn help conversations reveal what may really be going on.
With email serving as a natural extension of office conversations, why not share something more personal than “I’m out of the office”?
What if your Out Of Office took on a more personal tone such as:
Subject Line: Do you smell smoke?
Body of your Out Of Office message: It’s probably just my family and me making s’mores. I’m out of the office this week, in the woods, camping with the family and definitely out of cell phone range.
However, if you’re smelling smoke because there is a burning issue that you need taken care of, please contact…
4. Poll Your Audience
If the people who email you can’t interact directly with you, let them interact with your email while you’re away (and then you can come back to the office with some new data waiting for you!).
Subject Line: Penny for your thoughts…
Body of your Out Of Office message: This may or may not have anything to do with the reason you just emailed me, but if you had your druthers, would you rather:
- Learn something new in a classroom training
- Learn something new via elearning
- Learn something new via video
- Learn something new via podcast
- Look something up on your own using Google, YouTube, etc
I’m out of the office until next Wednesday, and when I return I’ll be headed straight into a team retreat in which we’ll be talking about our learning strategies. Your thoughts here would be super valuable!
Here are instructions on how to embed a Google Forms poll into the body of an email. If you’re using Outlook for email, you can also use the voting buttons as a sort of polling feature within an email by using these instructions.
5. Make Them Smarter
Who doesn’t like exposure to factoids?
Subject Line: Did you know your attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish?
Body of your Out Of Office message: They say a goldfish’s attention span is about 8 seconds, and considering that you’re still reading this, then maybe this “fact” isn’t really true.
I’ll be out of the office until next Monday, at which time you’ll have my undivided attention. In the meantime, if you’re looking for strategies on how to hold your audience’s attention, try these ideas.
One last note, while this can be a fun activity, be sure to turn your Out Of Office messages off once you’re back in the office!
Have you seen creative Out Of Office messages? Add your own ideas in the comment section!