Ideas for a better memo

A call came in at lunch, I had to get out of my co-working space ASAP. An event was happening, things needed to get done, and my stuff was getting in the way.

It turns out that the organiser had anticipated and prepared for it. An email memo was sent and alternative solutions were offered.

The problem is – I did not remember receiving the memo.

Wait… except actually, I did receive it. However, I heard something totally different. “Hey, there’s an event. Come join us”.

The difficult parts:
a. no one is waiting to hear from you.
b. you need to know who it’s for, what’s it for and precisely what you want them to do.
c. you have to have the guts to leave out everything that isn’t part of (b).

Consider a memo that was emailed to everyone in the office. The management sent it to 100 people, some got dropped into spam, and perhaps ten people read it and took action.

Here are some ideas that could level up the memo:

1. Pattern interrupt. When was the last time you listened to the seat belt announcement on an airplane? We ignore it because we’ve been trained to ignore it. Choose a different place, at different time, a different format.

2. Ten words per page. That how many words get read in the first pass. Which ten do you want someone to scan so they’re intrigued enough to slow down and read the rest? Help me scan instead of study.

3. Frame the message. Make it about me, my status, my needs. Create urgency.

4. Choose one intention. How many things are you trying to say? Should I attend the event or get out of the way. (Hint: two might be too many).

Take a look at the 2 different memos that were left outside every room of Hyatt hotel. Which is better?

If you’re committed for people to get the message, I think to you’ll find delivering it person, human to human, is a proven practice. And perhaps, the next best thing is a carefully crafted memo.

(h/t to Seth Godin)

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