phone-email-textAs a speaker and coach on networking, one of the most frequently asked questions is “what is the best way to approach a contact to set up a breakfast or lunch; should I use the phone or email?”

Of course, the best answer is whichever you think will be more effective with the person you are contacting. Not a very useful answer though, since most of the time, you do not know. Given that void, I’m more convinced than ever, that e-mail, though not perfect, works better than the telephone. Here’s why.

Badmouthing the telephone

When was the last time you called someone and you actually got them in? So you leave a voice mail message that is not rehearsed and typically goes on longer than you thought it would or should. And if your message is left on a cell phone, will the recording capture everything you say? When you say ‘please call me back at….” will it be convenient for that person to write down the number and get back to you later? Maybe. And if the message does get through, is this a person who promptly returns calls? Here again, maybe.

Now, let’s say you are lucky and do get through. Good news? Not necessarily. Chances are 90% you have interrupted whatever that person was doing and that person may not be very happy about that. Not to mention, it may take them 30 seconds to figure out who you are since you mumbled your name when you started talking and therefore they have not remembered a thing you said while trying to recognize your voice. Finally, when you ask that person to get together, you are putting them on the spot and may make them feel awkward; many would prefer to think about it.

The “e” in e-mail means “effective”

Here are the reasons.

  • Person is not interrupted; can be opened whenever the contact chooses
  • When read, the person is not distracted
  • Can decide whether to get together without feeling pressured

Email is not perfect. Some people ignore them for days or forever. There is also the chance that the email may get caught in a spam filter. But these downsides are not as significant as those for telephone use.

So when in doubt, click “send.”

(photo: jackhynes)