‘Information overload’ – we have all heard about it and complained about it so many times, it’s a wonder the digital world hasn’t ground to a complete halt.
There’s no doubt that we are now bombarded by more information than ever, and that in the world of email this peril is seemingly present more so than in any other aspect of our lives.
The troubling question that stems from this is: ‘How does information overload affect our chances of attracting high-value individuals to online discussions? Surely they are so busy and get so many emails that they won’t even have the time to see the invite, let alone participate in the discussion itself?’
The short answer is ‘There is no such thing as information overload – only perceptions of it. So don’t worry about it!’
This might not sound helpful at all. However, take this on-board and you’ll be liberated from this unnecessary worry.
In our own experiences we find information overload is not a major barrier to attracting busy people to participate in online discussions. Perversely, it seems that discussion teams that need to attract ultra high-profile can sometimes find it easier to do so than those that are less ambitious.
Why? Because they bring in other ultra high-profile individuals into their outreach activities. Ban Ki-moon may be more skilled at managing his mailbox than me, but almost certainly he uses many of the same ad-hoc skills that I do: he scans subject lines and sender fields and makes quick decisions about what is either urgent, important or interesting.
And he is just as likely as I am to get distracted by an email from Barack Obama with the subject ‘Hey’.
Once Ban has landed on the mail, and read the first three lines in his preview window, he’s already part of the way to agreeing to ‘find the one hour of time over three days’ that he is being asked to give up.
Quite probably, he already sees some strategic value in being involved in whatever Barack is inviting him to. But he may also be attracted to it because it’s different and (just a bit) distracting from the pressing tasks of his day job.
Okay, so in reality it might take a follow-up phone-call from Barack to actually get Ban to agree to participate (see #commitment-building for more on this). But don’t underestimate the power of this first contact.
So what can we learn about ‘information overload’?
- ‘Information overload’ should not be seen as a threat to the success of your event
- High-profile people respond to mail from high-profile senders
- Everyone muddles through their email – a well-crafted message successfully cuts through the noise.