A follow-up email is an email sent to all participants following a meeting. Its purpose is to record the results of the discussion and establish a line of communication between the participants. The ability to write effective follow-up emails is useful to everyone: managers initiating team meetings, specialists negotiating with clients, or even job seekers going through an interview process.
This article provides guidelines on how to create follow-up emails similar to those we use at the Netpeak Group.
What kind of meeting needs a follow-up email?
At the end of any business meeting, it's a good idea to make a brief summary of the details that were discussed. Such summaries are worth writing for yourself because they will help you structure your thoughts and create actionable conclusions. But there are certain meetings after which it is especially important to share this summary, typically in the form of an email, with all the meeting participants.
At Netpeak Group, we have defined two types of such meetings:
- When we discuss the terms and conditions of a position: cooperation and work details, functional responsibilities, career growth, salary revision, etc.
- When there are more than two participants and decisions are made on further actions that need to be performed: to do a task, call a client, meet with an employee, or contact a business partner.
If the meeting involves only two employees, a follow-up email is usually not needed – the participants just create a task in the planner (in our case, PlanFix).
Who writes a follow-up email?
It depends on the number of participants in the meeting. If there are three participants, the meeting initiator typically writes the follow-up email.
If there are more than three participants, the meeting initiator appoints someone to be specifically in charge of the follow-up email. Of course, this can still be the initiator themselves.
When do you write a follow-up email?
Always write a follow-up email during the meeting, not afterward.
When the meeting ends, the one who writes the email reads it aloud to check with the participants whether the writer has recorded everything properly. There are two benefits to this:
- If something is missed, it will be noticed and added immediately.
- It ensures that everyone's on the same wavelength.
For example, there's a task to be done, and you are aware that the deadline for the task is January next year. But the assigner asks for the task to be completed before the beginning of the new calendar year, i.e., in December. To clarify the situation, you can refer to the follow-up email where the deadline is specified. The assigner then sees the inaccuracy in the dates and the misunderstanding is quickly resolved. You have also avoided an unnecessary conflict over a missed deadline.
What’s inside a follow-up email?
1. A follow-up email is a summary, not an outline or transcript. It describes the outcome, not the discussion process. It is basically a list of tasks.
The task description should be as clear, understandable, and comprehensive as possible. This will ensure that the employees who were absent at the meeting can understand the essence of the discussion: who should do what task in what terms.
A description is allowed if it adds helpful details on how to perform the task. Not like this: "John will show Peter how to make a document.” But like this: "We decided to make a document with publications ready for layout in the blog. John will make it, and Peter will fill it in on a regular basis."
2. Remove all unfamiliar words (terminology, slang) from the text. Use simple sentences. Structure the information and present it in a list format.
3. Each email point should prompt a certain employee to take action.
All that to say, write clearly. Instead of saying, "We need to make a document," the follow-up email should state specifically, "[Nickname] (we use nicknames at Netpeak Group) will make a document."
Important: It is not "John makes a document", but "John will make a document".
4. There has to be one person in charge of every email point. If there are more, you may not get results as each might think that the other person will do it.
5. Set clear deadlines for the tasks.
Follow-up email samples
Subject of meeting: Asset inventory and how to ensure that the existing equipment is used rather than the new one purchased.
1. Make an inventory of all equipment: laptops, monitors, headsets, routers, projectors, cameras, video equipment, speakers, and system units. That is, everything except peripherals (mice and keyboards).
In charge: Nickname. Deadline: 31.01.2024.
2. Add a note to the employee termination checklist template that the Administrative Coordinator should pick up the equipment (the laptop should be picked up with only the charger) and make a note on the inventory document. Whereas the employee should hand the equipment over to the Administrative Coordinator and not just leave it on the desk. The Administrative Coordinator is responsible for the equipment from the moment of acceptance until it is handed over to the system administrator.
In charge: Nickname. Deadline: 31.01.2024.
How do you ensure that the follow-up email doesn't get lost?
1. Always send the follow-up email to the corporate email addresses of all meeting attendees.
This is so that you don't have to look for it in different messengers and email inboxes when you need it. You know that it can only be in your corporate mailbox.
In the To field, list all the meeting participants and those in charge of the tasks.
To the Cc, add other employees (if any) who should be aware of the tasks.
2. Use a consistent template for the email subject line.
Template: Follow-up email [meeting participants or project domain] [meeting date] / [brief meeting outline] [keywords to help find the email if necessary]
Email subject line: "Follow-up email Pachulya & Irbin 15.08.2019 / difficulties at work".
3. If regular meetings between employees (not clients!) take place regularly, follow-up emails should be written in the same email chain.
In this case, the subject line would be "Follow-up email [meeting participants] / Regular meetings".
If regular meetings are on the same topic, the template is: "Follow-up email [meeting participants] / regular meetings / [meeting keywords]".
Example: Lunahod, Slav, and Vin hold regular meetings on two topics: roadmap development and recruitment.
In this case, the email subjects would be:
- "Follow-up email / Vin, Lunaxod, Slav / regular meetings / roadmap development / roadmap recruitment"
- "Follow-up email / Vin, Lunaxod, Slav / regular meetings / recruitment / vacancies"
4. The person in charge of the follow-up email should attach a photo of the theses to the email if someone wrote them down on a flipchart or a sheet of paper at the meeting.
5. The person in charge of the email should assign tasks to everyone using a tool like PlanFix and add links to the email before sending it.
While the follow-up email lists out the tasks, it does not have task management tools that implore employees to do the tasks. For this reason, tasks must also be created in a project management system, such as PlanFix.
In a nutshell, a follow-up email is a meeting summary that can be found in a mailbox. Follow-up emails should have a consistent subject line that makes them easy to find. Essentially, a good follow-up email should:
- be understandable to everyone who reads it, not just the meeting participants;
- contain only solutions and tasks without vague descriptions;
- assign no more than one person to be in charge of each task;
- set deadlines for tasks.
The only place where a follow-up email can be found is in a mailbox.
The subject of an email should follow a certain template, which makes it easier to find.
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