You’ve designed a conference programme with photos, explanations of the workshops, a registration form, extra information. What’s the best way to distribute this? [First published February 2005.]
Email and web
Imagine it’s your annual conference. It’s a big event with speakers and workshops, conference strands and a fundraiser dinner. You’ve designed a programme with a list of all the presenters, photos, fancy headings, explanations of the workshops, a registration form, map of the venue, extra information. Now you need to persuade people to sign up.
You’re tempted to email the programme out to all the members of your group, other groups in your area and people all over the country who will be interested. Even supposing you’ve taken to heart the information in Panui #36 about mailing lists, is email the best way to do this? And what format should you use: Word, PDF, something else?
The minute you add pictures to anything the file size gets bigger. Send an ordinary text-only email to a friend and it takes a second to get through. Add a picture and it can take minutes. Put the picture and text into an attached Word document and you can multiply the time it takes.
If you have large documents, such as a conference programme, fact sheets or newsletters, especially if they have pictures, then email is a poor choice for distributing them. All too often email gets clogged up, attachments are removed or they can’t be opened when they arrive. Then there’s the whole question of viruses and worms in attachments, and spam filters blocking the message.
Don’t spend half the day emailing out a 2 Megabyte Publisher file to all your members only to find that three quarters of them didn’t get it or couldn’t open it. You’re wasting time, money and effort and creating ill will at worst and confusion at best.
Little by little
Here’s the trick: you write a short email, with at most two paragraphs, containing the most important information. Along with that you put the full document on your website. Your email includes a link to the web page (not directly to the document itself) so visitors can go to read and download what they want.
This approach not only saves problems with attachments but also avoids tying up phone lines and clogging up mailboxes.
You can also offer in the email to send a printed copy to anyone who wants it. Remember to remind them to provide their name and address so you know where to send it.
If you want someone else to advertise your conference (such as CommunityNet Aotearoa) don’t just email all the guff and ask them to run an ad. You’ll find your message lands at the bottom of a list of priorities. First see if there’s an online form you can fill in. If not then craft an ad containing the key information and a web address and email it as text only in the body of a message. Provide contact details for any further information the advertiser might need (eg querying a spelling or a date).
In the next issues we’ll look at what format you should use for documents — Word, PDF, HTML, plain text, rtf, Publisher, AppleWorks. There are so many to choose from and each has its advantages and disadvantages. We’ll also look at a free service for those who don’t have a website but still need to distribute large files.
Written for and reproduced from CommunityNet Aotearoa Panui, February 2005.