How to Write a Networking Email with Teeth

“You might not remember me…”

Raise your hand if you’ve ever started an email with this — let’s be brutally honest — LAME and passive phrase. (Oh. So. Many. Times. UGH.)

Did you hear back from the person you hoped to connect with? I sure didn’t.

The holiday season is in full force and, with it, parties (i.e. excellent opportunities to meet and engage with people who can help you grow your business). Before you jot off an ineffective and embarrassing message to your new acquaintance, read on for simple language that earns you respect and a response.


In a recent article for Fast Company, Sara McCord, an expert on making a good impression, shared best practices for networking correspondence, broken down into three categories:

  • an email to someone you’ve only met once
  • an email to a contact you’ve lost touch with
  • an email to a VIP

Emailing a Stranger

Let’s start by revisiting that familiar faux pas, “You might not remember me…” and its ugly stepsister, “Remember me?”

“I’m all about being up front when you network,” McCord says. “It’s helpful to be honest about why you’re reaching out. It can combat nerves and help the process feel more genuine.” However, she continues, “it’s pretty audacious to ask for something from someone whom you’re blatantly admitting you barely know.”

Her fix, though, is amazingly easy. “We met at [EVENT].”

It’s direct and flows naturally. Thus, “an ask won’t feel as out of place,” she says.

(Bonus points if you can include an inside joke or concrete example of what you bonded over before addressing your request.)

Emailing a long-lost contact

Again, resist “remember me?”

“It’s more of a nod to the fact that you haven’t made time to stay in touch—and that’s kind of a sour note to start on,” McCord explains. Skip the awkward admission and do some Internet sleuthing instead. Acknowledge what you’ve learned, give them some praise, then make your ask.

For example:

“I saw on LinkedIn that you launched a wedding planning company. Congratulations! I’d love to learn  how you built a business from scratch and what requests you’re hearing from brides, as it could help me click with prospective clients. Would you like to catch up over coffee next week?”

Emailing someone important and intimidating

Let’s say you want to follow up with a popular keynote speaker, the mayor, or any movers and shakers in your community. It’s natural to tell yourself that anyone with such robust Rolodexes would never recognize your name in their inbox.

McCord’s advice: “Like you would before other daunting career situations, give yourself a little pep talk: You’re thoughtful and interesting, that’s why they’ll remember who you are. Now, if you think they’ll need some context because of the sheer number of people they speak to at events, then provide it, but go on to write what you would to other contacts.”