Connecting with complete strangers can be uncomfortable for shy people, but email can be a great option if you feel too awkward to introduce yourself in person. Follow these tips:
Keep it short. You want your introductory email to contain the most information, but still limit it to four short paragraphs.
Explain who you are and what you have in common. Perhaps you have a common acquaintance or you both attended the same conference. Sharing that detail can make the person feel more comfortable with you.
Describe why the person caught your attention. For example, you saw a marketing piece that wowed you or you heard the person speak at an event. Praise goes a long way.
Avoid offering too many details. You don’t want to bombard the person, and you will want to save the good stuff for your first face-to-face.
Don’t ask for a favor. You don’t want to come right out and ask the person to do something for you. The initial message should serve to introduce you to the person and establish how your relationship could be mutually beneficial.
Send an invitation. You might ask recipients if they will join you for coffee or lunch or when they can schedule a call. Say: “Would it be possible for us to meet/schedule a call?” If they reply with a “Yes,” then figure out the date and time.
Follow up. If you haven’t heard anything after two weeks, send another message asking to connect again. Say: “I’d love to meet with you during a time that is most convenient for you. When are you available?” If you still don’t hear anything, don’t take it personally. Move on and focus your energy on other people.
— Adapted from “Three Insanely Simple Email Templates for Networking With Strangers,” Adunola Adeshola, FastCompany, www.fastcompany.com.