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Effective Executive Summary

2 min
document  ✺  writing  ✺  execsummary  ✺  management

An executive summary is the most important part of any document. Not only is it the first thing a reader sees, but it also summarizes the rest of the document and compels them to read the rest of it. Deciding what to include (or not include) can be difficult, especially for those who have never written one. To create an effective executive summary, remember these four key elements:

1️⃣ The purpose of the document: The reader should understand what the document is meant to accomplish. Who is it trying to influence? What is it trying to prove or change? What problem is it solving? Keep it simple. Even “The purpose of this document is to present the solution design for the product” works!

2️⃣ Self-assessment of the topic at hand: Because the summary is an overview of the document, it should include a bird’s-eye view of the topic. When writing it, mention the findings, including if it’s doing well or lagging. Again, keep the language simple. For instance, if you were looking to increase customer retention, you might say, “We are disappointed in our customer retention performance. To get back on track by February, we will be implementing steps A, B, and C (see Section C for details).”

3️⃣ Highlights and Lowlights: Executive summaries need to show the reader everything they can expect in the following pages – good and bad. Be sure to highlight all findings in a balanced manner such as “We exceeded our new customer acquisition goal by 18%” or “We missed our revenue target by 3%.”

4️⃣ Key decisions, required input, or other asks: You’ve covered the problem, solutions, and findings – but what about the next steps? Draw attention to what you’ll need from the reader, whether it’s assistance in decision-making, input, or other assistance. Discuss it in a straightforward manner, such as “We seek leadership guidance on the choice of providing cashback to customers to uplift customer acquisition. Reference section D for details.”

Remember, your executive summary should be able to stand on its own. When your audience reads your executive summary, they should be able to walk away with all key messages without reading the rest of the document.

👉 What’s the best tip you’ve gotten or received when it comes to writing an executive summary? Comment below 👇

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