So, you conducted a survey and the results are in. You know the data tells a great story, but how do you begin to share that story? Start with an Executive Summary.
Once you’ve sifted through your research and identified your key insights and recommendations, you can begin to craft your executive summary. Start with WHO you’re writing for. Maybe it’s your customers, your colleagues, potential investors, or a client. You want your summary to resonate with your audience, so keep them in mind as you begin the process.
What exactly is an executive summary?
In the simplest terms, it is a document that summarizes a larger document (e.g. a research report, a business plan, a proposal.) It will give a thorough overview of content as well as communicate key findings and takeaways. Often it will provide recommendations and/or proposed courses of action.
Your executive summary is like a first impression. It’s the gateway to your larger work so it needs to be interesting and engaging. It should encourage the reader to continue on to the full research report.
Capture your reader’s attention.
While an executive summary is meant to be informative, it should also capture the reader's attention immediately. Use simple, but professional language. Keep your sentences short and to the point. Keep paragraphs short as well. Your summary should be as easy to read and digest as possible.
Be thorough, but don’t reveal everything.
Give your reader the essence of your research without the fine details. You might include:
· An explanation of why the survey was conducted
· The major findings or results that the research yielded
· Proposed suggestions for how those findings can be used and/or applied
Also, don’t stray from what’s covered in your larger report. This is a summary, not a place to bring up new ideas.
Less is usually more.
Ideally, an executive summary is between five and ten percent of the total document length. But we don’t need to get so technical. Somewhere between one paragraph and one page is just fine. To keep everything consistent, follow the overall structure of your full report. And don’t forget to include a strong conclusion. You want your readers to be intrigued and to move on to your full report.
If you have any tips for writing an effective executive summary, please share them with me!