How to Write an Effective Executive Summary
Writing an effective executive summary is essential for any established business or startup. Just follow these steps to start writing your executive summaries.
What if you have a great idea, but no one can understand it?
That is why an effective executive summary is so important. It shows employees and investors how you plan to bring an idea to life.
Read on to discover more about how to write the most effective summary.
What Makes An Effective Executive Summary?
A good summary does not present too much information. Instead, it recommends a course of action for readers.
It should not simply be a summary of a longer document. Instead, the two documents should work together. The longer document should provide evidence for the course of action your summary offers.
Your summary must be as compelling as possible. Here are a few tips to make your executive summary powerful and persuasive.
Start With the Problem
An effective executive summary offers readers a possible solution. However, they must first understand what the problem is.
Use a maximum of two sentences at the beginning to outline what the problem is. Use research to explain what this problem is costing the company or community.
The specific research helps make the problem seem concrete instead of abstract. It also makes the need to solve it seem much more urgent.
For this and other sections, follow the Hollywood advice of “show, don’t tell.” Don’t use your sentences to announce what the summary will show. Instead, jump right to showing what your readers need to see!
What Needs to Happen?
The next section should describe the desired outcome. Like the previous section, this should be specific. Let your readers know how much money you are hoping to save, how much you want to increase sales, or whatever the intended outcome is.
Limit this section to two sentences as well. Don’t focus yet on the specifics of the solution. Instead, give your readers a tangible way that the success of your plan can potentially be measured.
Knowing that you have a specific and achievable goal makes your readers much likelier to agree to your proposal.
Explaining the Solution
The next section should explain your proposed solution. This is a longer section composed of multiple paragraphs. Try to keep your paragraphs focused and engaging.
Your paragraphs should reference sections within the larger document. This lets readers know where they can find more extensive information about certain things.
A good format for this section is for each paragraph to focus on a different step in the plan. That makes the entire section a good, step-by-step explanation and gives it a logical flow.
Your paragraphs should focus on how this will solve the problem you have described while creating the intended outcome. “Trim the fat” of your paragraphs by focusing on clear and direct language and not being overly descriptive or expressive.
Risk Is Your Business
The next section should detail how you plan to overcome potential risks. This includes describing what these risks are and how you will deal with them.
This section should be similar in design to your previous sections. This includes the use of clear and concise language and directing readers to sections of the larger document that contain more specific detail.
There are two basic ways to discuss how you will deal with risks. The most straightforward way is to offer a specific, research-based plan to overcome the risks you have foreseen and described.
The other way is to do a bit of “myth busting.” This means describing the kinds of problems your readers are likely to worry about and explaining how and why these are not really problems at all.
In the case of a difficult potential risk, you may want to briefly discuss possible upsides. For instance, you may have to retrain all of the staff to take on new responsibilities you are proposing.
This would be an appropriate time to discuss how the potential for improved staff efficiency will outweigh the time and money of the new training.
Going for It
The final section of an effective executive summary will make a specific recommendation. Even more so than in other sections, the key to this section is specific detail.
This means putting forth specific figures for decisions requiring company money. You must also outline very clear deadlines if you are requesting action regarding time-sensitive matters.
You may couch requests for money in terms of smooth fiscal quarters for the company. For instance, pointing out that delaying or dismissing a recommended course of action could disrupt multiple divisions of the company before the fiscal year is out.
Now that you have the layout for a convincing executive summary, there are a few tips and tricks you should know.
The Power of Pictures
Humans are visual creatures. And the summary is meant to be easy to skim. This is why graphics can be a powerful addition.
Creating things like infographics and flowcharts can help to quickly explain your ideas. You can also organize longer sections of information into bullet points to help readers quickly process information.
Certain industries use a lot of modern jargon. This includes Silicon Valley concepts like “disrupt” and training concepts like “core competency.”
An effective executive summary is free of such jargon. Use clear and direct language throughout. Not only does this make everything easier to read, but it makes you and your request seem more authentic.
The Gift of Grab
One optional section to include before your problem section is known as “the grab.” This is a one or two sentence hook in which you grab your readers’ attention.
You may throw in some surprising statistics in the grab, or maybe even name drop some important people you are working with. However you do it, make sure you get the attention of your readers!
The Bottom Line
Writing a great executive summary is just one part of creating a successful startup. There are so many things you have to do that it can be hard to figure out where to start.
Fortunately, you don’t have to start this journey alone. To figure out how I can help you and your brand become the next big thing, come check out my ultimate startup checklist today!