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How to Write an Executive Summary: A Quick Guide
Writing an Executive Summary
Here’s the good news: an executive summary is short. It’s part of a larger document like a business plan, business case or project proposal and, as the name implies, summarizes the longer report.
Here’s the bad news: it’s a critical document that can be challenging to write because an executive summary serves several important purposes. On one hand, executive summaries are used to outline each section of your business plan, investment proposal or project proposal. On the other hand, they’re used to introduce your business or project to investors and other stakeholders, so it must be persuasive to spark their interest.
The pressure of writing an executive summary comes from the fact that everyone will pay attention to it, as it sits at the top of that heap of documents. It explains all that follows and can make or break your business plan or project plan . The executive summary must know the needs of the potential clients or investors and zero in on them like a laser. Fortunately, we’ll show you how to write and format your executive summary to do just that.
Related: Free Executive Summary Template for Word
What Is an Executive Summary?
An executive summary is a short section of a larger document like a business plan , investment proposal or project proposal. It’s mostly used to give investors and stakeholders a quick overview of important information about a business plan like the company description, market analysis and financial information.
It contains a short statement that addresses the problem or proposal detailed in the attached documents, and features background information, a concise analysis and a conclusion. An executive summary is designed to help executives and investors decide whether to go forth with the proposal or not, making it critically important. Pitch decks are often used along with executive summaries to talk about the benefits and main selling points of a business plan or project.
Unlike an abstract, which is a short overview, an executive summary format is a condensed form of the documents contained in the proposal. Abstracts are more commonly used in academic and research-oriented writing, and act as a teaser for the reader to see if they want to read on.
Getting everything organized for your executive summary can be challenging. ProjectManager can help you get your thoughts in order and collaborate with your team. Our powerful, yet intuitive, task management tools make it easy to get everything prioritized and done on time. Try it free today.
How to Write an Executive Summary
Executive summaries vary depending on the document they’re attached to. You can write an executive summary for a business plan, project proposal, research document, business case , among other documents and reports.
However, when writing an executive summary there are guidelines to make sure you hit all the bases.
Executive Summary Length
According to the many books that have been written about executive summaries, as well as training courses, seminars and professional speakers, the agreed upon length for an executive summary format should be about five to 10 percent of the length of the whole report.
The language used should be appropriate for the target audience. One of the most important things to know before you write professionally is to understand who you are addressing. If you’re writing for a group of engineers, the language you’ll use will differ greatly from how you would write to a group of financiers.
That includes more than just the words, but the content and depth of explanation. Remember, it’s a summary, and people will be reading it in order to quickly and easily pull out the main points.
You also want to capture a reader’s attention immediately in the opening paragraph. Just like a speech often opens with a joke to break the tension and put people at ease to better hear what’s coming, so a strong introductory paragraph can pull a reader in and make them want to read on. That doesn’t mean you start with a joke. Jokes are hard. Stick to your strengths, but remember, most readers only give you a few sentences to win them over before they move on.
Don’t forget to explain who you are as an organization and why you have the skills, personnel and experience to solve the problem raised in the proposal. This doesn’t have to be a lengthy biography, often just your name, address and contact information will do, though you’ll also want to highlight your strengths as they pertain to the business plan or project proposal .
The executive summary should not stray from the material that follows it. It’s a summary, not a place to bring up new ideas. To do so would be confusing and would jeopardize your whole proposal.
Establish the need or the problem, and convince the target audience that it must be solved. Once that is set up, then it’s important to recommend the solution and show what the value is. Be clear and firm in your recommendation.
Justify your cause. Be sure to note the key reasons why your organization is the perfect fit for the solution you’re proposing. This is the point where you differentiate yourself from competitors, be that due to methodology, testimonial from satisfied clients or whatever else you offer that is unique. But don’t make this too much about you. Be sure to keep the name of the potential client at the forefront.
Don’t neglect a strong conclusion, where you can wrap things up and once more highlight the main points.
Related: 10 Essential Excel Report Templates
What to Include in an Executive Summary
The content of your executive summary must reflect what’s in the larger document which it is part of. You’ll find many executive summary examples on the web, but to keep things simple, we’ll focus on business plans and project proposals.
How to Write an Executive Summary for a Business Plan
As we’ve learned above, your executive summary must extract the main points of all the sections of your business plan. A business plan is the document that describes all the aspects of a business, such as its business model, products or services, objectives, marketing plan, among other things. They’re commonly used by startups to pitch their ideas to investors.
Here are the most commonly used business plan sections:
- Company description
- Products & Services
- SWOT Analysis
- Market Analysis
- Marketing Plan
- Financial Planning
- Funding Request
Executive summaries are also a great way to outline the elements of a project plan for a project proposal. Let’s learn what those elements are.
How to Write an Executive Summary for a Project Proposal
An executive summary for your project proposal will capture the most important information from your project management plan. Here’s the structure of our executive summary template:
- Introduction: What is the purpose of your project?
- Company description: Show why you’re the right team to take on the project.
- Need/Problem: What is the problem that it’s solving?
- Unique Solution: What is your value proposition and what are the main selling points of your project?
- Proof: Evidence, research, feasibility studies that support how your company can solve the issue.
- Resources: Outline the resources needed for the project
- Return on Investment/Funding Request: Explain the profitability of your project and what’s in for the investors.
- Competition/Market Analysis: What’s your target market ? Who are your competitors? How does your company differentiate from them?
- Marketing Plan: Create a marketing plan that describes your company’s marketing strategies, sales and partnership plans.
- Budget/Financial Planning: What is the budget baseline that you need for your project plan?
- Timeline: What is the estimated timeline to complete the project?
- Team: Who are the project team members and why are they qualified?
Now that we’ve learned that executive summaries can vary depending on the type of document you’re working on, you’re ready to use our executive summary template.
- Executive Summary Template
So, to put all of that information together, here’s the basic format of an executive summary sample. You can find this same information in our free executive summary template :
- Introduction, be sure to know your audience
- Table of contents in the form of a bulleted list
- Explain the company’s role and identify strengths
- Explain the need, or the problem, and its importance
- Recommend a solution and explain its value
- Justify said solution by explaining how it fits the organization
- Strong conclusion that once more wraps up the importance of the project
You can use it as an executive summary example and add or remove some of its elements to adjust it to your needs. Our sample executive summary has the main elements that you’ll need for a business plan or project plan executive summary.
What to Do After Writing an Executive Summary
As with anything you write, you should always start with a draft. The first draft should hit all the marks addressed above, but don’t get yourself bogged down in making the prose perfect. Think of the first draft as an exploratory mission. You’re gathering all the pertinent information.
Next you want to thoroughly review the document to ensure that nothing important has been left out or missed. Make sure the focus is sharp and clear, and that it speaks directly to your potential client’s needs.
Proofread for Style & Grammar
But don’t neglect the writing. Be sure that you’re not repeating words, falling into cliché or other hallmarks of bad writing. No, you’re not seeking the Pulitzer Prize in Literature, but you also don’t want to bore the reader to the point that they miss the reason why you’re the organization that can help them succeed.
You’ve checked the content and the prose, but don’t forget style. You want to write in a way that is natural and not overly formal, but one that speaks in the manner of your target audience . If they’re a conservative firm, well then, maybe formality is called for. But more and more modern companies have a casual corporate culture, and formal writing could mistakenly cause them to think of you as old and outdated.
The last run should be proofing the copy. That means double-checking to make sure that spelling is correct, and there are no typos or grammatical mistakes. Whoever wrote the executive summary is not the best person to edit it, however. They can easily gloss over errors because of their familiarity with the work. Find someone who excels at copy-editing. If you deliver sloppy content it shows a lack of professionalism that will surely color how a reader thinks of your company.
Criticism of Executive Summaries
Every good argument needs a rebuttal, and while we’re advocating for the proper use of an executive summary, it would be neglectful to avoid mentioning some critiques. The most common is that an executive summary by design is too simple to capture the complexity of a large and complicated project.
It’s true that many executives might only read the summary, and in so doing, miss the nuance of the proposal. That is a risk. But if the executive summary follows the guidelines stated above, it should give a full picture of the proposal and create interest for the reader to delve deeper into the documents to get the details.
Remember, executive summaries can be written poorly or well. They can fail to focus on results or the solution to the proposal’s problem, or do so in a vague, general way that has no impact on the reader. You can do a hundred things wrong, but if you follow the rules, then the onus falls on the reader.
ProjectManager Turns an Executive Summary into a Project
Your executive summary got the project approved. Now the real work begins. ProjectManager is an award-winning project management software that helps you organize tasks, projects and teams. We have everything you need to manage each phase of your project, so you can complete your work on time and under budget.
Work How You Want to Work
Because project managers and teams work differently, our software is flexible. We have multiple project views, such as the kanban board, which visualizes workflow. Managers like the transparency it provides into the production cycle, while teams get to focus only on those tasks they have the capacity to complete. Are you more comfortable with tasks lists or Gantt charts? We have those too.
Live Tracking for Better Management
To make sure your project meets time and cost expectations, we have features that monitor and track progress, so you can control any deviations that might occur. Our software is cloud-based, so the data you see on our dashboard is always up-to-date, helping you make better decisions. Make that executive summary a reality with ProjectManager.
You’ve now researched and written a persuasive executive summary to lead your proposal. You’ve put the work in and the potential client sees that and contracts you for the project. However, if you don’t have a reliable, easy-to-use and robust set of project management tools like Gantt charts , Kanban boards and project calendars at hand to plan, monitor and report on the work, then all that preparation will be for naught.
ProjectManager is a cloud-based project management software that gives you real-time data and a collaborative platform to work efficiently and productively. But don’t take our word for it: take a free 30-day trial.
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- How to write an executive summary, with ...
How to write an executive summary, with examples
The best way to do that is with an executive summary. If you’ve never written an executive summary, this article has all you need to know to plan, write, and share them with your team.
What is an executive summary?
An executive summary is an overview of a document. The length and scope of your executive summary will differ depending on the document it’s summarizing, but in general an executive summary can be anywhere from one to two pages long. In the document, you’ll want to share all of the information your readers and important stakeholders need to know.
Imagine it this way: if your high-level stakeholders were to only read your executive summary, would they have all of the information they need to succeed? If so, your summary has done its job.
You’ll often find executive summaries of:
In general, there are four parts to any executive summary:
Start with the problem or need the document is solving.
Outline the recommended solution.
Explain the solution’s value.
Wrap up with a conclusion about the importance of the work.
What is an executive summary in project management?
In project management, an executive summary is a way to bring clarity to cross-functional collaborators, team leadership, and project stakeholders . Think of it like a project’s “ elevator pitch ” for team members who don’t have the time or the need to dive into all of the project’s details.
The main difference between an executive summary in project management and a more traditional executive summary in a business plan is that the former should be created at the beginning of your project—whereas the latter should be created after you’ve written your business plan. For example, to write an executive summary of an environmental study, you would compile a report on the results and findings once your study was over. But for an executive summary in project management, you want to cover what the project is aiming to achieve and why those goals matter.
The same four parts apply to an executive summary in project management:
Start with the problem or need the project is solving. Why is this project happening? What insight, customer feedback, product plan, or other need caused it to come to life?
Outline the recommended solution, or the project’s objectives. How is the project going to solve the problem you established in the first part? What are the project goals and objectives?
Explain the solution’s value. Once you’ve finished your project, what will happen? How will this improve and solve the problem you established in the first part?
Wrap up with a conclusion about the importance of the work. This is another opportunity to reiterate why the problem is important, and why the project matters. It can also be helpful to reference your audience and how your solution will solve their problem. Finally, include any relevant next steps.
If you’ve never written an executive summary before, you might be curious about where it fits into other project management elements. Here’s how executive summaries stack up:
Executive summary vs. project plan
A project plan is a blueprint of the key elements your project will accomplish in order to hit your project goals and objectives. Project plans will include your goals, success metrics, stakeholders and roles, budget, milestones and deliverables, timeline and schedule, and communication plan .
An executive summary is a summary of the most important information in your project plan. Think of the absolutely crucial things your management team needs to know when they land in your project, before they even have a chance to look at the project plan—that’s your executive summary.
Executive summary vs. project overview
Project overviews and executive summaries often have similar elements—they both contain a summary of important project information. However, your project overview should be directly attached to your project. There should be a direct line of sight between your project and your project overview.
While you can include your executive summary in your project depending on what type of project management tool you use, it may also be a stand-alone document.
Executive summary vs. project objectives
Your executive summary should contain and expand upon your project objectives in the second part ( Outline the recommended solution, or the project’s objectives ). In addition to including your project objectives, your executive summary should also include why achieving your project objectives will add value, as well as provide details about how you’re going to get there.
The benefits of an executive summary
You may be asking: why should I write an executive summary for my project? Isn’t the project plan enough?
Well, like we mentioned earlier, not everyone has the time or need to dive into your project and see, from a glance, what the goals are and why they matter. Work management tools like Asana help you capture a lot of crucial information about a project, so you and your team have clarity on who’s doing what by when. Your executive summary is designed less for team members who are actively working on the project and more for stakeholders outside of the project who want quick insight and answers about why your project matters.
An effective executive summary gives stakeholders a big-picture view of the entire project and its important points—without requiring them to dive into all the details. Then, if they want more information, they can access the project plan or navigate through tasks in your work management tool.
How to write a great executive summary, with examples
Every executive summary has four parts. In order to write a great executive summary, follow this template. Then once you’ve written your executive summary, read it again to make sure it includes all of the key information your stakeholders need to know.
1. Start with the problem or need the project is solving
At the beginning of your executive summary, start by explaining why this document (and the project it represents) matter. Take some time to outline what the problem is, including any research or customer feedback you’ve gotten . Clarify how this problem is important and relevant to your customers, and why solving it matters.
For example, let’s imagine you work for a watch manufacturing company. Your project is to devise a simpler, cheaper watch that still appeals to luxury buyers while also targeting a new bracket of customers.
Example executive summary:
In recent customer feedback sessions, 52% of customers have expressed a need for a simpler and cheaper version of our product. In surveys of customers who have chosen competitor watches, price is mentioned 87% of the time. To best serve our existing customers, and to branch into new markets, we need to develop a series of watches that we can sell at an appropriate price point for this market.
2. Outline the recommended solution, or the project’s objectives
Now that you’ve outlined the problem, explain what your solution is. Unlike an abstract or outline, you should be prescriptive in your solution—that is to say, you should work to convince your readers that your solution is the right one. This is less of a brainstorming section and more of a place to support your recommended solution.
Because you’re creating your executive summary at the beginning of your project, it’s ok if you don’t have all of your deliverables and milestones mapped out. But this is your chance to describe, in broad strokes, what will happen during the project. If you need help formulating a high-level overview of your project’s main deliverables and timeline, consider creating a project roadmap before diving into your executive summary.
Continuing our example executive summary:
Our new watch series will begin at 20% cheaper than our current cheapest option, with the potential for 40%+ cheaper options depending on material and movement. In order to offer these prices, we will do the following:
Offer watches in new materials, including potentially silicone or wood
Use high-quality quartz movement instead of in-house automatic movement
Introduce customizable band options, with a focus on choice and flexibility over traditional luxury
Note that every watch will still be rigorously quality controlled in order to maintain the same world-class speed and precision of our current offerings.
3. Explain the solution’s value
At this point, you begin to get into more details about how your solution will impact and improve upon the problem you outlined in the beginning. What, if any, results do you expect? This is the section to include any relevant financial information, project risks, or potential benefits. You should also relate this project back to your company goals or OKRs . How does this work map to your company objectives?
With new offerings that are between 20% and 40% cheaper than our current cheapest option, we expect to be able to break into the casual watch market, while still supporting our luxury brand. That will help us hit FY22’s Objective 3: Expanding the brand. These new offerings have the potential to bring in upwards of three million dollars in profits annually, which will help us hit FY22’s Objective 1: 7 million dollars in annual profit.
Early customer feedback sessions indicate that cheaper options will not impact the value or prestige of the luxury brand, though this is a risk that should be factored in during design. In order to mitigate that risk, the product marketing team will begin working on their go-to-market strategy six months before the launch.
4. Wrap up with a conclusion about the importance of the work
Now that you’ve shared all of this important information with executive stakeholders, this final section is your chance to guide their understanding of the impact and importance of this work on the organization. What, if anything, should they take away from your executive summary?
To round out our example executive summary:
Cheaper and varied offerings not only allow us to break into a new market—it will also expand our brand in a positive way. With the attention from these new offerings, plus the anticipated demand for cheaper watches, we expect to increase market share by 2% annually. For more information, read our go-to-market strategy and customer feedback documentation .
Example of an executive summary
When you put it all together, this is what your executive summary might look like:
Common mistakes people make when writing executive summaries
You’re not going to become an executive summary-writing pro overnight, and that’s ok. As you get started, use the four-part template provided in this article as a guide. Then, as you continue to hone your executive summary writing skills, here are a few common pitfalls to avoid:
Avoid using jargon
Your executive summary is a document that anyone, from project contributors to executive stakeholders, should be able to read and understand. Remember that you’re much closer to the daily work and individual tasks than your stakeholders will be, so read your executive summary once over to make sure there’s no unnecessary jargon. Where you can, explain the jargon, or skip it all together.
Remember: this isn’t a full report
Your executive summary is just that—a summary. If you find yourself getting into the details of specific tasks, due dates, and attachments, try taking a step back and asking yourself if that information really belongs in your executive summary. Some details are important—you want your summary to be actionable and engaging. But keep in mind that the wealth of information in your project will be captured in your work management tool , not your executive summary.
Make sure the summary can stand alone
You know this project inside and out, but your stakeholders won’t. Once you’ve written your executive summary, take a second look to make sure the summary can stand on its own. Is there any context your stakeholders need in order to understand the summary? If so, weave it into your executive summary, or consider linking out to it as additional information.
Your executive summary is a living document, and if you miss a typo you can always go back in and fix it. But it never hurts to proofread or send to a colleague for a fresh set of eyes.
In summary: an executive summary is a must-have
Executive summaries are a great way to get everyone up to date and on the same page about your project. If you have a lot of project stakeholders who need quick insight into what the project is solving and why it matters, an executive summary is the perfect way to give them the information they need.
For more tips about how to connect high-level strategy and plans to daily execution, read our article about strategic planning .
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How to Write an Executive Summary for a Report: Step By Step Guide with Examples
So you have finally written a great comprehensive business report that took you weeks to create. You have included all the data from the different departments, compared it, done the analysis, made forecasts, and provided solutions to specific problems.
There is just one problem – the key stakeholders in the company don’t have enough time to go through the whole report.
Since the data and the KPIs that you included in the report are necessary for quality decision-making, you can see why this can become a huge issue.
Luckily, there is a way to present all of your key findings and not take too much of their time. This is done through executive summaries.
An executive summary is exactly what the name suggests – a summary. It is essentially a quick overview of all the most important metrics in the report. The purpose of this summary is to bring the attention of the highest-ranking members in the company to the most important KPIs that they will consider when making decisions.
While an executive summary is a rather short section, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy to write. You will have to pay extra attention to every single sentence in order to avoid unnecessary information.
Do you want to learn how to create an informative executive summary? This guide will show you all you need to know.
What Is an Executive Report?
What is an executive summary in a report, how long should an executive summary be, who is the audience of an executive summary, what should be included in an executive summary report, how to write an executive summary report, common mistakes to avoid when writing executive summaries, executive report examples, executive summary templates, create executive reports in databox.
Executive reports are used for keeping senior managers updated on the latest and most significant activities in the company. These reports have to be concise and accurate since they will have a huge impact on the most important business-related decisions.
Working for any sort of company requires writing different types of reports such as financial reports , marketing reports , sales reports , internal reports, and more.
What all of these reports have in common is that they are very comprehensive and typically require a lot of time to go through them –way too much time, if you ask busy managers.
They include a wealthy amount of data and a bunch of different metrics which are more useful for a particular team in the company. However, the highest-ranking members tend to be more focused on only the most essential KPIs that they need for making future decisions and strategies.
This is why executive reports come in handy. They are usually only a few pages long and they include only the most relevant details and data that incurred in a specific period.
An executive summary is the brief overview section included in a long report or document. This part of the report primarily focuses on the key topics and most important data within it. It can include an overall business goal of the company or short-term strategic objectives.
This summary is primarily useful for C-level managers who don’t have time to read the whole report but want to have an insight into the main KPIs and latest business performances.
Bank officials also may use executive summaries since it’s the quickest way for them to estimate whether your company represents a good investment opportunity.
Depending on your company’s practice, executive summaries can either be placed at the beginning of the report or as a formal section in the table of contents.
The length of the summary depends on the type of report, but it is typically one or two pages long.
To know whether you have written a good executive summary, you can ask yourself, “Are the stakeholders going to have all the information they need to make decisions?”
If the answer is yes, you have done a good job.
There is no strict rule about how long executive summaries should be. Each company is unique which means the length will always vary. In most cases, it will depend on the size of the report/business plan.
However, a universal consensus is that it should be anywhere from one to four pages long or five to ten percent of the length of the report.
This is typically more than enough space to summarize the story behind the data and provide your stakeholders with the most important KPIs for future decision-making.
The people most interested in reading the executive summary are typically the ones who don’t have time to read the whole report and want a quick overview of the most important data and information.
- Project stakeholders – The individuals or organizations that are actively involved in a project with your company.
- Management personnel (decision-makers) – The highest-ranking employees in your company (manager, partner, general partner, etc.)
- Investors – As we said, this could be bank officials who want a quick recap of your company’s performance so they can make an easier investment decision.
- Venture capitalists – Investors who provide capital in exchange for equity stakes.
- C-level executives – The chief executives in your business.
Related : Reporting Strategy for Multiple Audiences: 6 Tips for Getting Started
The components of your executive summary depend on what is included in the overall larger document. Executive summary elements may also vary depending on the type of document (business plan, project, report, etc.), but there are several components that are considered universal.
These are the main elements you should include:
Methods of analyzing the problem
Solutions to the problem, the ‘why now’ segment, well-defined conclusion.
The purpose of the summary should typically be included in the introduction as an opening statement. Explain what you aim to achieve with the document and communicate the value of your desired objective.
This part is supposed to grab your reader’s attention, so make sure they pay extra attention when writing it.
Problems are an unavoidable element in modern-day businesses, even in the most successful companies.
The second thing your executive summary needs to outline is what specific problem you are dealing with. It could be anything from product plans and customer feedback to sales revenue and marketing strategies.
Define the problems clearly so all the members know which areas need fixing.
Problem analysis methods are key for identifying the causes of the issue.
While figuring out the problems and the methods to solve them is immensely important, you shouldn’t overlook the things that caused them. This will help you from avoiding similar issues in the future.
Now that you’ve introduced the stakeholders to the problems, it’s time to move on to your solutions. Think of a few different ways that could solve the issue and include as many details as you can.
This is one of the most important parts of your executive summary.
The ‘Why Now’ segment showcases why the problem needs to be solved in a timely manner. You don’t want the readers to get the impression that there is plenty of time to fix the issue.
By displaying urgency in your summary, your report will have a much bigger impact.
One of the ways to display urgency visually is by adding performance benchmarks to your report. In case your business is not performing well as other companies within your industry, only one image showcasing which metrics are below the median could make a compelling case for the reader.
For example, if you have discovered that your churn rate is much higher than for an average SaaS company, this may be a good indication that you have issues with poor customer service, poor marketing, pricing issues, potentially outdated product features, etc.
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Lastly, you should end your executive summary with a well-defined conclusion.
Make sure to include a recap of the problems, solutions, and the overall most important KPIs from the document.
Okay, so you understand the basics of executive summaries and why they are so important. However, you still aren’t sure how to write one.
Here are some of the best practices you can use to create amazing executive summaries that will impress your key stakeholders and high-ranking members.
Write it Last
Grab their attention, use appropriate language, talk strategy, include forecasts, highlight funding needs, make it short.
The most natural way to write your executive summary is by writing it at the end of your report/business plan.
This is because you will already have gone through all the most important information and data that should later be included.
A good suggestion is to take notes of all the significant KPIs that you think should be incorporated in the summary, it will make it easier for you to later categorize the data and you will have a clearer overview of the key parts of the report.
You may think that you already know which data you are going to include, but once you wrap up your report, you will probably run into certain things that you forgot to implement. It’s much easier to create an executive summary with all the data segmented in one place, than to rewrite it later.
While your primary goal when creating the executive summary is to make it informative, you also have to grab the attention of your readers so that you can motivate them to read the rest of the document.
Once they finish reading the last few sentences of the summary, the audience should be looking forward to checking out the remanding parts to get the full story.
If you are having trouble with finding ways to capture the reader’s attention, you can ask some of your colleagues from the sales department to lend a hand. After all, that’s their specialty.
One more important element is the type of language you use in the summary. Keep in mind who will be reading the summary, your language should be adjusted to a group of executives.
Make the summary understandable and avoid using complicated terms that may cause confusion, your goal is to feed the stakeholders with important information that will affect their decision-making.
This doesn’t only refer to the words that you use, the way in which you provide explanation should also be taken into consideration. People reading the report should be able to easily and quickly understand the main pain points that you highlighted.
You should have a specific part in your executive summary where you will focus on future strategies. This part should include information regarding your project, target market, program, and the problems that you think should be solved as soon as possible.
Also, you should provide some useful insights into the overall industry or field that your business operates in. Showcase some of the competitive advantages of your company and specific marketing insights that you think the readers would find interesting.
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Make one of the sections revolve around financial and sales forecasts for the next 1-3 years. Provide details of your breakeven points, such as where the expenses/revenues are equal and when you expect certain profits from your strategies.
This practice is mainly useful for business plans, but the same principle can be applied to reports. You can include predictions on how your overall objectives and goals will bring profit to the company.
Related : How Lone Fir Creative Uses Databox to Forecast, Set, & Achieve Agency & Client Goals
Don’t forget to talk about the funding needs for your projects since there is a high chance that investors will find their way to the executive summary as well.
You can even use a quotation from an influential figure that supports your upcoming projects. Include the costs that will incur but also provide profitability predictions that will persuade the investors to fund your projects.
While your report should include all of the most important metrics and data, aim for maximum conciseness.
Don’t include any information that may be abundant and try to keep the executive summary as short as possible. Creating a summary that takes up dozens of pages will lose its original purpose.
With a concise summary and clear communication of your messages, your readers will have an easy time understanding your thoughts and then take them into consideration.
Also, one last tip is to use a positive tone throughout the summary. You want your report to exude confidence and reassure the readers.
PRO TIP: How Well Are Your Marketing KPIs Performing?
Like most marketers and marketing managers, you want to know how well your efforts are translating into results each month. How much traffic and new contact conversions do you get? How many new contacts do you get from organic sessions? How are your email campaigns performing? How well are your landing pages converting? You might have to scramble to put all of this together in a single report, but now you can have it all at your fingertips in a single Databox dashboard.
Our Marketing Overview Dashboard includes data from Google Analytics and HubSpot Marketing with key performance metrics like:
- Sessions . The number of sessions can tell you how many times people are returning to your website. Obviously, the higher the better.
- New Contacts from Sessions . How well is your campaign driving new contacts and customers?
- Marketing Performance KPIs . Tracking the number of MQLs, SQLs, New Contacts and similar will help you identify how your marketing efforts contribute to sales.
- Email Performance . Measure the success of your email campaigns from HubSpot. Keep an eye on your most important email marketing metrics such as number of sent emails, number of opened emails, open rate, email click-through rate, and more.
- Blog Posts and Landing Pages . How many people have viewed your blog recently? How well are your landing pages performing?
Now you can benefit from the experience of our Google Analytics and HubSpot Marketing experts, who have put together a plug-and-play Databox template that contains all the essential metrics for monitoring your leads. It’s simple to implement and start using as a standalone dashboard or in marketing reports, and best of all, it’s free!
You can easily set it up in just a few clicks – no coding required.
To set up the dashboard, follow these 3 simple steps:
Step 1: Get the template
Step 2: Connect your HubSpot and Google Analytics accounts with Databox.
Step 3: Watch your dashboard populate in seconds.
No one expects you to become an expert executive summary writer overnight. Learning how to create great and meaningful summaries will inevitably take some time.
With the above-mentioned best practices in mind, you should also pay attention to avoiding certain mistakes that could reduce the value of your summaries.
Here are some examples.
Don’t use jargon
Avoid going into details, the summary should be able to stand alone, don’t forget to proofread.
From project stakeholders to C-level executives, everyone should be able to easily understand and read the information you gather in your summary.
Keep in mind, you are probably much more familiar with some of the technical terms that your departments use since you are closer to the daily work and individual tasks than your stakeholders.
Read your summary once again after you finish it to make sure there are no jargons you forgot to elaborate on.
Remember, your summary should be as short as possible, but still include all the key metrics and KPIs. There is no reason to go into details of specific projects, due dates, department performances, etc.
When creating the summary, ask yourself twice whether the information you included truly needs to be there.
Of course, there are certain details that bring value to the summary, but learn how to categorize the useful ones from the unnecessary ones.
While you will know your way around the project, that doesn’t apply to the readers.
After wrapping up the summary, go over it once again to see whether it can stand on its own. This means checking out if there is any sort of context that the readers will need in order to understand the summary.
If the answer is yes, you will have to redo the parts that can’t be understood by first-time readers.
Your executive summary is prone to changes, so making a typo isn’t the end of the world, you can always go back and fix it.
However, it’s not a bad idea to ask one of your colleagues to proofread it as well, just so you have an additional set of eyes.
Using reporting tools such as dashboards for executive reports can provide you with a birds-eye view of your company’s most important KPIs and data.
These dashboards work as visualization tools that will make all the important metrics much more understandable to your internal stakeholders.
Since executive reports on their own don’t include any visual elements such as graphs or charts, these dashboards basically grant them superpowers.
Executive reporting dashboards also make the decision-making process easier since there won’t be any misunderstandings regarding the meaning of the data.
Not only will you be able to gather the data in real-time, but you can also connect different sources onto the dashboard can use the visuals for performance comparisons.
Interested in giving executive report dashboards a try? Let’s check out some of the best examples.
Marketing Performance Dashboard
Customer support performance dashboard, financial overview dashboard, saas management dashboard, sales kpi dashboard.
To stay on top of your key user acquisition metrics, such as visit to leads conversion rates, email traffic, blog traffic, and more, you can use this Marketing Performance Dashboard .
You can pull in data from advanced tools such as HubSpot Marketing and Google Analytics to get a full overview of how your website generates leads.
Some of the things you will learn through this dashboard are:
- Which traffic sources are generating the most amount of leads
- How to track which number of users are new to your website
- How to compare the traffic you are getting from your email with blog traffic
- How to stay on top of lead generation goals each month
- How to be sure that your marketing activities are paying off
The key metrics included are bounce rate, new users, page/session, pageview, and average session duration.
You can use the Customer Support Performance Dashboard to track the overall performance of your customer service and check out how efficient individual agents are.
This simple and customizable dashboard will help you stay in touch with new conversation numbers, open/closed conversations by teammates, number of leads, and much more.
Also, you will get the answers to questions such as:
- How many new conversations did my customer support agents deal with yesterday/last week/last month?
- How many conversations are currently in progress?
- In which way are customer conversations tagged on Intercom?
- How to track the number of leads that the support team is generating?
- What is the best way to measure the performance of my customer support team?
Some of the key metrics are leads, open conversations, new conversations, tags by tag name, closed conversations, and more.
Want to know how much income your business generated last month? How to measure the financial health of your business? How about figuring out the best way to track credit card purchases?
You can track all of these things and more by using the Financial Overview Dashboard .
This free customizable dashboard will help you gain an insight into all of your business’s financial operations, cash flow, bank accounts, sales, expenses, and plenty more.
Understanding your company from a financial standpoint is one of the most important ingredients of good decision-making.
With key metrics such as gross profit, net income, open invoices, total expenses, and dozens more – all gathered in one financial reporting software , you will have no problems staying on top of your financial activities.
Use this SaaS Management Dashboard to have a clear overview of your business’s KPIs in real-time. This customizable dashboard will help you stay competitive in the SaaS industry by providing you with comprehensive data that can you can visualize, making it more understandable.
You will be able to:
- See how your company is growing on an annual basis
- Have a detailed outline of your weakest and strongest months
- Determine which strategies are most efficient in driving revenue
The key metrics included in this dashboard are recurring revenue, churn by type, MRR changes, and customer changes.
Do you want to monitor your sales team’s output and outcomes? Interested in tracking average deal sizes, number of won deals, new deals created, and more?
This Sales KPI Dashboard can help you do just that.
It serves as a perfect tool for sales managers that are looking for the best way to create detailed overviews of their performances.
By connecting your HubSpot account to this customizable dashboard, you can learn:
- What’s the average deal size
- The number of open, closed, and lost deals each month
- How much revenue you can expect from the new deals
- How your business is progressing towards the overall sales goals
Although you probably understand what your executive summary should include by now, you may still need a bit of help with creating a clear outline to follow.
We thought about that too. Here are some template examples that will help you create executive summaries for different kinds of business needs.
Here is an executive summary template for a business plan:
- [Company profile (with relevant history)]
- [Company contact details]
- [Description of products and/or services]
- [Unique proposition]
- [Competitive advantage]
- [Intellectual property]
- [Development status]
- [Market opportunity]
- [Target market]
- [Funding needs]
- [Potential price of goods]
- [Projected profit margins for year one and two]
- [Summarize main points]
Executive summary template for marketing plan:
- [Product description]
- [Unique customer characteristics]
- [Customer spending habits]
- [Relationship to product]
- [Access channels]
- [Value and credibility of product]
- [Product competitive advantage]
- [Creative outlook]
- [Goal statement]
- [Forecasted cost]
- [Next week]
- [Next month]
Executive summary template for a research report
- [Project topic]
- [Name | Date]
- [Report introduction]
- [Research methods]
Executive summary template for project executive
- [Project name]
- [Program name]
- [Project lead]
- [Prepared by]
- [Project milestones]
- [Status overviews]
- [New requests]
- [Issues summary]
- [Project notes]
For the longest time, writing executive reports has been seen as a grueling and time-consuming process that will require many sleepless nights to get the job done right.
While there is plenty of truth to this, modern automated reporting software has revolutionized these writing nightmares.
Databox is one of those tools.
With Databox, you will be able to connect data from multiple sources into one comprehensive dashboard. Also, you are going to gain access to different types of charts and graphs that you can use for data visualization and make the report much more understandable to the readers.
Using a modernized tool like Databox will provide you with a faster, more accurate, and more efficient reporting process.
This advanced software allows you easily create your own customizable reports that can be adjusted in real-time as soon as new data emerges.
Who says executive reporting has to be a tedious process? Sign up for our free trial and see how easy creating executive reports can be.
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How to write an executive summary
Multi-page documents are commonplace in business environments.
Proposals, research documents, business reports, and other paperwork are critical to achieving buy-in and funding from both clients and internal stakeholders.
Just one problem: Time is a finite resource.
Nobody wants to read a multi-page document without a full understanding of what it is or why it matters.
You need a way to briefly explain what your document is about, what it contains, and why it’s important.
That’s exactly what an executive summary is designed to do.
Let’s take a closer look at how to write one.
What is an executive summary?
An executive summary is a concise overview of a larger document, such as a business plan or report.
It summarizes key points and important information from the document in order to provide decision makers, project stakeholders, and other key readers with a clear understanding of its overall content.
An effective executive summary should be written in an easily digestible form that quickly conveys the main idea and purpose of its larger document.
Think of it as both a summary of what’s inside and a preview of what to expect.
Overall, the goal of the executive summary is to act as a report-in-brief.
But, in proposals and other sales documents, the summary should also work to sell the premise of your document by consolidating the main points of your proposal into a single, streamlined overview.
Where does an executive summary go?
The executive summary goes at the front of your document, usually after a title or cover page.
Many proposals place the document before the table of contents to ensure that it’s the first item someone reads when opening the document.
This is done because the sole purpose of the executive summary is to provide an overview of the document, similar to an abstract in an academic paper.
What should be included in an executive summary?
An executive summary is written to summarize the main points in a document.
The document should distinguish between the most important highlights and leave out less significant information.
Effective executive summaries capture key objectives, outcomes, methodologies and findings in a few sentences or paragraphs.
Here are a few items you might want to include:
- A brief overview of the document’s purpose.
- A summary of any major talking points.
- Key statistics, data, or similar information.
- Estimated timelines, budgets, etc.
- Relevant supporting details (when necessary).
Remember : The goal is to provide readers with a clear understanding of why the document what written and what it contains.
From the perspective of sales proposals, executive summaries also need to entice a stakeholder to turn the page and find out more about your intended product, service, or solution.
Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when writing an effective summary.
You can also use our free template to help you out!
1. Write a compelling intro paragraph
The executive summary should have a brilliant introductory paragraph.
If potential clients only skim your proposal, be sure the first thing they are likely to read is one of the strongest components of your entire proposal.
This intro paragraph should be attention-getting from the start, both in the information it covers and how it addresses the reader.
The content should be specific and targeted.
While potential clients are looking for real evidence of demonstrated skills and unique abilities, your introductory paragraph does more than demonstrate authority.
A strong introductory paragraph should let readers know that they’re in the right place and that the document they are about to commit to reading is intended to solve their specific problem or solution.
As a reminder, the general purpose of any proposal is to sell a product or service.
Your executive summary should sell the main idea, and your introductory paragraph is the starting point.
2. Provide a thoughtful aim to your audience
Proposals and long-form documents should always be targeted to a specific audience .
In business, that audience will be a project stakeholder or review board.
Always keep the goals of the reader in mind while writing your document. In the executive summary, match the solution in your proposal with the interests and goals of your target audience.
Even when using a template , a proposal should be tailored to each client’s unique needs and problems.
Take the time in your summary to identify the issue facing the client — such as a need for a new marketing strategy , loss of sales, importance of a redesigned website, etc. — and point out how your solution addresses those issues.
Once this problem has been identified, offer well-researched, substantiated information about this problem.
Facts, figures, and relevant details are important to the client and will help set you up as an expert who knows a great deal about their company’s specific issues.
After the problem has been named, continue the company-focused aim by showing how your proposed solution will be a success.
An excellent method is to present facts concerning issues, followed quickly by practical yet unique solutions that are designed particularly for the client.
3. Offer up an identifiable goal
A potential client must be able to see just what it is you and your company can do for them.
While solutions and methods are a key part of your executive summary and the proposal in general, what matters most to clients is what the results of these solutions will be.
Demonstrate to your client what great returns they will get from your proposal.
Again, citing figures generated from strong, client-specific research is the key to success here.
Don’t be too general when offering up solutions and results, however.
Simply telling your client that your methods will “increase sales” is not good enough.
Utilize research papers and projections based on realistic market potential as well as examples of past success, and give descriptive and attractive probable outcomes.
Clients love to see what gains your work will bring them, and thorough research is so important in exploring and determining what these gains will be.
4. Pay close attention to detail
Following closely on that last element, attention to detail is paramount throughout the entire executive summary. Nothing ruins the hard work on a proposal more than sloppy writing, grammatical mistakes, or obvious errors.
Most proposals, especially those responding to RFPs and open invitations, are solicited as part of a competitive process. There will be other organizations bidding for the same work and, often, competition will be stiff.
Well-written, polished proposals stand out. Level the playing field by checking and rechecking for any errors. It helps to have a fresh set of eyes to proofread your document for you.
This is a basic element for success. Once this is in place, you can add the elements above to go above and beyond, and hopefully land that next business deal.
5. Use a template to get it done more quickly
PandaDoc offers you many, many free business templates to help you jumpstart your proposal process.
- A sample Business Plan Template or one of our industry-specific usiness Plan templates .
- A sample Sales Proposal Template or one of our industry-specific Business Proposal templates .
Or you can go ahead and create your own templates to reuse, send online and track easily!
6. Write your executive summary last
Even though an executive summary should be at the front of your document, it’s usually best to save it for last.
Because the contents of your executive summary relies on the information compiled in the rest of your document.
Writing it at the end of the process, once you have all of the other sections completed, allows you to summarize and review all of your key points in one concise document.
This gives you an advantage when presenting your proposal as it can quickly provide decision makers with a comprehensive overview of your full offering.
Additionally, having all other elements complete helps to ensure that nothing relevant has been missed from the executive summary.
1. Steer clear of sweeping generalizations
An easy trap to fall into when creating an executive summary, or any part of a proposal is to speak with sweeping generalizations or cliched statements.
This should be avoided as these repetitive and oft-heard ideas can have the effect of lumping you alongside your competitors.
Standing out involves offering unique and valuable information to your client. Honest appraisals and truthful promises are what sell, not overused, recycled ideas and hollow claims.
It is important to review your summary — and your complete business proposal — repeatedly, rewriting and polishing to produce a creative, professional piece of work that you will be proud and excited to share with potential clients.
2. Don’t get technical
Your executive summary is essentially an elevator pitch: long enough to cover the main points, but far too short to go into the weeds with technical details.
As a rule of thumb, technical or in-depth explanations belong to the main body of your report.
The executive summary of your business plan, proposal, or report is designed to grab your reader’s attention and get them excited about what’s to come in the larger document.
Your pitch, regardless of how technical the longer report is, should be written to a layperson’s understanding of what you’re about to offer.
While you’re at it, ditch the jargon .
Clear, concise, and unequivocal language is what you should be going for.
3. Don’t get carried away
As excited as you might be about the prospect of winning a bid or acquiring funding, remember to go easy on the length.
Many sources suggest that executive summaries should adhere to a specific length — usually one or two pages, at most.
This isn’t necessarily the case.
There is no hard and fast cutoff for an executive summary.
Sometimes, the main points of a proposal can be summarized in a few paragraphs. Other times, especially for lengthier documents, it might take one or two pages.
Consider the overall length of your document and adjust accordingly.
The idea is to make your reader curious about the rest of your business plan, report, or proposal.
Often, a one-page executive summary, that captures the important points highlighted in the longer document, will suffice for a 20-page report.
As a rule, executive summaries should be no more than five percent of the overall document.
4. Don’t only talk about yourself
There is no doubt that your company history, experience, and credentials can plan a major role in how you approach a project.
In many cases, the experience your team brings to a project may be what sets your proposal apart from similar offers by other competitors.
But the executive summary isn’t the place to give the story of your company’s journey from humble beginnings to the shining star it is today.
The reader isn’t interested in all that.
Stay focused on your reader, their problems, and the solutions that you can offer. Define the problem, define the goal, address the issues, and propose a solution.
Curious about how to craft an executive summary for your specific document?
Here are some common use cases and how to approach them.
How to write an executive summary for a business plan
When you’re developing a business plan, potential investors, financiers, or other stakeholders will often want to see an executive summary at the beginning to get the 30,000 foot-overview of the plan.
You’ll want to distill the entire plan down into a few paragraphs of concrete summarization with the main points, supported by contextual information that’s important to understand the proposed idea.
Executive summary for a startup business
For startup businesses, the goal is to acquire capital.
This could be in the form of equity financing, government grants, or business loans from banks, the Small Business Administration (SBA), and other lending institutions.
Regardless of the funding source you choose, you need to make a solid case for your business.
Your executive summary should touch on each of the following items (drawn from the sections of your business plan):
- Describe the business opportunity : In the first paragraph, provide a brief overview of the gap you’ve identified in the market.
- Explain how your startup takes advantage of the opportunity : You’ll want to explain how your business serves the market.
- Describe your target market : Provide an overview of your target customer base.
- Discuss your business model : Outline your products/services, and explain why they appeal to your target market.
- Outline your sales and marketing strategy : Briefly describe the marketing plans you have for your products/services.
- Describe your competition : Define your strategy for getting a piece of the market share pie and the competitive advantage you offer.
- Financial analysis : Provide a summary of your financial plan and include some projections while you’re at it.
- Describe the management team : Give a brief overview of their unique skill set and the value they bring to your venture.
- Provide an implementation plan : Highlight some key points on what’s required to take your business from its current planning stage to the point of letting customers walk in the door.
Executive summary for an established business
Both the executive summary and the business plan for an established company takes a slightly different approach.
It is focused on providing information on the firm’s growth plans, achievements, outlook, etc.
Often, business plans for established companies materialize when the company needs to pivot or expand, or when the company changes hands and comes under new leadership.
In this case, your executive summary may need to summarize the present state of the business, what it does, and where it should go by summarizing a different collection of points:
- State the company’s mission : What is the purpose of the firm?
- Provide some company information : Describe the product/services it offers, business locations, and key statistics in bulleted form.
- Highlight achievements : Outline the evolution and growth of the business over the years in terms of its customer base, market share, profitability, valuation, and revenue.
- Include a financial summary : This section is important particularly if the goal of the full business plan is to seek funding.
- Describe the company’s future goals : Provide an overview of the outlook for the firm.
How to write an executive summary for a marketing proposal
The goal of a marketing proposal is to help the prospective client to understand not only what marketing tactics you’ll employ and how much your services will cost but how the bigger picture will work.
This is what you should talk about in your executive summary for a marketing proposal : What outcomes should the client expect and what will it be like to work with you?
In this scenario, the goal of the executive summary is to sell your product or service and compel your reader to move forward.
Draw from the following sections of your proposal to build your summary:
- Introduction : Explain the project and the goal of the marketing plan.
- Company information : Provide a brief background about your company, its structure, and customer base.
- Project management team : List the key players in the management team along with their skills and respective roles in achieving the marketing goals.
- Market analysis : Provide an overview of the marketplace for your products/services, a list of bullet points detailing the trends that influence them, and the key drivers involved.
- Products and Services : Outline the USPs for your products/services and their competitive advantage in the marketplace.
- Marketing strategy : Describe the target audience and the methods that will be employed to reach them.
- Financial planning and projections : Provide information related to the short and long term marketing activities, budget, projected ROI, and related metrics.
- Goals : Summarize the objectives of the marketing campaign and the strategies that will be deployed to them.
How to write an executive summary for a report
Another common use case for the executive summary is to include it as a preface to a report document . It’ll offer the reader perspective as to how the following report and information impact the larger business case.
So, arm the reader with a summary of the report’s objective, methodology, and key findings so that she doesn’t need to connect the dots as she is reading the full report.
Here’s how to write an executive summary for a report.
- Write an opening statement : rovide a brief background on the scope of the report.
- Explain the purpose of the research : This has to do with the objective of the study.
- Highlight the methodology: Describe the fact-finding methods used acquiring information and the analysis techniques employed.
- Outline the key findings : Explain what the outcome of the study was and the key takeaway you want your readers to be aware of.
- Describe your recommendations : You can also include a justification at this point.
That should cover everything you ever needed to know about executive summaries.
If you’re interested in learning more about how PandaDoc can help simplify, streamline, and supercharge your entire document workflow, take a peek at our features right here or get a front-row seat with an expert by signing up for a free demo .
Originally published June 20, 2013, updated February 3, 2023
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How to Write an Effective Executive Summary
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What is an Executive Summary?
While Alchemer has powerful built-in reporting features that are easy to use and present, sometimes you need an executive summary to preface the results of any particularly large or important online survey or research project. An executive summary efficiently summarizes a larger business plan while communicating key findings and takeaways from your research, as well as proposed courses of action.
For example, if a company performs a competitor analysis prior to deciding whether or not to move in a different strategic direction, a business plan would be put together to articulate findings and suggest the next steps. This business plan would open with an executive summary.
As such, an executive summary quickly becomes the most important element of any business plan.
Executive summaries should include the following components:
- An explanation of why the research was performed
- The results that the research yielded
- Proposed suggestions for how management or leadership should best alter strategies based on the findings of research
Writing an executive summary can be a daunting task. It can be difficult to know where to start, what to write about, or how it should be structured.
In this article, we’ll walk you through how to write an effective executive summary.
How to Write an A+ Executive Summary
Write it last..
No matter what online survey software you use, the research you perform is only truly valuable when it’s able to inform business decisions and strategies.
Once your online survey is performed, there is work to be done in terms of packaging your findings to leadership in a way that easily communicates the need for a new strategy. The most straightforward way to do this is to create a business plan that includes all of your research, findings, and suggestions. This business plan naturally requires an executive summary.
Crafting the executive summary of your business plan after writing every other part of the report is the best practice. This ensures that you can build out a summary that represents the remainder of the plan as accurately as possible.
Capture the reader’s attention.
While an executive summary should be informative in nature, it should also capture the audience’s attention immediately so that they are motivated to read the remainder of the document. Even while crafting an objective presentation of your research findings and the proposed direction that your business, never forget that you want to inspire excitement in your audience!
At the end of your executive summary, your audience — whether they be an investor, banker, advisor, or executive — should be eager to read on. Your executive summary should be thorough, but it should not reveal everything. Your audience should be encouraged by the summary to read the remainder of your report if they want the full story.
Make sure your executive summary can stand on its own.
With a clearly defined structure, an executive summary can be a standalone piece. Without one, however, it would need the support of the entire report to make an impact. Strive for the former, not the latter.
If your executive summary can’t stand on its own, consider revising it until it can.
A tightly informative introduction, body, and conclusion should allow someone with no prior knowledge of your business or industry to read your executive summary and understand the key findings from your research, and the primary elements of your business plan.
Think of an executive summary as a more condensed version of your business plan.
Your executive summary should be directly aligned with the rest of your larger business plan. While writing your executive summary, read through your business plan and take the most vital information from each section. Numbers, facts, and goals in your business plan should be consistent with your executive summary.
Your executive summary should highlight the best features of your business plan. For example, if you’ve identified a primary advantage you should be leveraging, your executive summary should include this advantage.
Include supporting research.
Support the claims you make in your executive summary and the business plan with research, and cite this research via footnotes in your business plan.
Boil it down as much as possible.
One of the most essential aspects of an executive summary is succinctness. You should condense your summary as much as possible, with the goal of getting all of the vital information onto one page. The more succinct you are, the clearer your message will be, and the more confidence your readers will have in your plan.
Start with a BANG.
Including a thought-provoking statistic, or an inspiring and relevant quote at the beginning of your summary will capture the reader’s attention and get them thinking on the track that you want them to.
Keep things positive.
Your executive summary should focus only on the positive elements of your research and business plan. Leave the discussion of risks, obstacles, and challenges for the body section of your plan. Keep a positive tone and use upbeat language in your summary.
The Five-Paragraph Formula for an Effective Executive Summary
An effective executive summary can be broken down into five key paragraphs.
Paragraph 1: Provide an overview of your business.
As mentioned, you can get your readers thinking along the track you’d like them to by including a quote or statistic in the first paragraph of your executive summary. This first paragraph is also where you should provide the name and nature of your business, and relevant insights about your industry.
Paragraph 2: Discuss target market, competition, and marketing strategy.
Your second paragraph should include a clear and concise definition of your target market, and the need or pain point that your business will aim to solve.
Next, outline the competitive landscape of your industry, and the advantage that your particular business possesses.
Your marketing strategy should hinge on the three primary ways that you plan on reaching your target market. Focusing on just the three strongest points of your marketing strategy will maintain precision, and get your readers excited to explore the rest of your plan.
Paragraph 3: Provide an overview of operational highlights.
The third paragraph of your executive summary should provide operational highlights such as where your company offices will be located, whether or not you will incorporate or remain a sole proprietor, or whether you will serve as a brick and mortar or online business.
Paragraph 4: Show forecasting.
Here you should make sales forecasting projections for one and two years after your business plan has been implemented. Calculate your break even point, and inform your audience of when you project to turn a profit.
Paragraph 5: Detail your investment needs.
If your business requires financing, this is where you should go into detail about the investment needs of your business. The number you include here should be clear, and should align with your projections from the previous paragraph.
You should now have the tools and knowledge to draft an effective executive summary to back up your online survey findings. Hopefully, this article has alleviated some of the overwhelming feelings that come with getting the ball rolling.
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You are here: Influencer Marketing Hub » Social Media » Executive Summary Examples & Tips to Write Your Own
Executive Summary Examples & Tips to Write Your Own
If you're an influencer or content creator, you might not think you need to worry about business plans and executive summaries. But having at least an executive summary can go a long way toward showing your professionalism and how seriously you take the work that you do. We've pulled together a few executive summary examples that you can adapt and use for your own business.
Executive summaries can help you convince investors, venture capitalists, and the brands you approach for partnerships and sponsorship agreements that you're worth the investment. And some of the best executive summaries are just a single page long! Even if you've never heard of an executive summary before, you can put one together in less than an afternoon and it will give you more clarity around your business, where you want to go, and what you need to do to get there.
So, what exactly is an executive summary? And do you really need one?
3 Executive Summary Examples + Tips to Write Your Own:
What is an executive summary, 3 executive summary examples, how long should an executive summary be, parts of an executive summary.
- Executive Summary Best Practices & Tips
Frequently Asked Questions
An executive summary is an overview of a certain document, often a summary of a full business plan. The length of your executive summary and what you should include will change depending on how you're using it, your industry, and the type of work you do. They're typically no more than 1–2 pages long and will give the reader all the most important information they need to make a decision about whether or not they want to partner with you.
Executive summaries aren't written in stone. Instead, they're living documents, which means that you can — and should — change them as your business grows and changes. For influencers and creators , this might mean keeping your social media metrics up-to-date and updating your competitors, niches you work with, and the services you offer.
Time is a limited and valuable resource. If you want the right people to use their precious time to learn more about you, you need to make it easy for them. Your executive summary should be comprehensive enough to cover all the pertinent information the reader will need to make a decision about you while staying within 1–2 pages (preferably just a single page).
Here are three executive summary examples and executive summary templates you can use to create your own.
Executive Summary Example #1
This executive summary is built around the launch of a new product — a new watch series. The summary starts off with two interesting statistics that are designed to keep the reader engaged and reading. In fact, this summary includes several statistics, showing that they've done their research into the need for a new watch series.
Executive Summary Example #2
In this example, the company is seeking funding. As you can see, the purpose of the executive summary has changed the elements that are included and the order in which they're listed on the page.
Executive Summary Example #3
This executive summary example is a bit longer than the others we've included. This might be overkill for most influencers and content creators, but we've included it here because if you're already running a successful membership site or subscription-based business , you might be looking for funding or a business loan to expand your business.
Your executive summary should be as short and concise as possible. Remember, you're dealing with busy people with limited time to devote to learning about your brand and services. We recommend keeping your executive summary under two pages.
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While there are no set guidelines for how your executive summary should be organized, there are certain details about your brand, products, and services that you'll want to be sure to cover. Here's the information we recommend including in your executive summary to ensure that you're including all the pertinent information your potential partners may need.
Details About Your Product or Service
Include details about your product or service along with the problem you solve. Don't worry, you don't need to offer a solution to poverty, you just need to solve a specific problem that your readers might need to solve. For influencers, this could mean sharing the benefits of partnering with you to promote a specific product (overlapping audiences, your engagement, previous influencer marketing campaign results, etc).
Description of Your Target Market
For influencers and content creators, the description of your target market varies slightly from what a brand seeking investors might include in this section. That's because your target market is probably the person who is reading your executive summary but their target audience is the one you should be considering. So, instead of describing your target market as brands in a certain industry seeking influencers, your target market for your executive summary will be whomever you can reach for the brand you're pitching.
Information About Your Competitors
Anybody who has a product or service to offer has competitors. Briefly share what it is that your competitors offer and how you differ from them. This is a great opportunity to really highlight what sets you apart from other influencers or creators.
Most executive summaries will include a section about the company's finances. For influencers and creators, your readers probably aren't going to care how much money you've earned. Instead, they're going to want to know how much you've been able to bring in for the brands you represent. Here you'll want to highlight any monetary results as well as details about any improvements you've driven for traffic, engagement, referrals, and any other social media metric or other benchmark showing that you get results.
Details About Your Team
If you have a team or regularly partner with other influencers or creators, this is where you'll mention those details. Brands want to know who they're dealing with, so if you outsource any of your content creation, videography, photography, or social media posting, you'll want to share that information here.
A lot of the time, businesses use their executive summary as a way to win over investors to fund them. For influencers and creators, this section will focus on what type of relationship you're looking for. If you have specific rates, share them here. If you offer packages or trade services for products , mention that too. This section is where you let the reader know how you expect to be compensated for the work you do for them.
Executive Summary Best Practices & Tips
Writing an executive summary can seem overwhelming if you have no experience with business writing or have never created a business plan. Here are some executive summary best practices and tips to help you work through creating a stellar executive summary that will have brands lining up to work with you.
Write Your Business Plan First
An executive summary is just that — a summary. It's the most important piece of your overall business plan. You may think that you don't need a business plan as an influencer or creator, but having one makes you look incredibly polished and professional. That's why we recommend writing your business plan and then using that plan to craft your executive summary.
Write an Engaging Introduction
Just like any content, your executive summary needs to grab the reader's attention and keep them engaged. The introduction to your executive summary should include a hook, something like an interesting statistic about your industry or niche, or maybe a compelling story. The introduction should be relevant to your products or services and industry as well as give readers insight into what they can expect from the rest of the summary.
Define the Problem You Can Solve
Clearly define the problem that you can solve for the brands you're pitching. What is the business need behind your product or services? What are they missing out on by not partnering with you? This is where you let your readers know that you understand their pain and can provide a solution.
Offer a Solution
Now that you've shown your reader that you understand their pain and illustrated how their business is limited without you, it's time to offer a solution. This is the "dream state," what their business can achieve with your help.
It's time to sell yourself. Let your readers know that you know what you're doing. In this section, you'll include social proof as well as hard results and statistics showing how your previous partners have benefited from your work.
Close With a Call to Action
You should always let people know what their next steps should be. If you don't, they're not going to do anything at all. At the end of your executive summary, tell the reader what to do next. This can be really simple: "If you're ready to drive traffic and increase sales with influencer marketing , let's talk!" along with your contact information.
Set the Tone
The tone you used when writing your executive summary will vary depending on your audience. This requires some research into the brands you're pitching. If you're writing for corporate brands that are more conservative and straightlaced, you'll want to use more professional language. For brands that are more quirky and fun, your executive summary will be more lighthearted. This isn't a terms and conditions page, so be sure to use personal pronouns like "I," "we," and "our" instead of stuffy references to "the Company" and "the Client."
Steer Clear of Jargon and Buzzwords
Use language that is clear, concise, and free from jargon or buzzwords. While you'll be writing for a specific audience, it's important to write in a way that is easy to understand by anyone. Again, research comes into play here. If the brands you're approaching all use the same verbiage, you should absolutely use that language in your executive summary. This sends a signal to the brands that you understand their industry and market. Don't assume that they know the lingo you use as an influencer or creator, however.
Keep It Clear and Concise
As you can see in the executive summary examples we've compiled, your executive summary should be clear and concise while conveying all of the information your reader needs. Don't include more detail than necessary to convey your value and success, and steer clear from listing specific tasks and due dates.
In addition to being clear and concise, your executive summary should be able to exist unsupported. This means that your reader should be able to get all the information they need to make a decision. If they want additional information, they'll ask you for it.
Organize, Edit, and Proofread
Organize your executive summary in a logical manner (take a look at the executive summary examples above for guidance). You'll want to put the most important and salient elements at the beginning of the document. When you're done writing, be sure to edit and proofread your executive summary before sending it off to anyone. We recommend asking a peer or mentor to review it.
Executive Summary: An Important Piece to Any Business Plan
An executive summary is a great way to not only refine your own vision of where you want to go with your business but to share that information with brands you're seeking to partner with. It's a quick and easy way to share the information that matters and with the executive summary examples we've included here, you have everything you need to create your own executive summary that will win you deals.
Why do I need an executive summary?
Executive summaries provide an easy-to-consume snapshot of your products and services that investors or potential partners can review quickly and make a decision. It might be the only information a prospective partner reads about you before they make a decision.
How long should my executive summary be?
Your executive summary should be as short and concise as possible while still conveying all the important information the reader needs to make a decision. There are no universally accepted guidelines, but we recommend keeping your executive summary limited to 1–2 pages.
What should I include in my executive summary?
Your executive summary will likely include: - An introduction - Details about your product or service - A description of your target market - Information about your competitors - A financial overview - Details about your team - Your funding needs
How can I make my executive summary interesting?
Here are tips to keeping readers engaged in your executive summary: 1. Write an engaging introduction 2. Define the problem 3. Offer a solution 4. Provide proof 5. Include a call-to-action
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An executive summary is a thorough overview of a research report or other type of document that synthesizes key points for its readers, saving them time and preparing them to understand the study's overall content. It is a separate, stand-alone document of sufficient detail and clarity to ensure that the reader can completely understand the contents of the main research study. An executive summary can be anywhere from 1-10 pages long depending on the length of the report, or it can be the summary of more than one document [e.g., papers submitted for a group project].
Bailey, Edward, P. The Plain English Approach to Business Writing . (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 73-80.
Importance of a Good Executive Summary
Although an executive summary is similar to an abstract in that they both summarize the contents of a research study, there are several key differences. With research abstracts, the author's recommendations are rarely included, or if they are, they are implicit rather than explicit. Recommendations are generally not stated in academic abstracts because scholars operate in a discursive environment, where debates, discussions, and dialogs are meant to precede the implementation of any new research findings. The conceptual nature of much academic writing also means that recommendations arising from the findings are distributed widely and not easily or usefully encapsulated. Executive summaries are used mainly when a research study has been developed for an organizational partner, funding entity, or other external group that participated in the research . In such cases, the research report and executive summary are often written for policy makers outside of academe, while abstracts are written for the academic community. Professors, therefore, assign the writing of executive summaries so students can practice synthesizing and writing about the contents of comprehensive research studies for external stakeholder groups.
When preparing to write, keep in mind that:
- An executive summary is not an abstract.
- An executive summary is not an introduction.
- An executive summary is not a preface.
- An executive summary is not a random collection of highlights.
Christensen, Jay. Executive Summaries Complete The Report. California State University Northridge; Clayton, John. "Writing an Executive Summary that Means Business." Harvard Management Communication Letter (July 2003): 2-4; Keller, Chuck. "Stay Healthy with a Winning Executive Summary." Technical Communication 41 (1994): 511-517; Murphy, Herta A., Herbert W. Hildebrandt, and Jane P. Thomas. Effective Business Communications . New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997; Vassallo, Philip. "Executive Summaries: Where Less Really is More." ETC.: A Review of General Semantics 60 (Spring 2003): 83-90 .
Structure and Writing Style
Writing an Executive Summary
Read the Entire Document This may go without saying, but it is critically important that you read the entire research study thoroughly from start to finish before you begin to write the executive summary. Take notes as you go along, highlighting important statements of fact, key findings, and recommended courses of action. This will better prepare you for how to organize and summarize the study. Remember this is not a brief abstract of 300 words or less but, essentially, a mini-paper of your paper, with a focus on recommendations.
Isolate the Major Points Within the Original Document Choose which parts of the document are the most important to those who will read it. These points must be included within the executive summary in order to provide a thorough and complete explanation of what the document is trying to convey.
Separate the Main Sections Closely examine each section of the original document and discern the main differences in each. After you have a firm understanding about what each section offers in respect to the other sections, write a few sentences for each section describing the main ideas. Although the format may vary, the main sections of an executive summary likely will include the following:
- An opening statement, with brief background information,
- The purpose of research study,
- Method of data gathering and analysis,
- Overview of findings, and,
- A description of each recommendation, accompanied by a justification. Note that the recommendations are sometimes quoted verbatim from the research study.
Combine the Information Use the information gathered to combine them into an executive summary that is no longer than 10% of the original document. Be concise! The purpose is to provide a brief explanation of the entire document with a focus on the recommendations that have emerged from your research. How you word this will likely differ depending on your audience and what they care about most. If necessary, selectively incorporate bullet points for emphasis and brevity. Re-read your Executive Summary After you've completed your executive summary, let it sit for a while before coming back to re-read it. Check to make sure that the summary will make sense as a separate document from the full research study. By taking some time before re-reading it, you allow yourself to see the summary with fresh, unbiased eyes.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Length of the Executive Summary As a general rule, the correct length of an executive summary is that it meets the criteria of no more pages than 10% of the number of pages in the original document, with an upper limit of no more than ten pages [i.e., ten pages for a 100 page document]. This requirement keeps the document short enough to be read by your audience, but long enough to allow it to be a complete, stand-alone synopsis. Cutting and Pasting With the exception of specific recommendations made in the study, do not simply cut and paste whole sections of the original document into the executive summary. You should paraphrase information from the longer document. Avoid taking up space with excessive subtitles and lists, unless they are absolutely necessary for the reader to have a complete understanding of the original document. Consider the Audience Although unlikely to be required by your professor, there is the possibility that more than one executive summary will have to be written for a given document [e.g., one for policy-makers, one for private industry, one for philanthropists]. This may only necessitate the rewriting of the introduction and conclusion, but it could require rewriting the entire summary in order to fit the needs of the reader. If necessary, be sure to consider the types of audiences who may benefit from your study and make adjustments accordingly. Clarity in Writing One of the biggest mistakes you can make is related to the clarity of your executive summary. Always note that your audience [or audiences] are likely seeing your research study for the first time. The best way to avoid a disorganized or cluttered executive summary is to write it after the study is completed. Always follow the same strategies for proofreading that you would for any research paper. Use Strong and Positive Language Don’t weaken your executive summary with passive, imprecise language. The executive summary is a stand-alone document intended to convince the reader to make a decision concerning whether to implement the recommendations you make. Once convinced, it is assumed that the full document will provide the details needed to implement the recommendations. Although you should resist the temptation to pad your summary with pleas or biased statements, do pay particular attention to ensuring that a sense of urgency is created in the implications, recommendations, and conclusions presented in the executive summary. Be sure to target readers who are likely to implement the recommendations.
Bailey, Edward, P. The Plain English Approach to Business Writing . (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 73-80; Christensen, Jay. Executive Summaries Complete The Report. California State University Northridge; Executive Summaries. [email protected] Colorado State University; Clayton, John. "Writing an Executive Summary That Means Business." Harvard Management Communication Letter , 2003; Executive Summary. University Writing Center. Texas A&M University; Green, Duncan. Writing an Executive Summary. Oxfam’s Research Guidelines series ; Guidelines for Writing an Executive Summary. Astia.org; Markowitz, Eric. How to Write an Executive Summary. Inc. Magazine, September, 15, 2010; Kawaski, Guy. The Art of the Executive Summary. "How to Change the World" blog; Keller, Chuck. "Stay Healthy with a Winning Executive Summary." Technical Communication 41 (1994): 511-517; The Report Abstract and Executive Summary. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing Executive Summaries. Effective Writing Center. University of Maryland; Kolin, Philip. Successful Writing at Work . 10th edition. (Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2013), p. 435-437; Moral, Mary. "Writing Recommendations and Executive Summaries." Keeping Good Companies 64 (June 2012): 274-278; Vassallo, Philip. "Executive Summaries: Todorovic, Zelimir William, PhD. and Frye, Marietta Wolczacka,B.A., B.B.A. "Writing Effective Executive Summaries: An Interdisciplinary Examination." United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship, 2009; " Where Less Really is More." ETC.: A Review of General Semantics 60 (Spring 2003): 83-90 .
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