What is the secret to a winning report?23 Jun 2016
Whether you’re writing a proposal, a sales report or a tender, the most important part of any lengthy document is the executive summary. If you get this part wrong, then you may find that your work just gathers dust. So is there a secret to a winning report?
What is an executive summary?
It is easier to understand what an executive summary is by first understanding what it should not be. It should not just comprise of a list of everything in the document, nor should it solely hype up the contents. The executive summary needs to persuade the reader that the report has been carefully researched and prepared, and that its content is worthy of the readers time. No questions should be left unanswered and no facts incorrectly presented.
An executive summary is basically a semi-detailed overview of the document. However, it needs to be written in an systematic way to ensure that the facts you don’t want anyone to miss out on are clearly laid out. However, it shouldn’t be a miss-match of copy-and-pasted sentences – it should be original and exemplary.
Why is it more important than the body?
Generally a report is prepared for decision-makers. In an ideal world, every decision-maker would have time to read over and contemplate each finding within. But as you probably know, there is virtually never enough time in the day to do this consistently. You need to think about your audience.
Therefore, the executive summary should act as a stand-alone document where the reader can get a good gist of the most important features in the document and not have to read the rest if they are too time poor.
In most cases your executive summary may be the only part of the document that gets read. Thus, it should be the last thing you write and the section you put in the most time perfecting.
If you have run into trouble writing reports in the past, then maybe it is time to take a training course in business writing at the Institute for Communication Training and Leadership.