Tips for Writing an Effective Executive Summary [+ Example]

Learn why excellent executive summaries are a fundamental part of leadership and communication. Plus, get an executive summary example.

Attention spans are at an all-time low. In a world in which we’re constantly being bombarded by advertisements, notifications, emails, texts, and even ordinary distractions, it’s now become more important than ever to be concise in the way in which we deliver important messaging. Whether it be an advertisement for consumers or an executive summary for a recent project you’ve worked on, it’s important to be able to craft your message in an engaging way that keeps your intended audience both attentive and alert. 

Executive summaries boast a unique opportunity to convey any and all pertinent information in a concise manner. Keep reading to unlock expert tips for crafting an effective executive summary. 

What is an executive summary?

An executive summary is a short document or section of a document normally produced by a project lead in an attempt to summarize a project or larger report. These documents are used to summarize large amounts of information so external interested parties can be familiarized with a large body of information quickly and efficiently. 

An executive summary should outline all key points and takeaways from the project or report. It should be detailed but concise and should include an overview of the project, the project’s key objectives and key results, the value of the project, your name, location, and role, in addition to any financial implications of the project. 

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Why are executive summaries important?

An executive summary exists to give all interested parties the opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of a complex subject or lengthy body of copy in one short, easy-to-consume document or section. Executive summaries are extremely important since they serve as a quick and easy way to make sure everyone is aware of all pertinent information. 

5 tips to write an effective executive summary

1Introduce the project 

To write an effective executive summary, you need to first introduce the project. Introducing the project will help provide everyone with key insights and background information that may be needed to understand the rest of the summary. 

2Describe the project’s objectives and key results 

It can be nearly impossible to yield favorable results if you don’t take the time to clearly define and describe the project’s objectives and key results. Similar to the way in which you would describe these metrics before starting a project, it’s equally as important to include your findings in the executive summary. To lead up to the conclusion and the outcome of your project, you’ll need to describe the project’s objectives and key results. These insights will help provide context and lay the groundwork for upcoming sections of your executive summary. 

3Conclude with the value the project offers 

If you’re in charge of writing an executive summary, it’s most likely because you played a fundamental role in the project. As a key stakeholder or project lead, you should be able to convey the value of the project to all interested parties. If you take the time to clearly define the value of the project in the executive summary, all interested parties will be able to draw their own conclusions based on this information.

This section of the executive summary may be what stands between you and leading another project. A fundamental part of leading a project is being able to conclude effectively by drawing key takeaways and insights. These key insights are valuable morsels of information that can be used to shape future decisions and thus, must be included. 

4Include your name and location

As we’ve mentioned, it’s important that recipients of an executive summary have all pertinent information. Your name and location may not seem relevant to the project, but the point of an executive summary is to have all relevant information in one space. Don’t take advantage of the fact that your name and location may be in your email address or sender information. To cover your bases, it’s important that you include this information within the executive summary. Doing so ensures that all interested parties can find any and all information they need in one space. If they have additional questions, they’ll be able to reach out with ease based on the information you’ve provided. 

5Incorporate the financial implications of the project 

Speaking of pertinent information, financial implications are extremely important morsels of information, and all key stakeholders must be advised of them. Including this information in the executive summary will ensure all interested parties are aware of any financial implications and can act accordingly. 

What to avoid when writing an executive summary

1Providing too much detail

Executive summaries should be concise. If you include unnecessary detail, your core message may get lost. It’s important to only include the most important facts and details, like your project objectives and the importance of work. 

2Delegating the task 

If you’re the lead on this task, you need to see it through to fruition. Chances are you’re writing the executive summary because you played a crucial role in the project, so it makes sense that you’re responsible for creating a summary that only contains the project’s most important details. Your project management duties should not be taken lightly. 

3Including information that doesn’t relate to the project

As stated above, you should only include information that pertains directly to the project at hand. These documents are meant to serve as a concise depiction of one specific project, so it’s extremely important to stay on track and write only about the project at hand. 

4Making it too long 

Executive summaries and meant to be short, concise, and informative. Remember, this may be the only snippet of information that interested parties read about your project, so it’s important to keep it short and sweet! Clear and concise communication is key. 

5Exaggerating expectations 

There’s no need to exaggerate expectations or outcomes. When crafting an effective executive summary, it’s important to keep it real and only report the facts. This is a formal document that should be composed of only factual information. 

Executive summary example

Problem Statement 

In recent customer feedback sessions, 56% of customers have expressed a need for a cheaper version of our core product line. In surveys of customers who have chosen competitor sweatshirts, price is mentioned 90% of the time. To best serve our existing customers, and to branch into new markets, we need to develop a series of sweatshirts that we can sell at an appropriate price point for this market.

Proposed Solution 

Our new clothing line will retail for 20% less than our current cheapest option, with the potential for 40%+ cheaper options depending on material and movement. To offer these prices, we will do the following:

·       Outsource production to offset costs 

·       Work with a variety of fabrics and materials that are more readily available

·       Double down on organic content marketing and eliminate ad spend

Value: 

With new offerings between 20% and 40% cheaper than our current cheapest option, we expect to be able to break into this market while still supporting our luxury clothing brand. This new clothing line has the potential to bring in upwards of three million dollars in profits annually, which will help us hit our sales goals and objectives. 

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 considered. 

Final thoughts and next steps: 

Cheaper and varied offerings not only allow us to break into a new market, but will also expand our brand and help us exude inclusivity. With an increased demand for affordable sweatshirts, we expect to increase market share by 4% annually. 

Crafting an effective executive summary is a fundamental part of leadership and clear communication

When written correctly, executive summaries improve communication and demonstrate your stellar project management and leadership abilities. Remember, your executive summary should be concise, informative, and easy to consume. If you consider each one of these tips and tricks, you’ll have no problem creating an executive summary that encompasses all project objectives. 


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About the author

Hannah Ross

Hannah Ross is an experienced content creator and digital strategist with a demonstrated history of working with SaaS startups and technical founders to develop and manage scalable digital marketing campaigns. As a Social Media and Content Marketing Lead in the tech space, Hannah is incredibly passionate about solving complex marketing problems with innovative solutions.

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