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What to Include in an Executive Summary (Templates & Tools)

Learn the essentials of crafting an executive summary: what to include, its key components, best practices, pitfalls to avoid, and real-world examples.

Hadar Peretz

5 minute read

What to include in an executive summary
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Short answer

What to Include in an Executive Summary?

  • Provides Context: Sets the scene and audience needs.

  • Clarifies Objectives: States purpose and significance.

  • Details Approach: Outlines methods and unique tactics.

  • Presents Key Insights: Highlights pivotal revelations and implications.

  • Concludes with Recommendations: Offers actionable steps and future projections.

What is the Purpose of an Executive Summary?

The purpose of an executive summary is to distill extensive information into a concise, engaging overview.

It acts like the highlight reel of a sports match, capturing key moments and insights from a detailed report, allowing readers to grasp the essence without delving deep.

How is an Executive Summary Used?

While executive summaries are often associated with business, their utility stretches beyond that realm.

Role of an Executive Summary in Business Proposals

Similar to how a catchy song hook gets listeners intrigued, an executive summary in a business proposal grabs the client's attention, showcasing the most compelling parts of your proposal and why they should work with you.

Comparing Business Reports vs. Research Paper Summaries

If business reports are pop songs, then research paper summaries are classical music compositions. Both have their structure and audience, but the way they present their summaries might differ in style and depth.

The Importance of the Executive Summary in Financial Documents

Financial documents, often dense with numbers and charts, are like the dense forests of data. The executive summary serves as a map, guiding stakeholders through the forest and pointing out the landmarks.

4 Key Components of Executive Summary

An executive summary serves as a concise overview of a larger document, capturing its essence and guiding readers on its significance.

The four pivotal components ensure clarity, purpose, and direction, making it a valuable tool for decision-makers.

  1. Introduction: What the document is about.

  2. Findings: The core data or discoveries.

  3. Conclusions: What the data or discoveries mean.

  4. Recommendations: What actions should be taken next.

1) Introduction: Establish the Context

To anchor your audience, provide a clear backdrop against which the rest of your summary unfolds.

  • Set the Scene: Like a movie's opening scene, paint a vivid picture of the context or environment of your report or study.

  • Gauge Audience Needs: Delve into what your readers are looking for. Identify their primary concerns, needs, or questions they might have.

  • Direct Messaging: Communicate the essence of your document, ensuring readers recognize its relevance to them.

2) Findings: Present Major Insights

The heart of your summary should address the 'why' behind your document.

  • Purpose Clarification: State why the document exists. What goal or objective is it aiming to achieve?

  • Significance Overview: Highlight the importance of this objective. Why should readers care?

  • Engagement Strategies: Use intriguing facts or provocative questions to emphasize the objective's importance and keep your readers hooked.

3) Conclusions: Define the Core Objective

Outline how you tackled the problem or reached the conclusions presented in your document.

  • Methodological Blueprint: Lay out the methods or processes used to gather information or derive results.

  • Unique Tactics: Describe any novel or distinctive strategies employed and justify their selection.

  • Support with Advantages: Discuss the benefits of your chosen approach, emphasizing its robustness or appropriateness.

4) Recommendations

Wind up your summary with actionable insights or suggestions based on your findings.

  • Detail the Approach: Lay out the methods or processes used to gather information or derive results, highlighting any novel or distinctive strategies employed.

  • Justify Selection: Justify the selection of the strategies used, underscoring their robustness or appropriateness for addressing the objectives.

  • Actionable Items: Outline the steps or actions recommended as a result of your findings to propel forward.

  • Reflection and Future Implications: Revisit the journey briefly, pointing towards potential future implications or developments, and encourage engagement for deeper exploration or discussion.

What Mistakes Should I Avoid in Writing an Executive Summary?

Ah, pitfalls. We've all encountered them in various walks of life. Writing an executive summary is no exception.

  • Using Technical Jargon: Just as a comedian avoids inside jokes that only a few understand, steer clear of language only industry insiders would grasp. Make it accessible.

  • Overwhelming Details: Imagine watching a movie trailer that's an hour long. The essence of an executive summary is brevity. Provide enough to intrigue, but not so much that it loses its purpose.

  • Summary's Independence: Like a stand-alone episode in a TV series, your executive summary should make sense even if the reader never delves into the full document.

  • Lack of Proofreading: Mistakes in an executive summary can be like glaring plot holes in a film—distracting and undermining its effectiveness. Ensure it's polished to perfection.

3 Design Aspects to Include in an Executive Summary

A striking executive summary design doesn't just convey information; it positions your brand as a front-runner in its niche.

Delve into these expert insights to ensure your executive summary captivates and commands attention.

1) Interactive Design Elements

Tired of the same old monotonous report summaries? Let's break the mold.

Interactive elements in your executive summary can significantly boost stakeholder engagement, reinforce memory retention, and allow for fluid narration.

These elements prompt active participation, facilitate dynamic data representation, and make your summaries stand out. This ensures that your message isn't just heard, but resonates deeply.

Recent studies analyzing over 100K executive summaries revealed that those with interactive components had a remarkable 70% increase in engagement compared to traditional summaries.

interactive competition slide

2) Comparing Traditional and Interactive Executive Summaries

Interactive summaries outshine traditional formats in several key aspects, mainly due to their dynamic nature and the active engagement they encourage.

Here are 4 data-backed reasons why interactive executive summaries are more compelling:

  • Engagement Surge: Interactive content can ramp up engagement levels by as much as 50% compared to traditional formats.

  • Memory Retention: Readers are twice as likely to recall details from interactive summaries.

  • Decision-Making Impact: Summaries with interactive elements can boost decision-making conversion rates by 40-50% over static ones.

  • Increased Attention: Stakeholders devote 60% more time engaging with interactive summaries than with static ones.

Static PDF or PPT
Interactive Storydoc

3) Use Storytelling Design Elements

Using executive summary templates ensures consistency, saves time, and offers a structured format, enhancing readability.

These templates guide the writer in presenting key points effectively, ensuring that essential details aren't missed.

They also provide a professional appearance, making the document more appealing and impactful for the target audience.

Here's an example of storytelling by one of our clients:

Browse Executive Summary Templates

Explore a curated Executive Summary Gallery design to elevate your presentation. It's tailored to encapsulate key points effectively.

Here's an Executive Summary Gallery design you can use to enhance readability and engagement in your summaries.

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from scratch

Executive summary slide
Animated executive summary with icons
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Executive summary slide
Short executive summary - Animated numbers
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Executive summary slide
Short executive summary - Animated images
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Executive summary slide
Executive summary - Vertical timeline
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Executive summary slide
Animated executive summary with bullets
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Hadar Peretz

I am a Marketing Specialist at Storydoc, I research, analyze and write on our core topics of business presentations, sales, and fundraising. I love talking to clients about their successes and failures so I can get a rounded understanding of their world.

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