Write Like a Pro: Your Ultimate Guide to Writing Effective Executive Summaries!

how to write an executive summary
Image by Freepik

As businesses evolve and innovations emerge, leaders and decision-makers are daily bombarded with information. This makes it difficult to sift through lengthy reports or presentations to grasp the key points. In times like this, an executive summary often comes to the rescue. A short, attention-grabbing executive summary is an essential part of your business plan; and if done correctly, it will ensure your company becomes or remains a key player in your industry. This is just my opinion, but as you read further, you’ll understand why an executive summary is important and how you can write effective executive summaries that drive results. 

Key Takeaways

An executive summary provides a brief overview of a long document, such as a business plan, proposal, or report. It is a part that draws readers’ attention and summarizes essential information from the document, such as the problem or opportunity under consideration, objectives, major findings, goals, and recommendations.

Writing an effective executive summary involves:

  • Understanding and tailoring your content for your audience
  • Outlining the main points
  • Keeping it simple
  • Emphasizing the data points, and
  • Implementing CTAs

Why Are Executive Summaries Important?

A study conducted by the Harvard Business Review revealed that executives typically spend 23 hours per week in meetings, allocating 15% of that time to reading and preparing materials. Every minute is crucial for capturing their attention and effectively conveying your message.

McKinsey & Company’s research revealed that executives tend to make informed decisions quickly when they receive concise and well-structured communications. According to a survey, 86% of executives indicated a preference for receiving executive summaries or briefings over full-length reports.

However, saving time is not the only consideration. An executive summary crafted with precision can greatly influence the results of crucial decisions. Executives in a study published in the Journal of Business Communication were more likely to support proposed initiatives when presented with concise summaries of complex information compared to those who received detailed reports without summaries.

Now that you’ve seen how important executive summaries are, you’ll agree with me that you need to learn how to write one to get the results you need. Let’s get started.

Key Strategies For Writing an Effective Executive Summary

#1. Understand Your Audience

Before you start writing, make sure you understand the needs, preferences, and priorities of your audience. Customize your executive summary to align with their interests and concerns.

#2. Start with the main points

Begin the executive summary by stating the main insights or recommendations clearly and concisely. Set the tone for the rest of the summary and capture the reader’s attention from the beginning.

#3. Keep it simple

Remember to keep the executive summary simple by breaking down complex information into key points. Use clear, simple language and avoid unnecessary jargon or technical details.

#4. Emphasize Important Data Points

Support your main points and reinforce the credibility of your recommendations by using data and statistics. Using charts or graphs can effectively illustrate important trends or findings.

#5. Employ CTAs

End your executive summary with a decisive call to action that clearly outlines the necessary next steps or decisions, guiding the reader toward the desired outcome.

Read Also: WHAT IS A CTA: Meaning, Business, Website & Test

Special Considerations

Here are some points you should consider for best results

#1. Research effective executive summaries

See, you can never go wrong with research. Consider reviewing summaries written by others before writing your own executive summary. You’ll find this particularly relevant if it’s your first time writing an executive summary. Explore the elements of executive summaries and pinpoint the components that you find engaging or beneficial. Include those components in a similar manner when writing your summary.

#2. Reread your document

An executive summary requires a complete document or proposal before it can be written. Examine the entire document to pinpoint the key points, problems, and suggestions. Determining what to include in your executive summary can save readers from having to search the document for information.

#3. Optimize the first paragraph

Begin your first paragraph by clearly stating what you are presenting and explaining its significance to the reader. Below are some helpful tips:

  • When summarizing a business plan, outline the business and its purpose to ensure readers grasp the document’s intent.
  • Identify any challenges and explain how your plan could address them.
  • Explore methods to combine informative writing with captivating details to keep your audience engaged.

#4. Outline the rest of the summary

Creating a clear outline can help you craft a concise summary that readers can quickly gain information from. You may want to consider using the following categories for your outline:

  • Description or summary of the company
  • Challenge that the document addresses
  • Solution to the problem
  • Urgency section, explaining why it’s important for the reader to act quickly

Organize your outline to mirror the order of the main points in the document. Headline each new section. Add bullet points beneath each headline to allow the reader to quickly scan through the information.

#5. Craft a strong conclusion

The way your executive summary ends can significantly impact the reader’s overall perception of the document. It adds value to the summary. End by reviewing key details one last time. Additionally, include a call to action outlining specific next steps for the reader to take.

Key Components for Your Executive Summary

Ensure that your business plan communicates your company’s mission, product, strategy for differentiation from competitors, financial projections, short and long-term goals, buyer persona, and market fit.

An executive summary should give investors or CEOs a glimpse of what to anticipate from the remainder of your report. Include the following in your executive summary:

  • The name, location, and mission of your company
  • A description of your company, including management, advisors, and brief history
  • Your product or service, where your product fits in the market, and how your product differs from competitors in the industry
  • Financial considerations, start-up funding requirements, or the purpose behind your business plan — mention what you hope the reader will help your company accomplish
Read Also: BUSINESS PLAN OUTLINE: Developing a Business Plan Outline In 6 Easy Steps [Free Download]

How Long Should Your Executive Summary Be?

I’ve encountered this question a number of times when I talk about writing an executive summary. Now, there’s no strict requirement regarding the length of an executive summary; it all depends on the length of the accompanying content. While an executive summary can span from 1-3 pages, it’s important to keep everything simple and straight to the point, capturing the essential elements of the work.

Executive Summary Template

Use this template as a guide for writing an executive summary:




[Company profile (with relevant history)]

[Company contact details]

Products and services

[Description of products and/or services]

[Unique proposition]

[Competitive advantage]

[Intellectual property]

[Development status]

Market analysis

[Market opportunity]

[Target market]


Financial analysis


[Funding needs]

[Potential price of goods]

[Projected profit margins for year one and two]


[Summarize main points]

Download This Template

What To Avoid When Writing An Executive Summary

It’s not just enough to know how to write an effective executive summary, it’s equally important to know what to avoid; else, your efforts will be in vain. Let’s look at some of the things you should avoid in your writing:

#1. Using too much technical jargon

One of the worst things you can do when writing an executive summary is to use too much technical language. You may be very good at using industry-specific language, but leaders from different backgrounds may find it hard to understand acronyms and other specialized language. A study by the Nielsen Norman Group found that using too much jargon can make it up to 50% harder for people to understand, which can make them lose interest and be confused. You wouldn’t want that, would you?

Read Also: Buzzwords: What They Mean, Application & Examples

#2. Neglecting clarity and brevity

Time is very valuable in the fast-paced world of work. Executives don’t have time to read through pages and pages of flowery writing to find the important information. But too many executive summaries are too wordy, giving up clarity for the sake of being too wordy. McKinsey & Company did research that showed leaders read an executive summary for an average of just 6 minutes. Because of this, it’s important to get your point across quickly and clearly to get their attention.

#3. Not having an interesting story

At its core, an executive summary is a story—a plot that builds to show what an idea or plan is really about. However, a lot of executive summaries fail to engage their readers because they aren’t good at telling stories. A poll by Harvard Business Review found that 72% of executives like executive outlines that tell an interesting story and make them feel something. If you don’t use the power of stories, you could lose your audience’s attention and make your message less powerful.

#4. Leaving Out Important Data Points

Some executive summaries get too short and leave out important data points and supporting evidence in order to save space. However, Deloitte research shows that executives put a lot of value on insights that are based on data. In fact, 87% of those executives said they prefer executive summaries that include strong data to back up suggestions. If you leave out important facts, your summary could lose its credibility, leaving execs wanting more information.

Examples of Executive Summaries

#1. Company Shop Group

When you visit Company Shop Group’s About Us page, the first thing that catches your eye is the subheading: “Company Shop Group is the UK’s leading redistributor of surplus food and household products.” Company Shop Group clearly states its purpose at the top of the page, giving readers the choice to continue reading or leave with an understanding of the company’s focus. The organization incorporates multimedia to engage visitors and explain its business model in a more easily understandable format.

#2. FirstEnergy

If you have a more corporate and formal brand, FirstEnergy’s executive summary can be a great source of inspiration. The executive summary of the company includes its mission, subsidiaries, operations, products and services, corporate responsibility values, and strategic plan goals. Potential investors will find this information valuable since the company is publicly traded.

The executive summary is comprehensive yet concise, utilizing bullet points and images to enhance readability and providing readers with the option to delve deeper through a sidebar menu.

#3. Connected

The headline of Connected’s executive summary immediately captures attention by providing a concise and clear description of the company’s activities. Just by reading the heading, you’ll grasp the essence of what Connected does, even without going through the rest of the summary. At length, the company delves into its history, mission, and values.

What Is The Difference Between An Introduction and An Executive Summary?

An introduction provides context and sets the stage for the main content, while an executive summary clearly outlines the key points and conclusions of a document or report.

Does An Executive Summary Need References?

No, an executive summary does not typically require references, as it aims to provide a concise overview of key points without delving into detailed citations or sources.

Does An Executive Summary Need A Title Page?

No, an executive summary typically does not have a title page. It is a standalone document that precedes a longer report or proposal, providing a concise overview of its contents.

Why Is It Called Executive Summary?

It’s called “executive summary” as it concisely presents key points from a longer document, tailored for busy executives to grasp essential information quickly.

Which Comes First, Abstract or Executive Summary?

The abstract typically comes first before the executive summary. It provides a brief overview of the entire document, while the executive summary offers a condensed version of the main points and recommendations.

What Is An Executive Summary Also Called?

An executive summary is also referred to as a management summary, abstract, or synopsis.

In Conclusion

Effective communication is crucial in today’s fast-paced business environment. Leaders can achieve success in their endeavors by using well-crafted executive summaries supported by data and insights to drive informed decision-making and cut through the noise. Next time you face the task of writing an executive summary, keep these key strategies in mind and witness your influence and impact soar.

A short and concise executive summary should convey the essence of your company. Ensure to share your story, along with key background and financial details. An impactful executive summary will attract more investors to support your business and build trust in your brand among customers.

  1. WHAT IS AN ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE? Duties, Salary & More
  2. SALES EXECUTIVE: Meaning, Duties, Salary, Skills & Qualification
  3. BUSINESS EXECUTIVE: What Is It, Coach, Development, Salary & Associations


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like