How to Write your First Executive Summary


Summary: Understanding the structure, format, and writing style will help you craft a more compelling executive summary.

Feeling stuck? Can’t start your executive summary? Clock is tick, tick, ticking?

They say you should write your executive summary AFTER you’ve written the entire document. I’m not sure about this.

Why? If you do, there’s the risk that you’ll run out of time, get flustered, and rush through it — just to get something down on paper. Not ideal.

Video – Write an Executive Summary

How to write your first Executive Summary

Here’s another approach.

  • List the three points you want to get across to the reader. Don’t worry about their relative importance for now. Just write them down.
  • List the three objections the reader is likely to have. For example, the pricing, proposed solution, schedule and so on.
  • Next, as you start writing the main document, say your marketing plan, keep drip-feeding ideas, phrases, points, stats, and other items of interest that arise back into the executive summary. Don’t worry about the structure for now.

Once the document is finished, review what you’ve put in the ‘temp’ executive summary.

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It should be a bit of a brain dump, but that’s fine.

Next, prune away the deadwood.

What stands out?

  • Maybe some of the original list items no longer apply. I suspect they will but you might want to change the angle you take on them.
  • Maybe, as you wrote the document, other points became clearer to you.
  • Maybe you have a better idea of how to engage with the reader now that you’ve written the entire document.
  • Now, delete everything you put in the temp executive summary.

Yes, everything.

You should be looking at a blank page.

Now, start writing.

What’ll happen is you’ll be able to write the executive summary in one pass as you’ve become familiar with it (and all its subtleties and nuances) while writing the core document and updating it as you went along.

And that’s the key.

If you keep ‘feeding’ the working Executive Summary as you write, the tone, structure, and key points all percolate in the back of your mind.

When you start writing, they rise to the surface. The words flow.

Does it work?

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