The Effective Way to Write an Executive Summary
Executive summaries are important when you’re looking for funding for an idea. Yes, you have to have a business plan or investment proposal that does into all the details, too, but an executive summary is meant to hit the highlights so that people reading it will quickly know whether yours is an opportunity they might be interested in.
Here’s how to write an executive summary that will get your idea noticed by the right people.
You want to catch your reader’s attention. CEOs, investors, and others who might be reading your executive summary are busy. They want to know what’s in it for them right away. So start off with an interesting fact, hook, or problem that your company or product aims to solve.
Don’t start with a long story that’s going to take a few paragraphs to resolve. At best, your summary is probably going to be skimmed, so if the reader can’t get at your point right away they probably won’t read any further. But if you can surprise them or get them interested from the beginning they’re more likely to hang on to the meat of your proposal.
Watch Your Tone
How you write your executive summary will depend a bit on the product or business you’re trying to launch, as well as who you’re targeting with your proposal. If your proposal is very technical, you’ll want your language to be more serious and technical than if you’re launching a clothing company or a toy line, for example.
You don’t want to slip too far into informality even if your tone is light, but it’s fine to show your passion, confidence and enthusiasm and to really try to sell your idea and yourself and your partners as the people to move the idea forward.
This is an executive summary, so you don’t want it to be too long. All the numbers and big details can be in your proposal. But you do need to include enough information to allow the reader to determine if he or she even needs to read more. A good rule of thumb is to keep it four pages or fewer, but it will depend on how complex your idea is how much detail you need to go into right off the bat.
In general an executive summary should include the following information:
- a description of the company,
- the problem that your customers have,
- how your product/offering solves the problem,
- why now is the time to act, and
- a brief overview of financials/estimated value of the deal.
What Not to Do
Remember that an executive summary is not an introduction to your plan, it’s a mini version of it that will allow readers to determine if they want more information and details. Don’t waste time and space with warm-ups or superlatives. Instead, you need to be able to have someone read your summary and know what it is you and your business are about.
You need to catch their attention, make them want to read more, and give them an idea of what they’ll see if they read your more detailed plan.
Yes, It’s Hard
You probably have the sense that how to write an executive summary is not an easy thing. It’s hard to write concisely about something you’re passionate about, to include the right details but leave out the things that don’t really belong. If it helps, go ahead and write a long summary to start with, then pare down to the essentials. Include only what a person really needs to know about your business.
Give the summary to someone who doesn’t know anything about your business and see if they can explain what you do from reading it. If not, try again. It’s worth it to take all the time you need to get it right.
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