The Development Source

10 Quick Tips for Writing Winning Executive Summaries

In the publishing industry, the rule is to get a potential reader to open a book and read the first sentence.  If the reader likes the first sentence, he or she will read the first paragraph.  If the reader likes the first paragraph, he or she is likely to read the first page.  Yes, you have guessed the pattern:  If the reader likes the first page, he or she is likely to buy the book. 

 Executive Summaries in proposals to government agencies are no different.  They should capture the reviewers’ attention and give them a reason for reading further.

Pursuit Communications has provided us with 10 handy tips for writing winning Executive Summaries.  I will list and briefly explain them:

Step 1:  Draft the Executive Summary during the development of the proposal.  With a draft Executive Summary, you can use its major themes throughout your proposal.

Step 2:  Put yourself in the reviewers’ shoes.  Figure out what they need to read.

Step 3:  Tell a story.  It is not enough to provide facts and figures.  Tell a story about your company and what you can provide.

Step 4:  Think visually.  Paint a picture of what you are going to do with at least one good graphic with an action caption.

Step 5:  Use words well.  Keep your Executive Summary short and use concrete, specific words in the active voice.

Step 6:  Use only a few reviewers to revise the Executive Summary.  Too many cooks, as the saying goes, spoil the broth.  Get pointed advice from people who can really help you revise and finalize the Executive Summary.

Step 7:  Get the reviewers’ attention.  Engage reviewers in the first paragraph.

Step 8:  Create a narrative.  Your Executive Summary should read and flow well.

Step 9:  Follow the KISS strategy.  Keep it simple so that reviewers get the point quickly and effortlessly.

Step 10:  Persuade.  Not everyone can write persuasively.  Find a person who can write a compelling narrative in just a few pages.  This is very important – the Executive Summary will set the tone for your entire proposal.

If you can do these steps successfully, you are likely to have a great Executive Summary and maybe your reviewers will get hooked and pay close attention to your proposal.


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