How to write an executive summary (example of an executive summary + free template)

Reading time: about 4 min


  • Agile and project planning
  • Organization and evaluation

If you’ve ever been handed a text-heavy document at work and thought to yourself, “Ugh. I wish there were a TL;DR for this”—you’re not alone. In fact, the professional version of TL;DR (too long–didn’t read) is called an executive summary. It’s a valuable tool for pulling out the most important information from a document so that anyone can read the executive summary and get a quick, general understanding of what’s being stated in the larger document. Writing an executive summary saves time, clarifies dense information, and allows action to be taken faster. 

We’ll teach you how to write an executive summary and provide a foolproof template to remove the guesswork.

What is an executive summary?

An executive summary is an easy-to-consume overview of a document that is divided into parts for scannability. It usually includes:

  • The problem you’re trying to solve.

  • The recommended solution/objective.

  • What will happen if you implement the solution.

  • Why the problem is worth solving.

An executive summary is not a project plan. You’re not covering blueprints or stakeholders or timelines or budget because those are all considered details that would be included in the larger project plan.

When should you write an executive summary?

Here are a few instances where you might want to write an executive summary:

  • Communicating with busy stakeholders

  • Needing a decision

  • Pitching ideas

  • Providing clarity and focus

  • Going to distribute to a large audience

You’d normally find executive summaries highlighting business cases, project plans and proposals, research documents, environmental studies, and market surveys. 

Why write an executive summary

So why bother writing an executive summary when people should read the entire thing? Imagine you’re the CFO of a pharmaceutical company, and someone hands you a 650-page report on retinal dryness. Dry eyes aren’t your expertise—you’re great with numbers. But someone needs your sign-off on spending a lot of money to cure dry eyes. With an executive summary, you’ll be provided the highlights and will be able to quickly understand how the money will be spent.

If you take the time to write an executive summary, you’re likely to achieve quicker alignment, buy-in, and approval from stakeholders.

Steps for writing an executive summary 

  1. Understand your audience: Identify who will read the executive summary and what information they need. Tailor the content and tone to match their level of expertise and interest.

  2. Read the full document: Highlight the main points, key findings, and recommendations.

  3. Identify the key points: Determine the most critical information that needs to be included in the executive summary. Focus on summarizing the document's main objectives, findings, conclusions, and recommendations.

  4. Write concisely: Keep the executive summary brief and to the point. Avoid unnecessary details and technical jargon. Use clear and concise language to communicate the main points effectively.

  5. Summarize the findings: Provide a concise summary of the main findings, insights, and conclusions presented in the document. Highlight the most important data, trends, and outcomes without going into excessive detail.

  6. Present key recommendations: What’s the takeaway? Outline the key recommendations or actions that result from the findings. Clearly explain why these recommendations are important and how they address the objectives of the document.

  7. Wrap it up:  End the executive summary with a brief conclusion that reinforces the main points and emphasizes the significance of the findings and recommendations.

  8. Review before presenting: Proofread. After writing the executive summary, review it carefully to ensure clarity, accuracy, and coherence. Revise as needed to improve the overall quality and effectiveness of the summary.

What to do after writing your executive summary

After you’ve written your executive summary and read through it, here are a few follow-up tips:

  • Compare for consistency: Compare the executive summary with the full document to ensure accuracy and consistency. Especially double-check numbers.

  • Peer review: Before sending your executive summary to its intended audience, have a colleague or friend review it. Ask them to see if it makes sense and, in their own words, summarize what they’ve taken away. 

  • Practice: If the executive summary will be presented in a meeting, consider how you will present the information. Prepare any visual aids or supporting materials that may enhance the presentation of the key points. Practice several times so you’re comfortable and confident.

  • Share: Send your executive summary out to stakeholders.

Remember that an executive summary is your chance to highlight the most important parts of a document. People typically appreciate the executive summary, so taking the time to write one—and write one well—can give everyone clarity and get them all on board. 

Open our executive summary template to help you craft a winning executive summary.

Go now

About Lucidspark

Lucidspark, a cloud-based virtual whiteboard, is a core component of Lucid Software's Visual Collaboration Suite. This cutting-edge digital canvas brings teams together to brainstorm, collaborate, and consolidate collective thinking into actionable next steps—all in real time. Lucid is proud to serve top businesses around the world, including customers such as Google, GE, and NBC Universal, and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid partners with industry leaders, including Google, Atlassian, and Microsoft. Since its founding, Lucid has received numerous awards for its products, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit

Related articles

  • A case for writing a business case

    A business case can help you to persuade stakeholders to invest resources into a new project. Learn how to create a business case in this blog post!  

  • What is a business impact analysis?

    In this blog post, we will explore what a business impact analysis is and how to create your own.

  • How to write a project proposal

    Learn how to write a project proposal that wins clients and management over. Discover tips and professionally designed templates to help you create one quickly.

Bring your bright ideas to life.

Sign up free

or continue with

Sign in with GoogleSign inSign in with MicrosoftSign inSign in with SlackSign in

Get Started

  • Pricing
  • Individual
  • Team
  • Enterprise
  • Contact sales
PrivacyLegalCookie settingsCookie policy
  • linkedin
  • twitter
  • instagram
  • facebook
  • youtube
  • glassdoor
  • tiktok

© 2024 Lucid Software Inc.