How to Make Business Reports Fun to Read, and Write
Tired of working on a project that seems to grow stale almost as soon as it gets started? You know the project I am talking about – the one you pour your heart and soul into only to have participants miss meetings; forget (refuse) to comment on reports or updates. No one seems interested unless it’s to point out the things you HAVEN’T DONE or you got wrong.
Whether it’s a matter of doing more with less, poor time management skills or just a general dislike of a project, getting business partners excited about a project outside the confines of the four walls of a conference room can be frustrating and disheartening for the worker bees. You pour over presentations and skip your kids after-school activities to write a report that doesn’t see the light of day with a majority of participants.
You’re not alone. But there are ways to write a business report that gets noticed:
Define your purpose and then write like a journalist - Use short sentences that are concise and keep only to the facts. Save your opinions (different from recommendations) for in-person meetings where there is less chance of a misunderstanding or miscommunication.
Keep your reader in mind – If you’re writing a status report for an executive, include only high-level, decision-making content. Use bullet points to present information more clearly and for easy reference.
Grammar and spelling count – So, use business language that applies to the project but don’t use business words just for the sake of showing off. Also, if your company has a style guide, use it. It will determine how/when and where you use abbreviations, titles etc.
Keep your tone neutral but active – No one has time to sift through bullshit…lovely, flowing sentences aren’t for business reports (no matter how much you like the way it sounds). Get to the point quickly in a professional tone.
Write it, walk away from it and then ask a third-party to read it – Having someone who isn’t part of the project or knows little about the business is a great way to check your writing is focused, clear and concise.
Final Thought: When I was in college, one of my favorite professors would always warn us before our written exams: not to “fill two blue books when one will do the trick. If you can answer the question with 25 words and you use 50 to show me you studied, I am going to deduct points. Don’t waste my time. I have other things to do and things I’d rather be doing.”
I hear him every time I begin a business report. It pays to remember that.