Executive reporting best practices for conducting an effective meeting

Executive reporting best practices for conducting an effective meeting

Updated: June 7, 2024
7 min read
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Deloitte estimates that global data volume will reach a staggering 175 zettabytes (that’s 175 quadrillion gigabytes!) by 2025. In light of this massive growth, executive reporting becomes a necessary measure for navigating the information deluge.

While board reports often require significant time and effort to compile, the most crucial element demands the utmost attention: how to effectively communicate key findings to executives.

This article delves further into the critical aspects of executive-level reporting, exploring its impact on decision-making, organizational performance, and executive session board meetings

executive committee agenda template

What is executive reporting?

Executive reporting refers to the practice of delivering concise, informative reports specifically tailored for senior executives or the management of other departments, e.g. steering committee

These reports are usually just one-page long, and their goal is to provide an easy-to-understand, big-picture overview of an organization’s performance, goals, and key areas of focus. 

In fact, timely and comprehensive reporting brings numerous benefits to the organization in the context of board effectiveness:

  1. Sharper decision-making. Companies face many risks and challenges,, so the more executives know, the better decisions they can make for the company’s good.
  2. Optimized board meetings. When all the trends and results are understandable at first glance, board meetings run faster. 
  3. Data-driven culture. Executive reporting drives data utilization, boosting efficiency and resource allocation.
  4. Enhanced transparency and accountability. Unambiguous reports drive ownership for constant improvement.
  5. Improved communication and alignment. Clear reports keep everyone focused on shared goals.

Unlike more comprehensive internal reports, executive reports prioritize clarity, allowing executives to understand the most important information. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of the key components typically included in executive reports:

  • Intro
  • Results
  • Key metrics
  • Feedback
  • Executive summary
  • Strategic initiatives and progress
  • Financial performance 
  • Competitors
  • Recommendations 
  • Appendices

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When to use executive reporting

It’s important to note that executive reporting isn’t always a one-size-fits-all solution. However, its value becomes most apparent when a vast amount of data needs to be condensed into actionable takes for swift and decisive leadership. 

In addition to scheduled quarterly or annual reports, there are several other key scenarios where executive reporting is invaluable:

  1. Urgent matters. When critical issues demand immediate attention from senior management, a concise executive report quickly cuts through the noise.
  2. Investor relations. A compelling executive report showcasing your business plan and performance metrics is the first thing the investor sees.
  3. Growth opportunities. Scaling your business or conquering a new market requires a strategic roadmap. Executive reports help executives to identify potential roadblocks and hidden opportunities.
  4. Risk mitigation. Clear and comprehensive executive reports highlight potential threats, empowering leadership to take preventive measures.
  5. Capitalize on opportunities. Well-rounded executive reports shed light on emerging trends and market shifts, helping to secure a competitive edge.

Executive report summary formatting

While content reigns supreme, formatting plays a crucial role in crafting an impactful executive report summary. Here are the following formatting tips:

  • Aim for a single page. Executives are busy, so prioritize brevity and ensure every sentence carries weight.
  • Embrace white space for better readability. Utilize ample white space and margins to create a clean and uncluttered layout.
  • Font size matters. Resist the urge to play with the font size. Instead, opt for a font that is easy on the eyes, allowing for effortless information absorption.
    Bullet points for scannability. When summarizing key findings and points, balance conciseness with avoiding excessive bullet points.

What to include in an executive report summary?

Beyond outlining the core elements of the report, a well-crafted executive summary should include insights from your organization’s most critical KPIs, preferably in visual form. In fact, research shows that our brains process visual information much faster and retain it for longer.  

Just three hours after a presentation, people can recall 85% of what they saw compared to only 70% of what they heard. Three days later, the gap widens even further, with 60% remembering visual content versus a mere 10% for spoken information. 

This emphasizes the power of visual communication, making charts, graphs, and infographics ideal tools for presenting KPI data within executive communications and reporting.  

Executive reporting best practices

Executives, pressed for time, require reports that deliver insights swiftly and guide decisive action. Let’s focus on the best practices below: 

Tailor your message to your audience

It’s important to know your audience and what would catch their eye. Stick to the big picture and focus on relevant facts that directly impact the strategic goals. 

That way, you’ll have their attention and they’ll appreciate your effort to keep it short.

Select KPIs that matter

When it comes to reporting, key performance indicators are crucial. But don’t include every data point you have. Instead, select KPIs that directly align with the company’s strategic objectives. 

For example, if growth is the goal, track sales figures. If customer satisfaction is critical, customer service metrics should be included. 

Remember, balance is key, so weave in both financial and non-financial KPIs to paint a complete picture. Most importantly, ensure that these KPIs are measurable and enclose progress towards company goals.

Use an executive reporting template

Using templates saves a lot of time and ensures that your messages are consistent. However, it is important to remember that a little bit of flexibility goes a long way. Therefore, it is recommended to allow some customization to better tailor reports to the specific needs of different departments.

Consider using automation tools to streamline data collection. For example, try out iDeals Board. 

Dashboard: executive reporting examples

Let’s look at an example of a useful executive report and what makes it effective.

Marketing campaign report

This executive dashboard is designed to help the executive committee quickly evaluate the campaign’s effectiveness and guide future marketing initiatives. To be informative, it should include relevant metrics such as website traffic, lead generation, and social media engagement. However, a successful report goes beyond just presenting data. It should provide insights and analysis to be effective. 

By delving into the cost-effectiveness of the campaign and its impact on brand awareness, this type of report provides a comprehensive overview of the campaign’s success.

Website trafficTotal number of visitors to the website during the campaign period.1. Analyze if traffic increased compared to previous periods.
2. Identify sources of traffic (organic search, social media referrals, etc.)
Lead generationThe number of leads generated through the campaign (e.g., email signups, contact form submissions).1. Track conversion rate (leads/website traffic). 
2. Compare lead quality to past campaigns.
Social media engagementTotal likes, shares, comments, and mentions across social media platforms.1. Identify which platform generated the most engagement. 
2. Analyze the type of content that resonated with the audience.
Cost-effectivenessTotal campaign cost divided by the number of leads generated or sales conversions.1. Evaluate if the campaign achieved its goals within budget. 
2. Identify areas for cost optimization.
Brand awarenessIncrease in brand mentions, website traffic from new sources, or positive sentiment analysis.1. Measure the campaign’s impact on brand recognition. 
2. Identify if the target audience was reached.

Executive reporting solutions

In a study by Deloitte, board portals were found to deliver three key advantages to corporate and non-profit board directors: streamlined information access, centralized communication channels, and enhanced data protection.

These benefits directly address a common pain point for many boards: meetings bogged down by lengthy data presentations and endless reports. Here are how five key tools of iDeals Board help with executive reporting:

  1. Interactive dashboard. Create customizable dashboards, tailored to specific agendas and purposes, that present key metrics and insights visually.
  2. Automated report generation. iDeals Board may automatically gather data, prepare reports using pre-defined templates, and send them to board members before meetings.
  3. Secure document sharing. Share reports and other board materials securely within the platform with granular permissions and fence view.
  4. Meeting agenda. Easily connect reports to specific agenda items, giving a necessary context.
  5. Collaboration tools. Allow board members to annotate, comment on, and discuss report content in real-time within iDeals Board.

Key takeaways

  1. Executive reporting is crucial because it concentrates vast amounts of information into actionable insights for senior leadership.
  2. Benefits of executive reporting include better decision-making, board meetings, culture, transparency, and communication.
  3. Executive report summary should be concise (ideally 1 page) and prioritize only relevant information.
  4. Visuals, such as charts, graphs, and infographics enhance understanding and retention of key information.

iDeals Board is one of the best executive reporting tools that streamline executive reporting with interactive dashboards, automated reports, secure sharing, meeting agenda integration, and in-report collaboration tools.

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