Facing a huge reporting task as you enter the new year? No worries! The Business Optimizer team has you covered with our tips for how to ace the production of your end-of-year report.
There could be many reasons for writing an end-of-year report – and the scope can vary widely. End-of-year reports can range from a brief, personal report to be included in your annual appraisal, through an annual update about a particular project you are leading, to a full-scale corporate review.
Whatever the scale or scope of the end-of-year report you are writing, the mechanics of it can always benefit from the following considerations.
Before you start, it’s important to be clear about who it is that you are writing the report for – this will affect what you want to say, how you say it and the why. It will also, likely, affect the style you adopt in both writing style and layout. With so many decisions hinging on this information, be clear on it from the start!
Once you’ve agreed the who, you will need to think about the what and the how. What is the overarching story you are telling? What is the narrative thread which holds the report together? Within that overarching message, what are the supporting themes? How will you evidence them?
Once you are clear on the core message, you can begin to gather evidence and seek the input of colleagues where appropriate. Of course, for corporate reports, you will also have to include specific reporting requirements, as required from a regulatory or legal perspective, including financial and environmental details.
At this point, you may find that you have additional information that doesn’t quite fit in with the overall narrative. Is this information important or strategic enough that you need to rethink your messaging and structure? Or can this information be left out of the report? If unsure, seek advice or dig deeper to understand what this outlier information might be telling you. Do you need to rethink your core narrative to accommodate it?
Having gathered your evidence, you can begin to plan. How will you structure the results of your research within the narrative you want to tell? Keeping your core message in mind, align your research with the key themes your report needs to cover. For longer reports, include an executive summary for each chapter so people can understand the key points easily.
When it comes to report writing, less is more. There’s no point taking three sentences to say something that could be said in one. It’s more work for you – and the reader. Aim to boost accessibility by using the simplest words and the shortest sentences to make your points.
Where possible, include original photography, infographics, charts and graphs to bring your report to life. Infographics can be a brilliant way to get your key points across succinctly.
Before you hand your report over to your designer to create the final layout, print it out in full and give it a hard edit. Once you are happy with the flow and copy, print it again for a proofread before it goes to the designer.
It’s not uncommon for mistakes to enter at the design stage. Plus, copy might need tweaking in order to fit the layout design better. Never proofread on screen. Print the designer’s version before giving your report a final proofread. If you’re too close to the work, ask a qualified proofreader to assist.
For the final report, splash out on high-quality paper to add to the textural enjoyment of your readers. If the budget stretches, a professional print shop can help you find the right binding option. Either way, the right choice of paper will really add to your report’s quality finish.