If you've worked in an office for any extended period of time, you've probably had to write a report or two for your managers, clients or business investors.
These highly technical and often tedious documents are known to cover everything from finance, marketing trends, employee performance and more.
Although they're a necessary component of many administrative roles, employers and clients alike have a tendency to forego these reports for other responsibilities and, in some cases, ignore them altogether.
However, this does little for the time you've spent piecing together data, formulating key metrics and writing a cohesive paper. But what choice do you have? After all, you can't simply not do your reports.
Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to increase the readability of your technical reports while simultaneously increasing its natural magnetism to begin with.
1. Utilize Email Effectively Yet Concisely
Reports are often sent via an attachment within an email that comes with a generic subject line and, in some cases, a body that is completely void of all text. While this is fine for meeting necessary deadlines, it doesn't add any real value to your report.
Instead, try to use the body of your email to highlight key data points and figures. Small infographics or graphs can also be used in the body, as long as their limited in size and scale, and even the email's subject line can include a quick fact or statistic from the report. This might not be necessary when it comes to fulfilling your reporting duties, but it will pique your manager's curiosity while simultaneously getting you noticed as a diligent and detail-oriented employee.
2. Include Relevant Graphics, but Avoid Overuse
Graphics, including charts, timelines and other visual aids, provide a concise and highly impactful means of disseminating information. Not only are they easier to read when compared to monotonous pages of technical data, but it spares you the boredom of having to write, edit and produce a dull report.
Above all else, make sure that any images are relevant to the report. Flashy graphics and fancy charts won't add any value if they don't provide pertinent or supportive details, and reports that ignore this caveat are bound to come off as rushed, disjointed or pointless.
It still might take some convincing before your supervisors and managers will open your reports in the first place, but they'll be pleasantly surprised at the aesthetics once they finally do. Once you build a reputation of creating eye-catching, informative and interesting reports, your leaders will begin to look forward to your briefings.
3. Restate Project Goals and Highlight Progress
Use the beginning of each report to reiterate the original goals of the project and highlight your progress. If your briefing is not specific to an individual project or activity, such as a financial or productivity report, try to use past numbers as a means of demonstrating progress over the course of time. Apart from providing clear and concise information for your managers, statistics such as this are easily translated into graphs, charts or timelines.
Snippets, or teasers, of these details can also be placed in the body of your email. Not only does this remind your leaders of their original intentions, but it urges them to dig deeper into your report for further information.
Meeting Your Deadlines and Delivering Relevant Data
Ultimately, successful reporting boils down to your ability to meet deadlines and deliver relevant data in a consistent manner.
Whether or not your presentations are actually being viewed, ingested or even remembered by your managers is moot as long as you're upholding your end.
However, those who want to make sure their point is being made can do themselves a favor by sending effective emails, including informative graphics and highlighting progress.