Closing summaries vs. next steps

Last week we talked about executive summaries.  This week, I’d like to talk about written closing summaries, something that I was also teaching to a client over the last couple of weeks.  Closing summaries aren’t something that work with all printed decks, but can be useful for enforcing brands, corporate conventions or for re-iterating core messages before getting into next steps.

Next Steps pages are more common and are used to lay out what actions need to be taken now that your discussion has ended.  They can take the shape of a simple list of bullet points of a more visual calendar page.

The debate arose around when to use each of the 2 options.  Here are some questions to address, which can help you decide which option to use:

  • Does your audience require you to bring them around to the next steps?  Perhaps with your arguments laid out more clearly?  (Then use a summary)
  • Is your audience already in a position of knowing what has been done, is committed the project and ready to take action?  (Then use a next steps page)
  • Are you unsure of how your conversation will go?  Could it be hostile?  (Then bring in a couple of next steps page options or a blank calendar that you can fill out with your audience together)

If you’ve decided to go with the closing summary option, here is a formula:

  • Thank your auidence
  • Restate the issues you were addressing in your document
  • Follow up with the layout of your logic structure, in synthesized statements that answer the question “so what”
  • Finish up with some next steps

Can you think of other times to use a closing summary in a printed document?

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