So you are putting together a board pack that contains lots of financial information. You’ve wrangled the numbers, added in some nice visuals, but now you have been asked to write some ‘commentary’.  As a ‘numbers’ person, adding commentary may not be one of your strengths.  Not to worry we have put together 5 tips to help your financial commentary really tell a story.

1          Include all the key financial information in the summary

Reports are better when they include a summary because it provides an opportunity to flag all the key messages, including financial information. Your key messages don’t need to be dealt with in any depth, but they let you know upfront what you can expect from the report, where it is heading and what it will cover.

That may sound obvious, but some writers cover the financials in a separate section of the report.  This makes for a disjointed reading experience, and the directors are forced to spend time joining the dots. Make your commentary clear, concise, and complete.

2         Make sure your commentary always adds value

Adding commentary to financial information is an opportunity to explain what the data really means and why it matters to the business.  It is a waste of time to simply re-state in words what is in the table since all directors must be able to read and understand financial information.  You should be writing commentary that really gets behind the numbers.

3          A picture is worth a 1,000 words

Do you have several tables or other visuals (charts, graphs) to include with your financial data? Break up blocks of heavy text with your visuals as paragraphs with lots of numbers can be difficult to read and boring to look at.

4          Use your headings to help tell the story

Try to include insightful headings for your financial tables or graphs.  The heading doesn’t have to be mundane, and they can be used to help convey your message. For example: Profits up because custard selling well.

5          Take a break

When you have completed your document, take a break, and come back to it later. Read through it objectively from the directors’ point of view. What questions are they likely to ask?  What do they want to know? Good commentary is all about anticipating questions and providing intelligent answers.

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