Top Tips To Survive Annual Report Season

May 4, 2016 Annual reports

Annual report season is nearly upon us – and that’s enough to inflict fear into the hearts of even the most organised of businesses. theroom is here to help with our top tips on preparing your content for your 2016 Annual Report.

1. Create a single document that stakeholders can all work on (without worrying about out-of-date versions)
One of the biggest hurdles when it comes to annual report design is collating the information you need to share with stakeholders in one central location. Often businesses work from word documents on a server – resulting in multiple versions, locked documents or confusing feedback. Skip the drama this year by using a document that you can all work on at the same time.

theroom recommends creating a shared folder in Google Drive. You can make a single document to house all of your copy, images and sheets for an easy write, edit, approve process! Alternatively you could create an individual document for each segment will make it easier to make amendments – just check it off section by section.

Speaking of approvals, you can also utilise the suggesting and viewing modes of Google Doc and Google Sheets to keep track of feedback. No need to compare different print outs and collate feedback into one giant document. Now that’s a relief.

2. Use Google Sheets or Excel for data
It might seem easy to create a table in Word for your data – but it significantly increases the time it takes for designers to build graphs and visualisations. Make the most of your design hours by storing all of your data in Excel or Google Sheets and indicate the the sheet or tab by using square brackets – for example [insert graph 1, tab 3 from Annual Report 2016].

Your annual report designers will thank you and the results will speak for themselves.

3. Break it down into manageable sections
Annual reports are always a mammoth task. Sometimes they feel overwhelming and it can be difficult to know where to start. The best projects are always managed in sections. Use project management tools like Trello or Asana to keep your Annual Report on track.

If you’re using Trello 
You could create a board for your annual report, and lists for Pending Information, Copy in Progress, Pending Feedback, Pending Amendments, Copy and Data Approved, With Design, Pending Design Feedback, Pending Design Amends, Pending Sign Off, Completely Approved.

You’d then create cards for each section of the annual report, moving the cards between the lists as they progress through the workflow.

If you’re using Asana
You could create a team for the Annual Report so that everyone can keep on track. A Project Overview for the entire annual report with each section would allow you to show progress at a glance on the Dashboard. This overarching project allows the team to communicate in a central location (refer to tip #1) and is ideal for status meetings or for top level updates.

Next up, create a project for each section with agile milestones as tasks that you mark complete as you go. This is shown on the left hand side of the screenshot above. Take advantage of Asana’s incredible dashboard view and easily identify which sections of the annual report are on track or out of control.

Your annual report designer should have their own system for handling feedback and briefing – gain an understanding of their process and incorporate it into your milestones. Looking for a benchmark? Check out how we manage projects at theroom.

4. Collaborate with your Graphic Designer early.
Contacting your graphic design studio early and briefing them on your 2016 annual report now will give you a jump start on the season. Whilst you might not have finalised data, they’ll be able to gain an even better understanding of the style you’re looking for and the audience you need to target.

5. Don’t be afraid to try something new
Just because it’s an annual report doesn’t mean it needs to be boring! Shake things up this year by considering the design style, the tone of the copywriting or the print material you use. Do something different! Stakeholders will appreciate the extra effort, team members will love reading something engaging and you’ll feel satisfied that you have tried a new approach. There’s nothing better than finishing a project and knowing that it’s totally LinkedIn worthy.