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Best Practice

Trackers – Guidelines for When and How to Use

Trackers can be extremely useful in the right circumstances. They can also take many forms, depending on the circumstances. There are a few assessments that you can make to determine if you need a tracker and, if so, what type of tracker will be most effective.

When to use trackers

Presentations that benefit from trackers are …

  • Complex (teaching materials, presentations with a lot of supporting data, etc.). Audiences can get lost in the details, so help them stay oriented with a tracker.
  • Long. Audiences can lose the "thread" of a presentation when the presentation spans a considerable amount of time or is broken up into segments presented at more than one sitting.
  • Interrupted. If you suspect that members of the audience will be diverted from the presentation, a tracker will help them get back up to speed on the subject under discussion.
  • Assembling parts of a whole. Audiences can understand the whole better when it is represented by a graphic that breaks the whole into pieces, which will also help with retention.
  • In need of pacing. Trackers help audiences mentally switch gears and "file" the information just/being received.
Type of trackers

There are many types of trackers used in presentations, for example

  • Agenda page repeated before each section of the presentation with the section highlighted
  • "Bread crumbs" that are consistently placed on all slides indicating section, major point, minor point (keyword trails)
  • Different color scheme or color marker for each section
  • Graphic concept that represents the sections of the presentation (the whole), e.g., pie, pyramid, or network graphic
  • Graphic that provides a visual representation of the overall concept being conveyed in the presentation, which can also be complex and usually takes some time to develop
  • Graphic element that separates sections of the presentation, e.g., file tab graphics spanning the top of the slide

Decisions about (1) whether to use a tracker and (2) what type of tracker is best are easier to make once the presentation contents are defined and the tracker options are understood.