Faced with designing a PowerPoint presentation and you don’t know where to begin? Try using LATCH to organize your material. First proposed by Richard S. Wurman (who also founded TED); LATCH offers a method of organizing your information.
LATCH is an acronym that stands for; Location, Alphabetically, Time, Category, Hierarchy. Mr. Wurman’s brilliantly simple idea is that all information can be organized using one of these frameworks.
Some examples of LATCH are useful:
Organizing by LOCATION:
- Diagrams; for example an anatomy diagram labeling parts of the body.
- Telephone books
- Filing systems
Organizing by TIME:
- Schedules (for example, a bus schedule)
- A manufacturing process
- Historical information
Organize by CATEGORY:
- Retail stores organize their goods by category
- Libraries separate their books into Fiction, Non-Fiction and other categories
Organize by HIERARCHY:
- Best to Worst
- Lightest to Heaviest
- Military Command structures
You might enjoy watching the following: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tgi1JQGHENI#t=12
Some kinds of information can be organized using more than one of these methods. For example a bus schedule is better understood if a map accompanies it. As the author of a presentation it is your job to figure out which method is best for your presentation or if multiple methods would bring greater clarity.
Using LATCH can help the presentation flow better and it can also help users recall more information, more effectively. Psychological studies have determined that when presented with a list of information, people can remember roughly 7 items (plus or minus 2 †). And that the longer the list is, the better chance people have of forgetting everything. So if you have 12 things to tell people, how can you help them remember?
When people have longer pieces of information to remember, they divide that information into “chunks“ that are easier to remember. Think about the telephone number 867-5309 ‡. If you are trying to memorize that number, is it easier to remember?
By “chunking” the number you reduce a longer list into 2 items.
When my husband was in university he enrolled in a course that he wasn’t really looking forward to – “The Biology of Invertebrate Animals”, because he knew that there would be a lot of memorization. But his professor did something interesting; at the end of discussing each animal, he would talk jokingly about how they would cook that animal in China (he was Chinese). The humour helped of course, but he was also categorizing the animals in an interesting way
“Animals We Eat” vs. “Animal We Don’t Eat”.
In some ways, this categorization was completely artificial – students weren’t tested on Chinese recipes after all. But usefully, it provided an interesting category system that helped students to “chunk” the information and retain it. Even now, many years later, my husband can recall invertebrate information because of this categorization system.
By organizing your information using LATCH, you help your audience group it into meaningful chunks, so they will retain more information.
[†] On a bad day, a very short list.
[‡] Now you have the Tommy Tutone song stuck in your head. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ON56AKnqbog
I have slightly updated this post from when I first published it in 2015. If you need help creating your next presentation, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or join me Friday, June 5/2020 from 9am – 12pm at Medicine Hat College for Plot A Great Talk, a 3 hour seminar dedicated to helping you create your best ever presentation. Here’s the Medicine Hat College Continuing Studies registration link.