Poster presentations are a useful way to present research and are commonly used at conferences to attract the attention of attendees who may be interested in your findings. They can also be a novel and interesting way for students to present their work, perhaps mostly for research papers and dissertations although they might be utilised for coursework or projects where appropriate.
Posters give you a particular more scope than a slideshow or handout, however, with limited space available they have to communicate the most relevant information, as well as being visually striking: every detail that you include has to justify its inclusion.
Make a visual impression
Poster presentations have to make a high visual impact. There may be dozens, if not hundreds of other stands at the conference all striving for attention, so you have to ensure that yours is attractive enough to draw people in.
- Graphics such as tables and diagrams can be a useful way to communicate a lot of information in a short space
- Only include the most pertinent information. There is no space to spend on covering every possible aspect of your topic. Besides, people want to be able to read the most important points quickly
- Make your graphics clear and comprehensible. They need to be readable without standing up close
- Images should be relevant to your research and in the public domain or your own images
- Avoid using too many colours or fonts
- Use less text to make your poster more visually appealing
- Check that you have been consistent in your use of fonts and font size; for example, that headings are one size and subheadings are another
- There are plenty of tools out there to create your posters, to name only a few standard tools like PowerPoint, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign. Other great options are open-source alternatives such as OpenOffice, Inkscape, Gimp and Gliffy. The New York University provides a nice list of free graphics software on its site.
- Don’t crowd your poster, as it will be difficult to read
Present your message
Poster presentations offer a limited medium to communicate your message, so you need to make everything earn its place. The purpose of such presentations is, to sum up, the information you want to convey, which can then be expanded upon in discussions.
- Your poster should contain the same material as your abstract
- Check you have not repeated information in more than one place on the poster
- Keep sentences short
- Use headlines to make it easy for people to assess what the posters contain
- Bullet points present research succinctly and allow readers to understand your message quickly
- Make sure that everything on the poster connects with all the other details
- Consider the purpose of your poster. Will it be a one-off, be presented again, or subsequently hung on a wall? What do you want people to take from it?
Practical issues with poster presentations
There are many practical and professional issues to bear in mind as well with poster presentations.
- Stand near your poster so that you can answer any questions people may have. Try not to leave your poster unattended for too long, as you may miss people who are interested in your work
- Cite sources if using the work of others
- Greet people as they pass your stand or when they stop. Ask if they have any questions, but don’t crowd them
- Have copies of your paper or brochure to hand out
- Be aware that you may get constructive criticism on your poster or research
- Wear a nametag, smart clothing, and comfortable shoes. You may meet people who would be useful to your career, and you will be on your feet for a long time
- Pay attention to anyone who’s interested in your research, rather than giving your attention exclusively to one person
- Don’t try to distribute your handouts to everyone; save them for people who are interested
- Give people a chance to read your poster before speaking to them
There is a quite a bit to consider if you are going to make your presentation with posters. But with planning and the right materials and bearing these tips in mind, it will be a success. Find more great resources on the University of California Berkeley website.
What are your experiences when presenting your poster? What additional information do you put on your list?
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