Poster presentations are a great way to quickly and efficiently communicate your work. In Part 1 of this series we will be giving an overview of what a poster presentation is, why we use it, important things to keep in mind, what to use to create one and more.
What is a Poster Presentation?
Imagine giving a 10-15 minute talk about your favorite movie poster. You will most likely start by introducing the name of the movie(Title), then give a synopsis of the movie which will include how the movie started, the main ideas of the movie and how the movie ended(Abstract). You might also mention how you saw the movie. Whether you went to the movie theatre, saw it on Netflix etc(Methods). You’re also going to point out the major takeaways of the movie, the most impactful scenes and the major effects the movie had on you(Results). After explaining all of that information you might then give your opinions and thoughts about the movie(Conclusions) and and maybe even talk about whether the movie should have a sequel, or if they should remake the movie to make corrections or about the next movie you want to watch because you liked that one so much(Future Directions). You should also thank your friend that took you to go see the movie(Acknowledgements).
This is basically what a poster presentation is. If you do the same thing mentioned above with your research, you have given a poster presentation. A poster presentation is basically communicating some type of information or research by using a poster. Posters are extremely versatile and are widely used in many fields. Whether you are in arts and humanities or STEM, you can use a poster presentation to present your work!
Why do we use poster presentations?
Posters are a creative way to quickly and efficiently present your work. Instead of having hundreds of people give a one hour talk each, it is much more time efficient to utilize poster presentations. At many conferences, there is a poster presentation session which is usually between 1-3 hours. Poster presentations are a great way to maximize time because during the times scheduled for poster presentations, you can visit as many posters as possible.
Poster presentations are a more personal way of presenting information. The presenter is able to ask what the listener's background and level of knowledge in the field is before presenting, which can help the presenter know the best way to present the information in a way that the listener is able to understand.
Poster presentations provide ample opportunities for questions, and also the opportunity to learn more about the presenter. With poster presentations, there are lots of opportunities to directly ask the presenter questions. With oral presentations, sometimes people feel nervous or are too shy to ask their questions in front of a large audience, which makes poster presentations a great way for you to ask questions. Poster presentations are also great opportunities to ask the presenter questions that are not related to their presentation, such as where they went to school, how they picked their field etc, just be courteous to others who may be lining up to hear the presenter talk about their poster.
Poster presentations are great for networking. Sometimes we want to connect with speakers, but after they give their presentations, sometimes they leave or are very difficult to find. Luckily, during poster presentations the presenter is right there, so you can easily connect with them!
Where do you start?
Before you even begin to think about designing your poster, keep the following in mind:
What size should the poster be? Most conferences/ symposiums explicitly state what the maximum size of the poster should be. Tip: Try to use the maximum space allotted for your poster. If there is no size requirement, try starting with a 48in x 36in in landscape orientation and adjust as needed.
Are there any requirements on what the poster must contain? Although requirements are usually not given on what your poster must contain, it is always great to double check!
Are there any color restrictions? Sometimes a conference may give warnings about which colors not to use in order to accommodate for attendees with certain disabilities.
Who is your audience? This is extremely important because this will influence your poster design as well as the way the information is presented on your poster. Are you presenting to colleagues, people in your field, students, children etc. For example if you are presenting your work at a conference where the majority of the attendees are not in your field, you may want to consider leaving extremely technical terms out of the poster. If needed, you can explain the technical terms verbally.
Will you be paying out of pocket to print your poster? It is great to know very early on how much it will cost to print your poster. This is important to know because this will influence the choice and amount of color used, printing on glossy or matte paper etc
Remember: If these things are not explicitly told to you, MAKE SURE YOU ASK!
What applications/software can you use to make posters?
Powerpoint: The most commonly used application to create posters is Microsoft Powerpoint. Although Powerpoint is traditionally used to create slide presentations, it is also used to create posters. It is relatively easy to use and it is free if you have Microsoft office installed on your computer. In later parts of this series, we will have a demonstration on how to make a poster using Powerpoint.
Some other softwares/applications that can be used to create a poster are: Biorender, Coral Draw, Photoshop, Affinity Designer, Canva and Illustrator.
Where can you print out a poster?
First try talking to the organizers of the conference/ symposium. This is always the first thing to try because they sometimes print posters for free (most times for students) or know the best places to get posters printed. If that is not available, or if you are doing a more independent/personal presentation, try your local Staples, Kinkos, Fedex, and sometimes Office Depot might be able to print posters. Make sure you compare prices to ensure that you are getting the best deal. If you don’t have any of these stores in your area, try reaching out to nearby universities, as some schools allow non university members to use their printing services for a fee.
Check back next week for part 2 where we will guide you through everything concerning poster design! Feel free to contact us with any questions, or if there is anything you would like to add.