The Keys to an Effective Poster Session

A poster presentation is an excellent opportunity to network with fellow researchers and share critical information from your research. Unfortunately, many posters fall short, and may actively work against the presenter. Here are some tips to increase the odds of success at your next poster session.

  • Know the two critical functions of a poster: to attract visitors and to support your verbal description of the work. Rather than try to duplicate the entire contents of your paper on the poster, select one line of inquiry to illustrate—ideally, one that lends itself to visual display.
  • Isolate the image that best represents this line of inquiry, or that shows the most important step in your methodology. Enlarge this image so it is sized 15 to 20 percent larger than the other images on the poster. This will help your poster stand out from the mass of text-heavy posters at the session and suggest that you have a finding that merits the foregrounding.
  • Devote two-thirds of the poster space to visual images and only one-third to text. Use bullet points rather than full sentences. Excessive text is tedious for attendees to read and may be off-putting, so any text beyond this small amount makes the poster less effective in achieving the two goals mentioned above.
  • Sequence the panels on the poster in vertical columns rather than in horizontal rows. The first item should be in the upper left corner, with the second just below it. This format allows attendees to walk down an aisle of posters without having to backtrack to see all the material.
  • Plan to be beside your poster during the entire session and at other times attendees may come by, such as breaks. Wear a name badge so you can be identified at a glance, and have business cards and handouts, such as your paper, ready for anyone who is interested in following up.

By understanding the important functions of a poster and the ways your presentation can achieve them, you will increase the odds that your poster and your work will receive the attention they deserve.