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Research Posters : Home

Poster sessions at conferences and professional meetings are a way to visually convey the details of your research or conclusions. This guide will offer you the basics in design, content and printing resources.

Three elements of a poster

Remember, there are three components to your poster session:

  1. You
  2. Your poster
  3. A handout

All three components should complement one another, not repeat each other.

You: You should prepare a 1-2 minute lightning talk about your research. This should be a unique experience or insight you had about your research that adds depth of understanding to what the attendee can read on your poster. Carefully consider the audience for your poster session. Your talk should be in layman's language - don't assume that your audience will understand the jargon in your discipline. You should also prepare to answer questions about your research.

Poster: Your poster should be an outline of your research with interesting commentary about what you learned along the way. It should be a balance of visuals and text. Your poster is essentially a prop for your presentation. 

Handout: Best practices for handouts - 1) Your handout should be double-sided. 2) The first side of the paper should include a picture of your poster (this can be in black and white or color). 3) The second side of the handout should include your literature review, cited references, further information about your topic and your contact information.

Three questions to ask yourself when designing a poster

  1. What is the most important/interesting/astounding finding from my research project?
  2. How can I visually share my research with conference attendees? Should I use charts, graphs, photos, images?
  3. What kind of information can I convey during my lightning talk that will complement my poster?

Best reason to give a poster presentation - Talk about your research and learn to see your research through the lens of other experts and non-experts. You may surprise yourself by asking new questions!

What is a research poster?

A poster session or poster presentation is the presentation of research information by an individual or representatives of research teams at a congress or conference with an academic or professional focus. The work is usually peer reviewed. Poster sessions are particularly prominent at scientific conferences such as medical congresses.

Typically a separate room or area of a tradeshow floor is reserved for the poster session where researchers accompany a paper poster, illustrating their research methods and outcomes. Each research project is usually presented on a conference schedule for a period ranging from 10 minutes to several hours. Very large events may feature a few thousand poster presentations over a matter of a few days.

Presentations usually consist of affixing the research poster to a portable wall with the researcher in attendance answering questions posed by passing colleagues. The poster itself varies in size according to conference guidelines from 2x3 feet to 4x8 feet in dimensions.

See Wikipedia entry:

What to expect at the poster session

  • Dress is business casual - wear comfortable shoes!
  • Arrive early. You'll need time to make sure that your poster is properly mounted as well as time to meet your neighbors.
  • Bring your own push pins and if you are presenting at a professional conference, a black marker and some white out. Even if you didn't make any mistakes on your poster, a fellow colleague may be very grateful to use them.
  • Practice your lightning talk ahead of time and be prepared to answer a multitude of questions about your research. Some questions to consider: Why did you choose this particular research question? What did you learn that you did not expect? What is the most interesting aspect that you learned? What would your next steps be if you could continue this research next semester?
  • There will be a lot of people around the posters at any one time - don't focus your attention on only one person. Make sure you use your eyes and body langauge to draw people into your conversations.
  • Don't forget your handout. This will be your way to connect with attendees after the poster session is done. It should include your title, a copy of your poster, citations, abstract, and contact information.
  • Do not leave early. Even if it seems slow, you should stay until the poster session time slot is over. 

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