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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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.


Are you preparing for an upcoming conference? Need to design a poster for your class? This workshop will give you tools for communicating your research for academic conferences and professional meetings in a concise and visually effective poster presentation. This event is co-sponsored by Scholarly Commons, the Writers Workshop, and the Office of Undergraduate Research.  

Audience: All are welcome especially undergraduates preparing to present at the Undergraduate Research Symposium

ALL SESSIONS ARE TAUGHT ONLINE. Please register and Zoom info will be sent one hour before the session begins. 


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. Try to outline all three before designing your poster. 

You: You should prepare a 3-4 minute lightning talk about your research. This could 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 or it could be a quick overview of our research. Carefully consider the audience for your poster session. Unless you are presenting at a discipline specific conference, your talk should be in layman's language - don't assume your audience will understand the jargon in your discipline. You should also prepare to answer questions about your research. Practice your talk with several people from inside and outside your discipline, if possible. 

Poster: How do you choose the content that will go on your poster? Keep in mind - your poster in not a research paper. A guideline is, whatever content you want to include on your poster, cut it in half. Use bullet points whenever possible and stay away from long, narrative paragraphs. Your poster should be an outline of your research with interesting commentary about what you learned along the way. It should also balance visuals and text. Your poster is essentially a prop for your presentation. See the Examples tab for some example posters. 

Handout: Best practices for handouts - 1) Your handout should be double-sided. 2) The first side of the paper can include a replica of your poster (this can be in black and white or color). 3) The second side of the handout can include extraneous information such as your literature review, cited references, further information about your topic, and your contact information. Your handout can be a single sheet or 1/2 sheet of 8 1/2 by 11 inches. 

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 - Your poster presentation presents an opportunity to talk about your research and learn to see your research through the lens of other experts and non-experts. By interacting with others, you may think of new answers to your research. You may also surprise yourself by asking new questions! 


If you are presenting at the Illinois Undergraduate Research Symposium:

The day of the conference: Thursday, April 28, 2022  |  Location: Illini Union Rooms A, B, C, & South Lounge

Before the Undergraduate Research Symposium:

  • Make sure to save your poster file as a PDF and double-check the size (it should be 48'' by 36") before sending it to the printer. Learn more about printing!
  • Please be "presentation appropriate." While this means different things to different people (allowing for creativity in personal expression), keep in mind the event will be photographed for publicity purposes, and a polished appearance is part of your presentation. Pro tip: wear comfortable shoes. 
  • There will be clips available to attach your poster, you do not need to bring push pins. 
  • 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?
  • You can find more info from the Office of Undergraduate Research.

The day of the Undergraduate Research Symposium:

  • Don't forget your poster and your handouts/business cards. 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.
  • All students must check-in 15 minutes before the scheduled start time of their presentation. Check-in tables are located in the lobby outside Illini Rooms A, B, and C in the Illini Union.
  • Pick up clips to attach your poster as you enter the ballroom and put up your poster in your assigned location. 
  • After students check-in, students will hang their posters on the partitions provided within their assigned room (Illini Union Rooms A, B, C, or South Lounge). Faculty members, staff, community members, Symposium judges, and other guests will circulate around the room and ask you questions about your work, so you should be prepared to explain your project and answer any questions. Each poster session will last one hour and 15 minutes.
  • With your extra few minutes before the poster session starts, make sure that your poster is properly mounted and take a few minutes to introduce yourself to your neighbors. 
  • 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 language to draw people into your conversations.
  • Do not leave early. Even if it seems slow, you should stay until the poster session time slot is over. Once the session is over, consider staying for the next session or attend one of the panel sessions to learn more about what your peers are doing across disciplines. 

If you are presenting at a professional conference:

  • In addition to the above, 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.
  • Consider printing your poster on fabric, if you are traveling - that way you do not need t keep track of the poster tube. It shouldn't be too much more expensive but you do need to have it printed at a professional printer  (e.g., FedEX/Kinko's) since the campus printing does not have the capability to print on fabric. 


Creative Commons License

Except where otherwise indicated, original content in this guide is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) 4.0 license. You are free to share, adopt, or adapt the materials. We encourage broad adoption of these materials for teaching and other professional development purposes, and invite you to customize them for your own needs. 

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Workshop Resources

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 the Wikipedia entry on Poster Sessions.