Poster Presentations - A Guide to Design and Preparation

This guide is adapted from materials prepared by Kirk Larson, Professor of Biology.

Making a Poster Presentation

Poster displays are not manuscripts in scientific paper format simply stuck on a bulletin board. Usually a brief ABSTRACT or SUMMARY, including an introduction and description of the methods & results is included.

In the sciences, the METHODS should primarily be pictures and diagrams with descriptive captions. The RESULTS are mostly figures and tables with descriptive captions. CONCLUSIONS should be point by point rather than textual format. If a viewer must read lots of prose, they will likely move on before understanding your presentation.

Display Space

Each display is usually contained within a 4 ft x 4 ft space (although this may vary depending on where you are presenting). The board will usually take push pins. Sometimes you can use stick-on Velcro strips to attach to felt-covered surfaces. Scotch tape is always a good backup. Plan ahead to achieve the most effective arrangement of your display, making sure it will fit into the available space.

Heading

The heading consists of the title of your presentation as printed in the program and the name(s) of the author(s). Use a minimum of 36 point type for the title, to make it readable from a distance (some poster titles use 72 point fonts or higher!). In cases where titles are extraordinarily long, abbreviated titles are acceptable.

Legibility & Visual Impact

Viewers will be standing between one and two meters from your display. How the poster looks and how easy it is to read is very important! The text, captions, and figure legends must be at least 18 pt, preferably 24 pt to be easily readable. Use a consistent font.

Graphs, photos, and tables need to be large as well. Use of contrasting color in graphs is effective where appropriate.

Simplicity

Do:

  • Limit the complexity of the presentation
  • Include large, clear visuals (make at least half your poster non-text)
  • Limit the text to what is absolutely essential

Do NOT:

  • Include complex graphs that are difficult to interpret
  • Include extensive tables of numbers
  • Include pages of small print with details of methods or long, drawn-out discussion

Continuity & Clarity

Tell the story of your research in a series of simple statements and supporting illustrations. Use the captions of pictures, figure, and tables to help describe the project. By position of the text and figures, or by using arrows, indicate the flow of your story in the display. Use a single font throughout your presentation.

Highlight major points using bullets or some other means in a summary or conclusions paragraph.

Displays are not Manuscripts

Be sure to limit the prose. However, the display should be self-explanatory. Thus, when you present, you will be free to answer questions and discuss your work with some while others are able to study and understand the display.

Preparation of your Poster

Large format color plotters allow the use of PowerPoint or similar graphics programs to create posters that are now standard at academic meetings. This makes set-up and tear-down very easy. (see Posters, Creating and Printing Using PowerPoint How-To)

Posters can also be constructed mounting smaller elements to stiff cardboard or poster board with a spray adhesive. Often colored cardboard is used and a border is left around each item. Use push pins or Velcro to attach your poster to the presentation space.

Presenting at the Poster Session

Always have at least 1 co-author near the poster to answer questions. Let people peruse your poster for 30 seconds to a minute before approaching them to ask if you may lead them through it. Be ready to clearly and concisely explain the objectives of your study, your methodology, the results, and your conclusions. Don’t be shy in introducing yourself, since the opportunity to meet people and discuss your work is one of the major advantages of poster sessions!