Conference season is upon us! Time to get those talks polished, suits pressed, and posters poppin’! Conferences are one of the best ways to get your research and ideas out to the world. You can meet hundreds of people from your field who might be interested in your work. But they key it to grab their attention and stand out. But how do you stand out in a sea of rows of posters? Today I am bringing you my tips from making a captivating poster!
I have been to my share of conferences and poster sessions in the last two years, and one thing I always judge is the poster quality. The way a poster looks makes a huge difference if I am inclined to come and talk to the presenter. My artistic background had helped me make eye-catching award-winning posters. I am bringing you some tips for improving your poster so you reach your target audience at your next poster session.
- Your poster is your ad for your brand. Presentations give you an opportunity to advertise your brand to potential collaborators or employers. Your brand is how people remember you and distinguish you from the crowd. I have heard the saying that the best scientists are the best advertisers. Use your poster presentation as an opportunity to stand out from the crowd and showcase your brilliant work.
- A Template is like a starting line, not the finish line. University or program templates can be a great starting point. But, too often do I see poster after poster with the same exact format and simply put, its gets boring and unmemorable. Spice it up and organize your poster in a way that best fits your material. You can make changes as simple as changing the background color or font type.
- No more three-panel approach. How many times have you seen the three-panel format? I personally have used it since the days of 6th grade science fairs. Its old news. Try out variations of the format such as increasing the widths of some sections or creating horizontal sections.
- Legible font. One of the most common problems I see with posters is that the text in too small. A person typically stands at least 2-3 feet away from a poster and spends a total of less than a minute looking at it. Make sure your font size is large enough that someone has an easy time reading the information and understanding your concepts. I typically use somewhere between a font size 37-40 in Times New Roman for my general text.
- Legible font on images. Also, I usually start with extra-large font size in the graphs and diagrams while creating them so when you shrink them down the text remains legible. Using professional software or “enhanced images” also helps keep the text visually sharp when you adjust the size of the figures.
- Color scheme. Most logos or designs have anywhere between 1 and 3 colors in their color schemes. For logos, it allows the viewer to easily focus in and remember the design. For printed material such as poster limiting the color scheme between 1 and 3 colors limits the distraction for viewers and helps them focus in on the important information. Also, when choosing your colors, balance them out with more neutral than bold colors.
- Limit your Text. You have probably been to a poster session and talked to other people presenting posters. Have you ever really read more than the title and a few key words related to the figures? Well the majority of people and professors will probably read about the same, if not less. Including a lot of text 1) detracts away from the key points and 2) limits size of figures/graphs. Delete as much text as you can. Let your figures and elevator pitch do the talking. Keep text that helps sum up the key findings or explains figures.
- An Image is worth a thousand words. So, use them to promote your brand. Make your figures and graphs larger than you think you need. Diagrams are also your friend, because they can explain concepts or methods very quickly and help your audience visualize your information. How you format your figures is also important to consider. Don’t over crowd your figures. Give each figure enough space around it to limit distractions. I use software like SiDAVis for graphs, because it proportionally modifies the size of the text in the graph as you change is size of the graph, which makes it easy to read.
- Proof edit. Now that you have put together your figures and text onto your poster and determine your layout, it is time to double and triple check everything. I suggest your print out a 8” x 11” colored version of your poster to help correct any errors prior to printing the full version. Not only should you proof read your text, but check colors, adjust figures and font size, etc. Seeing the poster in print helps you catch mistakes easier. Another tip is to get others to look it over.
Hope some of these tips help you along the way as you prepare your posters. I will be working on my own poster this week for an upcoming presentation and will be applying these tips to my own work. If there is anything else you do to make your poster stand out, please comment down below!