Top 10 Tips for poster writing
17 Nov 2018
Your poster is an advertisement and short story of your work, so you need to make sure it is clear to read, accurate & engages the reader. Posters are a key component of communicating your science and an important element in a successful scientific career.
Posters should be considered a snapshot of your work, intended to engage readers in a dialog about the work, or, if you are not present, to be a summary that will encourage the reader to learn more. Many a lifelong collaboration has begun in front of a poster board. Your abstract is the key to acceptance.
- Stick to guideline for the abstract / poster if given
- Know your audience
Here are ten simple rules for maximizing the return on the time-consuming process of preparing and presenting an effective poster.
Sell your work, sell yourself
What do you want the person passing your poster to do? Engage in a discussion about the content? Learn enough to go off and try something for themselves? Feel a need to collaborate? All the above, or none of the above, but something else? Style your poster accordingly.
Some conferences will present hundreds of posters; you will need to fight for attention & therefore standout. The first impressions of your poster are crucial.
Add in personality
A poster is a different medium from a paper, which is conventionally dry and impersonal. Think of your poster as an extension of your personality. Use it to draw the passerby to take a closer look or to want to talk to you.
Scientific collaboration often starts for reasons other than the shared scientific interest, such as a personal interest. A photo of you on the poster not only helps someone find you at the conference when you are not at the poster, it can also be used to illustrate a hobby or an interest that can open a conversation.
Think big! The title is your biggest impact for readers/viewers of the poster. Use bold typeface for this. The title is a good way to sell your work. It may be the only thing the conference attendee sees before they reach your poster. The title should make them want to come and visit.
It might pose a decisive question, define the scope of the study, or hint at a new finding. Above all, the title should be short and comprehensible to a broad audience. It’s your equivalent of a newspaper headline—short, sharp, and compelling & must contain only the essential number of words.Group together all author and affiliations under the title area.
Headings and text
Make your headings stand out from the text – keeping the font the same size & style throughout. Always use Align-Left as the spacing remains neater, rather than creating gaps between text. Ensure the text is readable. If it is too small, it will put readers off and they will potentially pass your poster by.
Leave space around your text. Always make sure your poster flows in a direction so that it can easily be followed.Guide the reader with arrows, numbering, or whatever else makes sense in getting them to move from one logical step to another.
Make sure your poster flows
Try to do this guiding in an unusual and eye-catching way. Look for appropriate layouts in the posters of others and adopt some of their approaches. Finally, never use less than a size 24-point font and make sure the main points can be read at eye level. Ideal text sizing should be (unless otherwise stated):
- Title 85pt
- Authors 56pt
- Sub-headings 36pt
- Body text 24pt
- Captions 18pt
This area of the poster is hugely important. Have a clear and obvious set of conclusions—after the abstract, this is where the reader’s eyes will wander. Only then will they go to the results, followed by the methods. Your discussion/conclusion should be an explanation of your findings and implications of the study you have undertaken.
Always ensure your conclusion is a reflection of the results … this can sometimes be misleading if unexpected results happen in the study. The conclusion needs to give a true statement about how the study resulted.
Images, graphs and data
These say more than words, so it is important to include them to keep posters visual and eye catching. Use of first-rate pictorial material to illustrate a poster can sometimes transform what would otherwise be a bewildering mass of complex data into a coherent and convincing story. Do not clutter the poster with too many images and ensure photo images are good resolution & correct format.
Stick with two or three colours and choose wisely, as some colours work better than others. Dark type on light background works best and refrain from using a busy background pattern that clutters the poster & makes it difficult to read.
Editing the poster
Edit, edit and edit! Make sure your supervisor is able to review the poster and offer any amendments which may need including before your final copy goes off to print. Try asking colleagues to read through the poster to see if it is clear, easy to understand and that the title and conclusion are related.
Printing the poster and handouts
Firstly, I’d recommend you print off a copy as a handout. Questions to ask yourself; can you read the text? Does the colour scheme work well? Does the poster look too busy? Do the main points stand out?
When it comes to printing the actual poster, see if there is an illustration department within your organization who can do this. Ugly posters are sometimes a result of poor quality printing. Print off handouts prior to presenting your poster.
- Provides copies for those interested in your work
- You will appear organized for doing these
- Ensure you include your contact info such as email address, should anyone want to contact you for further information on your work
- You may win best poster if they are being judged
- Your poster may even get you a job!
The impact of a poster happens during and after poster session
When the huge effort of creating a poster is done, do not blow it on the presentation day by failing to have the poster achieve maximum impact. This requires the right presenter–audience interaction. Work to get a crowd by being engaging; one attentive viewer will attract others.
Don’t hassle people, let them read. Try to work all the audience at once, do not leave visitors waiting for your attention. Make eye contact with every visitor. Smile! Make it easy for a conference visitor to contact you afterward. This is where your handouts play an important role and must therefore include your email address.
The reader is more likely to remember you than the content of your poster. Make yourself easy to remember. Consider the outfit you will wear, look smart, but stand out. Leave the readers space and time—they can “travel” through your poster at their own discretion and pace.
If a visitor asks a question, talk simply and openly about the work. This is your opportunity to get feedback on the work before it goes to publication. Good posters and their presentations can improve your reputation, both within and outside your working group and institution, and may also contribute to further work or invites to present the work elsewhere. Poster prizes count when peers look at your CV.
That’s it- good luck and remember to enjoy it- then others will too!
Claire Hill (MWE)