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Tips for presenting your scientific poster at a conference

Tips for presenting your scientific poster at a conference

A scientific poster is a visual presentation that summarises your research findings and is typically displayed at conferences or academic events. Presenting one can be intimidating, but it's a valuable opportunity for feedback and confidence-building. Check out our top 9 top tips for successfully presenting your poster at a scientific conference.

Be welcoming

You should do your best to stand at your poster for the entirety of the conference poster session. If you do need to leave your poster for any reason, ensure you include your email address on it, so you can be contacted by conference attendees who may read your poster while you are not there. Read more tips for making your poster stand out here.

To make everyone feel welcome, stand to the side of your poster. This will make it easy for your potential audience to move closer and see the whole thing.

Think of your poster as a conversation starter. Smile and say hello to everyone who walks past and looks at you or your poster. Invite them to read more and, if they seem interested, ask if they would like you to talk them through it or if they have any questions.

Engage your audience

Remember to be enthusiastic - your research is exciting! Even towards the end of the poster session, when your energy levels may be lower, it is important to remain enthusiastic. If it is clear you find your work interesting, your audience are more likely to as well!

As you are presenting your poster, point to relevant parts of the poster so that people can follow as your talk through it. Try to avoid putting your hands in your pockets or behind your back.

Remember to also keep looking back at the audience, to keep them engaged and feeling involved in the presentation.

If you are already presenting your research to someone or a small group and someone else walks up, acknowledge them by making eye contact with them and smiling. Once you have finished with your initial visitors ask the newcomer if there was anything they missed that they would like a further explanation of, or whether they have any questions.

The most important aspect of presenting a poster at a conference is to make the most out of the opportunity you’ve been given. Who knows what might become of an interaction that you have in front of that notice board?

Tips for Presenting your Scientific Poster at a Conference: Engage your Audience

Tips for presenting your scientific poster at a conference: Engage your audience

The “elevator” pitch

First impressions really count in poster presentations. To pique the interest of your potential audience you should have a very short synopsis (maximum three sentences and no longer than two minutes) of your research prepared, which contains three vital bits of information:

  • What is your research topic?
  • What have you found?
  • Why is that important?

The aim here is to get your audience hooked and wanting further details. Keep the bigger picture in mind, as the audience first needs the background info to then get excited about the small details of your research. Make sure your pitch is punchy, intriguing and relevant.

Creating a story

Once you’ve reeled in your audience and they are eager to learn more, it’s time to build the narrative of your research. Like all great stories your research needs a beginning, a middle and an end. Aim for this to be 10 minutes long, or less.

The introduction should set the scene and introduce the main characters:

  • What is the necessary background information about your research topic that the audience must know?
  • How did this lead you to your research question, what were you hoping to find out and why?
  • Who are the main characters (e.g. a disease, a drug, a cell type, a brain region, a technique)? What are the relevant parts of their “characteristics” to the story?

The middle section is the adventure, it answers:

  • How did you get from your research question to your conclusion? Why did you choose to take that route?
  • What did you find on your way? Were there any interesting twists to your research?

The final section is the conclusion to the story:

  • What is the ultimate consequence of your journey? What does this mean for your characters?
  • Is this really the end of the adventure or are there plenty more adventures still to come? What might they look like?

Remember: You are the narrator; it is up to you as the story teller to make the content both compelling and exciting. Attendees are not all experts in your field.; if you are unsure how familiar your audience is with your subject area, ask them.

Tips for Presenting your Scientific Poster at a Conference: Create a Story

Tips for presenting your scientific poster at a conference: Create a story

The importance of practice

Presenting your poster is ultimately a form of performance. In performances, whether they involve acting, music, sport or presenting, practice is a major factor in success. After all, however much of a cliché it is: practice makes perfect. Rehearse what you will say and practice presenting on your friends and family. Once you begin speaking at your poster session you will be pleased that you spent time preparing and practising.

Before the poster session starts make sure that you:

  • Understand exactly what all the figures on the poster show, that you can explain them fully and know their full implications.
  • Have your elevator pitch memorised
  • Know all the key points to your research story without referring to written notes
  • Are ready to answer likely questions with confidence, and know how to deal with difficult questions that you might not be able to answer fully.

Tips for presenting your scientific poster at a conference: Practice, practice, practice

Tips for presenting your scientific poster at a conference: Practice, practice, practice

Check the audience's understanding

Ask members of the audience whether you have been clear or if you should go into more detail, rather than asking if they understand, as this could make them feel stupid or ignorant.

For example, say something like “Have I been clear enough” or “should I go into more detail about……?” instead of “do you understand how this works?”

The handout

There are pros and cons to having a handout with additional supporting materials or key information from your poster. You must decide for yourself if it will be of benefit to you depending on several factors including:

  • What is the purpose of your poster?
  • What are you hoping to achieve with your presentation?
  • Will it enhance your audience’s engagement with your research or not?

The major positive outcome of a handout is that gives your audience something to take away with them to remind them about you, your research and why they were interested in it. It also gives them a way to get in touch with you should they have further questions.

The main negative is that some people who may be interested and could benefit from speaking to you about your poster will take the leaflet, read it (or not) and never engage with your research again. It is an easy way for them to avoid talking to you, for whatever reason that may be.

If you decide to go ahead with a handout there are several items that should be included:

  • The project title
  • Your name and affiliation
  • Your professional email address (and phone number if your happy for people to contact you that way)
  • The key information from your poster (including a link to the relevant paper if it has already been published.
  • Any supporting materials not included on the poster that may be of help.

Tips for presenting your scientific poster at a conference: The handout

Tips for presenting your scientific poster at a conference: The handout

Expand your network

Look for opportunities to exchange contact information. If someone is particularly interested in your poster and wants to know all the details of your research, it may be better to suggest meeting them for a coffee after the poster session, or arranging another time for further discussions. This will ensure that other potential audience members don’t get bored and wander off without talking to you because they have been waiting too long.

Exchanging contact information and having further discussions can be a great way to expand your network and find potential collaborators for the future.

Tips for presenting your scientific poster at a conference: Expand your network

Tips for presenting your scientific poster at a conference: Expand your network

Dealing with feedback

It is important to welcome feedback, be prepared for discussion and not to be too defensive in the face of criticism.

If someone asks you a question or makes a comment that you don’t think is relevant, ask them to explain the relevance of their comment. They may have stumbled across something that you haven’t thought of because of their fresh perspective on the topic, or they might just not understand your research. Also, a negative comment or question might not actually be a criticism, but a genuine desire to understand why you’ve done something so they can fully interpret the poster. It is unlikely that someone has visited your poster to be vindictive, and if they have it is important not to engage them, shrug off their comments and move on to the next person who is genuinely interested.

Remember to thank the audience for listening and thank them for their feedback. People who have visited your poster could potentially be employers or colleagues in the future.

You got this!

In summary, presenting your poster at a conference is a chance to showcase your research, receive feedback, and connect with peers. Embrace the opportunity, be welcoming and enthusiastic, and enjoy the experience of sharing your work with others.

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  • 7 Tips for Preparing and Presenting a Winning Scientific Poster

7 Tips for Preparing a Winning Scientific Poster Presentation

how to give a poster presentation

Presenting a scientific poster is a great way to share your research at a conference, interact with fellow researchers, and get instant feedback on your work. It also serves as a valuable networking opportunity and allows you to forge relationships for future collaborations.

Although there are many benefits to scientific poster presentations, your first attempt at preparing and presenting one can feel daunting. Graduate students are often left to figure out how to do this all on their own, which can lead to posters filled with too much text and data, and presentations that are difficult to follow. Follow these tips to create better posters and maximize the benefits of presenting.

1. Think of your poster as a conversation starter

A scientific poster is not meant to be a comprehensive report of your research. The primary goal is to attract the attention of conference attendees so that you can begin a conversation. With that in mind, design your poster as a visual tool to help share your research. You can use this opportunity to get feedback and ideas, and to network with fellow conference attendees—perhaps you’ll even be able to find new collaborators for your research.

2. Know your audience

Before you begin drafting the content, it’s important to know your audience. Consider how proficient the audience is on your research topic. Are you going to a broad conference where the audience may be less familiar with your niche topic? If so, try to make your content more accessible by simplifying complex concepts or ideas. Are you going to a conference specific to your research niche? If so, you may not need as much background information.

Conference preparation checklists

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3. Know the story you’re trying to tell

A scientific poster is more than just a collection of information and data; the components should work together to create one cohesive and engaging story that leads viewers to your main conclusion. It also needs to be concise. You may find it helpful to write a short narrative of the story you’re trying to tell before creating your poster.

4. Create an outline and draft your content

The content of your poster should be easy to digest. Your audience doesn’t have much time to spend on each conference poster. Make it as easy as possible for them to quickly scan your poster and understand the story you’re trying to tell.

Include the following components:

  • Authors list and affiliations
  • Introduction, background, or rationale
  • A brief overview of methods
  • Results and discussion

Follow these tips to make your poster easier to digest:

  • Write a catchy title containing relevant keywords to help the audience quickly recognize whether they’re interested in your poster.
  • Keep your methods to a brief overview instead of including detailed protocols.
  • Use 5 figures or less, choosing only the most interesting data that are critical to support your conclusion.
  • Use diagrams to illustrate complex concepts.
  • Be concise and only include the essential details required to grasp the whole story.
  • Ensure that the content can be presented in 5 - 10 minutes at a comfortable, conversational pace.
  • Use bullet points and short sentences and paragraphs.
  • Choose simple words (e.g. “use” instead of “utilize”).
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread. Then ask a friend to!

5. Use design best practices

Having a well-designed conference poster can help you attract an audience and share your research in a way that is easy for the audience to follow. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a graphic designer to create a well-laid-out poster. Regardless of the tool you choose (e.g. Adobe Illustrator, Microsoft PowerPoint), follow these simple design tips:

  • Use a simple, light, neutral-coloured background that provides enough contrast with the text. Avoid busy and distracting backgrounds.
  • Choose one bold accent color, and use it sparingly to help your poster stand out without being distracting.
  • Stick to simple and easy-to-read fonts (e.g. Arial, Helvetica).
  • Distinguish headings and subheadings from the rest of the text with different fonts or font sizes.
  • Use large font sizes that can be read from a distance of one meter. Try to stay between 18 pt (for figure legends) and 85 pt (for the main title).
  • For the body text, set the line spacing to a minimum of 1.25 and don’t make the text box too wide. This will help improve readability.
  • Leave enough clear space in the borders, between sections, and between lines to make your poster more inviting and easy to digest.
  • Use gridlines to help you align your sections, columns, text, and figures so they look neat and evenly distributed.
  • Use your layout to create a flow that helps the audience move logically from one section to the next.

Prepare to network and present your poster

A poster session is an opportune time for networking and sharing your research, so you should make the most of it. This can mean updating your LinkedIn profile prior to the conference, coming prepared with business cards, and practicing your poster presentation prior.

Practice your poster presentation prior to the poster session, but avoid sounding like you're reading off a script. Ensure that you can tell your story through the figures on your poster in 5 - 10 minutes at a comfortable pace. You could also anticipate some questions that your audience may ask you and be prepared to answer those questions.

Remember, the first time you present your poster will be the most difficult. Treat it as a warm-up and do it with a trusted friend or colleague, if possible. You should get more comfortable as the session progresses and can adapt your presentation on the go according to what your audience is responding best to.

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Engage your audience

The best poster presenters are those who are able engage their audience by having a clear presentation, a positive body language, and a genuine conversation. Follow these tips to effectively present your scientific poster:

  • Stand on one side of the poster and avoid blocking the audience from viewing your poster or the poster next to yours.
  • Smile and make eye contact with the audience. Shake their hands and introduce yourself.
  • Ask your audience if they would like you to present your poster to them. Some people prefer to just scan posters on their own.
  • As you’re presenting, use your hands to point to the relevant parts of your poster. Look at your audience instead of staring at your own poster the entire time. It helps to position your feet towards the audience instead of towards your poster.
  • Be yourself and let your genuine personality show through your presentation and interaction with the audience.
  • If you see others waiting for you while you’re still talking to others, acknowledge them with a smile or nod so they know you see them.
  • Ask if your audience has any questions. Answer their questions to the best of your ability, and don’t be afraid to admit if you don’t know the answer.
  • If you don’t see others waiting for your poster, take the opportunity to network with your current audience or other poster presenters around you. Ask them about themselves and what they’re working on. This is also a great time to ask for feedback on your work.
  • Look for opportunities to exchange contact information or arrange to connect another time for further discussions or to explore potential collaborations.
  • Afraid of missing people while you’re not at your poster? Include your email address if you would like to be contacted by conference attendees who may be reading your poster while you’re not there.

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Ten Simple Rules for a Good Poster Presentation

Posters are a key component of communicating your science and an important element in a successful scientific career. Posters, while delivering the same high-quality science, offer a different medium from either oral presentations [ 1 ] or published papers [ 2 ], and should be treated accordingly. Posters should be considered a snapshot of your work intended to engage colleagues in a dialog about the work, or, if you are not present, to be a summary that will encourage the reader to want to learn more. Many a lifelong collaboration [ 3 ] has begun in front of a poster board. Here are ten simple rules for maximizing the return on the time-consuming process of preparing and presenting an effective poster.

The purpose will vary depending on the status and nature of the work being presented, as well as the intent. Some posters are designed to be used again and again; for example, those making conference attendees aware of a shared resource. Others will likely be used once at a conference and then be relegated to the wall in the laboratory. Before you start preparing the poster, ask yourself the following questions: What do you want the person passing by your poster to do? Engage in a discussion about the content? Learn enough to go off and want to try something for themselves? Want to collaborate? All the above, or none of the above but something else? Style your poster accordingly.

Rule 2: Sell Your Work in Ten Seconds

Some conferences will present hundreds of posters; you will need to fight for attention. The first impressions of your poster, and to a lesser extent what you might say when standing in front of it, are crucial. It is analogous to being in an elevator and having a few seconds to peak someone's interest before they get off. The sad truth is that you have to sell your work. One approach is to pose your work as addressing a decisive question, which you then address as best you can. Once you have posed the question, which may well also be the motivation for the study, the focus of your poster should be on addressing that question in a clear and concise way.

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. The title 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. The title is your equivalent of a newspaper headline—short, sharp, and compelling.

Do not take the acceptance of a poster as an endorsement of your work. Conferences need attendees to be financially viable. Many attendees who are there on grants cannot justify attending a conference unless they present. There are a small number of speaking slots compared with attendees. How to solve the dilemma? Enter posters; this way everyone can present. In other words, your poster has not been endorsed, just accepted. To get endorsement from your peers, do good science and present it well on the poster.

Identify your audience and provide the appropriate scope and depth of content. If the conference includes nonspecialists, cater to them. Just as the abstract of a paper needs to be a succinct summary of the motivation, hypothesis to be tested, major results, and conclusions, so does your poster.

The amount of material presented in a paper far outweighs what is presented on a poster. A poster requires you to distill the work, yet not lose the message or the logical flow. Posters need to be viewed from a distance, but can take advantage of your presence. Posters can be used as a distribution medium for copies of associated papers, supplementary information, and other handouts. Posters allow you to be more speculative. Often only the titles or at most the abstracts of posters can be considered published; that is, widely distributed. Mostly, they may never be seen again. There is the opportunity to say more than you would in the traditional literature, which for all intents and purposes will be part of the immutable record. Take advantage of these unique features.

Pop musician Keith Richards put the matter well in an interview with Der Spiegel [ 4 ]: “If you are a painter, then the most important thing is the bare canvas. A good painter will never cover all the space but will always leave some blank. My canvas is silence.” Your canvas as poster presenter is also white space. Guide the passerby's eyes from one succinct frame to another in a logical fashion from beginning to end. Unlike the literature, which is linear by virtue of one page following another, the reader of a poster is free to wander over the pages as if they are tacked to the poster board in a random order. Guide the reader with arrows, numbering, or whatever else makes sense in getting them to move from one logical step to another. 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.

Everything on the poster should help convey the message. The text must conform to the norms of sound scientific reporting: clarity, precision of expression, and economy of words. The latter is particularly important for posters because of their inherent space limitations. 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. One carefully produced chart or graph often says more than hundreds of words. Use graphics for “clear portrayal of complexity” [ 5 ], not to impress (and possibly bewilder) viewers with complex artistry. Allow a figure to be viewed in both a superficial and a detailed way. For example, a large table might have bold swaths of color indicating relative contributions from different categories, and the smaller text in the table would provide gritty details for those who want them. Likewise, a graph could provide a bold trend line (with its interpretation clearly and concisely stated), and also have many detailed points with error bars. Have a clear and obvious set of conclusions—after the abstract, this is where the passerby's eyes will wander. Only then will they go to the results, followed by the methods.

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.

When the considerable effort of making a poster is done, do not blow it on 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 engaged viewer will attract others. Don't badger people, let them read. Be ready with Rule 2. Work all the audience at once, do not leave visitors waiting for your attention. Make eye contact with every visitor.

Make it easy for a conference attendee to contact you afterward. Have copies of relevant papers on hand as well as copies of the poster on standard-sized paper. For work that is more mature, have the poster online and make the URL available as a handout. Have your e-mail and other demographics clearly displayed. Follow up with people who come to the poster by having a signup sheet.

The visitor is more likely to remember you than the content of your poster. Make yourself easy to remember. As the host of the work presented on the poster, be attentive, open, and curious, and self-confident but never arrogant and aggressive. Leave the visitors 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 likely your opportunity to get feedback on the work before it goes to publication. Better to be tripped up in front of your poster than by a reviewer of the manuscript.

Good posters and their presentations can improve your reputation, both within and outside your working group and institution, and may also contribute to a certain scientific freedom. Poster prizes count when peers look at your resume.

These ten rules will hopefully help you in preparing better posters. For a more humorous view on what not to do in preparing a poster, see [ 6 ], and for further information, including the opportunity to practice your German, see [ 7 ]. 


Thomas Erren's contributions to this piece are based on [ 7 ] and were stimulated by exchanges with Michael Jacobsen. Thanks also to Steven E. Brenner for useful input.

Thomas C. Erren is with the Institute and Policlinic for Occupational and Social Medicine, School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Cologne, Lindenthal, Germany. Philip E. Bourne is a Professor in the Department of Pharmacology, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California, United States of America.

Funding. The authors received no specific funding for this article.

Competing interests. The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

  • Bourne PE. Ten simple rules for making good oral presentations. PLoS Comput Biol. 2007; 3 :e77. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.0030077 . [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Bourne PE. Ten simple rules for getting published. PLoS Comput Biol. 2005; 1 :e57. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.0010057 . [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Vicens Q, Bourne PE. Ten simple rules for a successful collaboration. PLoS Comput Biol. 2007; 3 :e44. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.0030044 . [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Interview with Keith Richards. Meine Leinwand ist die Stille. Der Spiegel. 1998; 45 :167–170. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Tufte ER. The visual display of quantitative information. Cheshire (Connecticut): Graphics Press; 2001. p. 191. [ Google Scholar ]
  • Wolcott TG. Mortal sins in poster presentations or how to give the poster no one remembers. Newsletter Soc Integr Compar Biol Fall. 1997. pp. 10–11. Available: http://www.sicb.org/newsletters/fa97nl/sicb/poster.html . Accessed 23 April 2007.
  • Erren TC. Schau mich an! Ein Leitfaden zur Erstellung und Präsentation von Postern in der Medizin und den Naturwissenschaften. München/Wien/New York: W. Zuckschwerdt Verlag; 2006. [ Google Scholar ]

How to Create a Research Poster

  • Poster Basics
  • Design Tips
  • Logos & Images

What is a Research Poster?

Posters are widely used in the academic community, and most conferences include poster presentations in their program.  Research posters summarize information or research concisely and attractively to help publicize it and generate discussion. 

The poster is usually a mixture of a brief text mixed with tables, graphs, pictures, and other presentation formats. At a conference, the researcher stands by the poster display while other participants can come and view the presentation and interact with the author.

What Makes a Good Poster?

  • Important information should be readable from about 10 feet away
  • Title is short and draws interest
  • Word count of about 300 to 800 words
  • Text is clear and to the point
  • Use of bullets, numbering, and headlines make it easy to read
  • Effective use of graphics, color and fonts
  • Consistent and clean layout
  • Includes acknowledgments, your name and institutional affiliation

A Sample of a Well Designed Poster

View this poster example in a web browser .  

Three column blue and white poster with graphs, data, and other information displayed.

Image credit: Poster Session Tips by [email protected], via Penn State

Where do I begin?

Answer these three questions:.

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

What software can I use to make a poster?

A popular, easy-to-use option. It is part of Microsoft Office package and is available on the library computers in rooms LC337 and LC336. ( Advice for creating a poster with PowerPoint ).

Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign

Feature-rich professional software that is good for posters including lots of high-resolution images, but they are more complex and expensive.  NYU Faculty, Staff, and Students can access and download the Adobe Creative Suite .

Open Source Alternatives 

  • OpenOffice is the free alternative to MS Office (Impress is its PowerPoint alternative).
  • Inkscape and Gimp are alternatives to Adobe products.
  • For charts and diagrams try Gliffy or Lovely Charts .
  • A complete list of free graphics software .

A Sample of a Poorly Designed Poster

View this bad poster example in a browser.

Poster marked up pointing out errors, of which there are many.

Image Credit: Critique by Better Posters

  • Next: Design Tips >>
  • Last Updated: Jul 11, 2023 5:09 PM
  • URL: https://guides.nyu.edu/posters

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  • 11 min read

How to deliver an engaging scientific poster presentation: Dos and Don’ts!

Picture of a lady presenting her poster

You've spent hours meticulously designing an award-winning scientific poster that beautifully showcases your research findings and stands out from the crowd. 🔬🧫

Now it’s time to talk to an actual human being!!

The thought of presenting can be nerve-wracking, and the real challenge lies in simply and effectively communicating your novel research findings.

But fear not!

In this blog, we've got you covered with expert tips and strategies to help you confidently nail your poster presentation. Get ready to conquer your fears and showcase your research with finesse and confidence. ✨

Let’s run through the dos and don’ts of presenting your poster at a conference, ensuring you leave a lasting impression on your audience.

So dive in and discover how to deliver an exceptional poster presentation! 👇

Scientific Poster Presentation Dos:

Ahhh, you made it! 💪

Maybe it felt like a mad dash to the finish line, 🏃‍♀️ or a long time coming. Either way the conference is here. After weeks designing your award-winning poster - picking a cohesive colour scheme , an attention-grabbing font and perfecting the layout , you and your scientific poster are ready to stand out !

But you hadn’t given any thought to the actual presentation, until now…

…Cue freak out!

Poster presentations are the perfect way to showcase your recently published work, to have more intimate conversations with your peers, and to foster collaborations.

So let’s give you a run down to make sure you get off on the right foot.

You can breathe again, you got this! 😮‍💨 💪

Number 1: Start a conversation

Seems simple enough! But the power of a conversation is unparalleled.

So how do you start a conversation with a stranger? And in a loud and busy poster hall?

Well let’s find out.

Once you spot somebody eyeing off your poster, smile at them and allow 5 or so seconds for them to read your title and digest your research topic, before asking them "Would you like me to run you through my poster?". Think of it like window shopping, giving them time to decide whether they are interested and want to know more.

You can also use body language as a great indicator to determine if someone is interested.

For example, if someone beelines to your poster, conference booklet in hand, opened to your conference abstract, it's safe to assume they want to know more. If they barely pause at your poster, and avoid eye contact, that’s okay. Not everyone will be interested in your research!

To set a positive tone, start with a genuine smile and a warm greeting. Don’t forget to introduce yourself. Here are some conversation starters to get you going. 👇

Conversation starters: - A direct starter like "Would you like me to walk you through my research?". Or a general starter such as "How are you finding the conference?" Or a search for common interests "Do you also work in breast cancer?".

To encourage interaction and foster a meaningful conversation ask open-ended questions.

"Have you encountered similar challenges in your own work?”

"What are your thoughts on this approach?"

Listen attentively and show genuine interest in their response, delving deeper into their perspectives where appropriate.

By having a two-way conversation you are more likely to get valuable input on your research topic and make meaningful connections. 🙌

But to have a successful conversation, you need to know who you are talking to, which leads us to our next point.

Number 2: Tailor your presentation

Once you have lured them in, it's time to provide a concise overview of your research. Keep it brief. Focus on the key point to pique their interest, and tailor your delivery according to their knowledge base.

The key here is to ask more questions.

A question mark covered with questions to promote a conversation and get to know your audience like "Have you worked on a similar project?" or "How familiar are you with the methodology?".

It is a great idea to gauge your audience's background before you start with your spiel. A great question to start with is “How familiar are you with topic X?”.

Then continue to ask your audience simple yes/no questions interspersed throughout your presentation to further gauge their background knowledge and understanding.

For instance:

Are you familiar with this concept?

Have you heard of X technique before?

Do you know about XYZ?

Once you have an answer you can adjust the level of detail and terminology accordingly. This will help you adapt your explanations and avoid unnecessary complexity or oversimplification.

Some people are interested in the nitty-gritty details of your research and others might only be interested in an overview. Let the conversation guide you!

For example, a professor who has been working in the breast cancer field for 30+ years, will need very minimal background and will comprehend complex concepts, technical jargon and specialised methodologies with very little explanation required.

In contrast, someone that has no prior experience in cancer, or possibly even science, will require a more detailed explanation. Using layman's terms and analogies to simplify complex concepts will ensure a clear understanding.

Remain flexible, be prepared to tailor your delivery to your audience on the spot.

If you are unsure if you are hitting the mark, it is perfectly fine to ask “Is that clear?” or “Feel free to stop me if you are not following.” This way you are encouraging a conversation, and opening up the opportunity for them to ask you questions, rather than just solely presenting information to them.

Even though you are the presenter, don’t think that you should be the only one talking. Good networking looks like a well-balanced conversation between two people exchanging value and ideas.

The entire goal of a poster presentation is to make sure everyone who visits your poster leaves invigorated with a comprehensive understanding of your research, which in turn means they are more likely to remember your work, and remember YOU! 😍

Number 3: Employ storytelling

Research shows that people are more likely to remember information that is presented to them in a narrative form compared to dry facts or statistics. 📊

This is because stories engage multiple regions of the brain and activate sensory and emotional processing, which enhances memory retention.

If you’re a loyal reader of ours, you would know that we love all things storytelling ! 🤩

📖 Stories naturally follow a structure, typically involving a beginning, middle, and end.

Or as Randy Olson prefers to refer to it the And - But - Therefore framework:

‘And’ provides the context (or background if you will).

‘But’ provides drama, hooking in the reader (most likely your knowledge gap)

‘Therefore’ brings your story to a resolution (ie results and conclusions).

A poster showing the ABT framework. The AND refers to the background, the BUT refers to the question, THEREFORE refers to the results and main finding.

By creating a logical flow to your presentation, it makes it easier for your audience to follow along and understand the progression of your research.

To create a memorable story and leave a lasting impression, try sharing personal experiences, challenges, or triumphs, things your audience can relate to which will evoke an emotional connection. 💛

Facts and figures alone are easily forgotten, the approach of storytelling means your audience is more likely to remember long after the presentation is over.

Number 4: Use open body language

Non-verbal language also speaks volumes!

Use your body language to your advantage. Engage with your audience by maintaining eye contact, smiling, and displaying open body language. 🙂 For example:

Exude a confident, relaxed posture. Stand tall with your shoulders back, arms down and face your audience.

Smile. Genuinely. 😉 A fake smile doesn’t have the same warm and welcoming feel. But a genuine smile conveys friendliness and approachability, whilst creating a positive atmosphere. We suggest smiling both whilst your audience is perusing the posters as well as during your presentation.

Use natural gestures. Try to use gestures that complement your words. Point to your poster, use open hands, and purposeful, controlled gestures to emphasise key points or convey enthusiasm.

Maintain eye contact. 👀 Eye contact is a powerful way to establish a connection. It conveys attentiveness and interest. Try using the 50/70 rule. Maintain eye contact for 50 percent of the time while speaking and 70% of the time when listening. This helps to display interest and confidence. 4-5 seconds is the sweet spot. Be mindful of cultural differences, for example many Western cultures tend to value eye contact, but some Eastern ones see it as a form of disrespect. Be perceptive to cues of discomfort.

All of these small things might seem small, but they all add up. The more open you are with your body the more likely you are to have people come up to you and consequently hold their attention for longer during your presentation.

But it’s not just about you, be attentive to others' body language. Notice their gestures, posture, and facial expressions.

Pay attention to these cues, you can gauge their level of engagement, understanding, or potential discomfort. If they lean in, it indicates interest and engagement. If you notice a change in body language or eyes beginning to glaze over, it may indicate confusion or disinterest. 😬

Consider adjusting your content, providing more context, or shifting your body language to create a more comfortable and receptive atmosphere.

Scientific Poster Presentation Don'ts:

So now that we have what to do down pat. ✔️

Lat’s talk about some things to avoid! 🙅‍♂️🚫

Number 1: Try not to overcomplicate

This seems like a simple enough concept.

However, when you are so intimately familiar with a topic, the lines between simple terminology and technical jargon become blurry . You start to forget what words are niche to your topic and unfamiliar to those outside your field. 🙈

While it's important to convey the depth and accuracy of your research, we recommend you always:

Avoid excessive technical jargon

Minimise the use fancy words or writing-style language

Restrict unnecessary detail

Strive for a balance between scientific accuracy and accessibility.

A set of scales, showing the balance between scientific accuracy and ease of understanding.

If your research is complicated, analogies and relatable examples are a powerful way to help simplify the complexity — bridging the gap between overtly technical concepts and common knowledge, makes the ideas easier to grasp.

Quote from Albert Einstein "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.

Next, stick to the main ideas. You want to clearly and concisely communicate your key message in just a minute. Identify your main research finding and nut out the real-world applications or implications, these are your main messages! Avoid overwhelming your audience with excessive details or venturing off on irrelevant tangents.

✨ Less is best! ✨

Everyone can understand your explanation when you use simple clear language, but only a small proportion will follow when riddled with technical terms and excessive jargon.

Number 2: Avoid being over-rehearsed

Whilst practising your presentation can provide you with confidence, being over-rehearsed can be a detriment, hindering the flow of conversation and the ability to tailor your presentation.

Your aim is to generate a memorable and genuine conversation. Being over-rehearsed can make your presentation feel robotic, rigid and devoid of authenticity.

Let’s be clear, we absolutely encourage practising. After all, practice makes perfect, but the aim is not to deliver a memorised scripted poster presentation! Save that for the 3MT . 😉

An excessively scripted presentation can ironically lead to increased stress and anxiety, causing you to appear tense and nervous. This is because you feel pressured to deliver a flawless presentation, and a single interruption, deviation or mistake from the rehearsed script can throw you off.

You become fixated on sticking to your rehearsed script, that instead of actively listening, you are preoccupied with remembering your lines. 🙈

As a result your presentation lacks connection, the conversation may feel stiff, if even present, and you may struggle respond naturally to questions, or pivot according to your audiences cues.

Instead of rehearsing a perfectly written script, try practising each section separately.

Familiarise yourself with the story structure, know the key ideas and work on improvisation. Become comfortable with strong introductory sentences to each of your sections, prepare some useful analogies and free flow from there.

This more balanced approach, allows you to:

Feel comfortable discussing your material in any order

Adapt and adjust your delivery based on your audience

Be present in the moment

Deliver a more authentic and flexible presentation

Stay attentive and develop meaningful exchange

So avoid the trap of reciting your perfectly crafted script and learn to improvise and converse! ✨

Number 3: Don't neglect your audience or your poster

We are not talking about maintaining eye contact, asking open-ended questions or paying attention to your audience. 👀❓

We are talking about the most important point… actually being there.

Be present beside your poster for the entire duration of your scheduled session.

An interested collaborator can’t talk to you if you are at the buffet the whole time, a potential employer can’t gauge your interest if you are hanging out at your friends' poster.

Waiting by your poster is crucial!

Now we aren’t saying you can’t grab a bite to eat, or go to the bathroom. But perhaps ask a friend to stand in for your, or better yet ask them to grab you a plate of food.

Came alone to the conference? No problem make friends with the presenter next to you and help each other out! The potential for meaningful connections are endless, make sure you are present!

Remember the advice I got from a big shot professor at my first national conference? It was in our blog Beyond publication: 5 science communication tips to maximise your research impact.

Best advice: Try to make three meaningful connections at every conference

Well it doesn’t have to be you seeking out a connection, you could make a connection with someone who approached you at your poster. 😉

While we are talking about connection, connecting with your poster is almost as important as connecting with your audience!

As you deliver your presentation, point to key parts of your poster, guide your audience through it with you. Your presentation should complement the content on your poster and reinforce your key message(s) . Avoid skipping large sections of your poster, jumping around or talking about data not present on your poster (unless you are answering their question).

Your poster is a visual aid, use it to helps enhance your explanations and reinforce the key ideas with the help of visuals.

By giving attention to both your audience and your poster, you create a balanced and engaging presentation. Prioritising connection, interaction, and clarity to ensure your audience gets the most out of your research.

Number 4: Minimise bad presenting habits

You are so close to delivering an effective poster presentation, now let’s cover some poster presentation traps you want to avoid falling into!

There are lots of small habits you can avoid when presenting that can make the biggest of difference.

Reading directly from your poster 🚫 Try not to read the text verbatim of your poster. Your audience can likely read and therefore your presentation provides no value add. It can also make your delivery monotonous and disengaging for your audience. We recommend a natural conversation instead with explanations beyond what is presented on your poster.

Overuse of filler words 💬 Strive to minimise or eliminate filler words such as "um," "uh," "like," or "you know" from your speech. These words used in excess can detract from your message and make you appear less confident and knowledgeable. Try pausing briefly instead to gather your thoughts. It’s okay to not fill every silence, a meaningful pause allows your audience time to digest the information they just received.

Misdirecting your voice 🗣️ It can be easy to continue talking whilst you are looking at your poster. However, conference poster halls can be loud places, and it can be difficult to hear. When you are looking at your poster you are projecting your voice in the wrong direction, and you are not making eye contact. Instead, allow yourself to pause look at your poster to orient yourself or emphasise a point and then look back at your audience projecting your voice towards them at an appropriate level whilst maintaining eye contact.

Avoid closed body language 🙅‍♂️ So simple and yet for many of us our default stance is a closed posture. Avoid crossing your arms or hunching over. Try not to constantly turn you back to your audience by staring at your poster. These can create barriers and convey a defensive or disinterested attitude. Try open body language which is much more inviting.

Ignoring time constraints ⏳ Showing a lack of consideration for your audiences time can come across as rude. Over explaining or going off on irrelevant tangents are easy traps to fall into. But respecting your audiences time is crucial. They may have several other posters they want to get to, or maybe they need to leave to catch a flight. Practice your presentation to ensure that you can effectively convey your key points within 1-2 minutes. Of course the duration of your spiel can change depending on how much detail our audience is after, there is no one size fits all approach here! Just be mindful of the clock and watch for cues of discomfort. If you are unsure, it’s okay to ask “Would you like to know more about X?”

With these tips you can deliver a more engaging, and confident presentation that leaves a positive and lasting impression on your audience. ✨

BONUS TIP: 😉 Be prepared

Okay here are some bonus tips to level up your delivery:

Keep a pen on hand to quickly note down contact information if someone wants to collaborate or stay in touch.

Poster presentations are the perfect networking tool and business cards are the perfect networking tool, and yet so many researchers don’t have them. We think business cards are a must.

You could have some other handouts , such as are an A5 poster handout, or other memorable tokens like a keychain, or wrist band something related to your research. This will make you stand out and allow your audience to take something physical away from your presentation.

Anticipate and prepare for general questions and potential gaps in your research. Have concise points ready for missing experiments, alternative experimental design choices, and additional research avenues that may arise during discussions.

So there you have it, our top tips for making the best out of your poster session.

Remember, don’t present your poster, present yourself!

The conversation is more important than a perfectly planned speech, and these are not a rigid set of rules to follow, just be yourself. Be approachable, adaptable and engage with your audience through a genuine conversation and enjoy the experience.

Want more tips to nail your poster presentation?

Our online or in-person science communication workshops are perfect!

With a focus on science communication, storytelling , and communication you will hone all these skills and be competent to present your research to both expert and lay audiences. But we need your help by recommending us to your institution!

Here’s what one of our satisfied universities have said about our workshops:

"I submitted my first ever poster at a technical conference and not only received many compliments, but also won two poster prizes! I am sure that I will continue to make good use of all the information for many years to come." ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Eleanor Bilogrevic, Australian Wine Research Institute, Australia

If you’re interested in becoming a confident presenter, get in touch with us now!

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Poster Presentation

Characteristics of a poster presentation.

  • Poster presenters should dress professionally and understand all parts of their poster.
  • Most poster presentations take place in a large room with dozens to hundreds of individual poster presentations occurring simultaneously.  
  • A typical presentation lasts 5-15 minutes.
  • Typical audience size for an individual poster presentation will be 1-5 people.
  • It is acceptable for the audience to ask questions during a presentation.
  • The presenter should use the poster’s figures and tables to communicate with the audience.

Excellent Presentations are Simple

The presenter is the scientist or engineer who conducted the research.   The presenter is an expert in that particular field and should be confident (but not arrogant) when presenting the research to their audience.   The presenter should understand everything that is in their poster (e.g., issue, topic, figures, tables, references).   The presenter should relax, speak clearly, start with the introduction, move through the methods, results and end with the discussion section.   The presenter should engage in conservation with the audience and answer their questions during the poster presentation.   The presenter should not read word-for-word from a script, but rather they should follow a general progression through their poster ( Fig. 17 ) that allows for active and organic discussion between them and the audience.    

Figure 17. Poster Presentation

student presenting poster to another student at poster symposium

Tips for Giving a Poster Presentation

  • Practice your presentation several times before the poster event. Dress professionally. Your audience will be focused on your poster for 5-15 minutes so you do not have much time to capture their attention and tell your story.   Engaging figures, maps, and graphs will help capture their attention.  
  • Focus most of your presentation on your figures and tables. Your audience will focus on figures, graphs, tables, and maps.   They rarely read the poster text.   If they read any text at all, it will likely be the abstract and figure captions so a presenter really should focus on figures and tables when they prepare for their poster presentation.  
  • Speak clearly and know your topic.   Remember you are the expert, so you need to understand all parts of your poster.  
  • Presenters should start their presentation ( Fig. 17 ) by introducing themself and moving onto the Title and Introduction sections.   Describe the issue and use figures to help explain the story.   Use maps to show the study area, use photographs of the organism or pollutant or issue, use graphs and tables to show patterns (e.g., population increased over past 5 years) and focus on important points.   Flow from one figure to the next, ending with the Discussion and Conclusion sections.   The presenter should point to the poster when they are talking about a specific figure, and use words and their hands to help explain each part of the poster.
  • Allow your audience to participate, allow them to ask questions throughout your presentation ( Fig. 18 ).   Always be respectful of your audience.   Always try to answer their questions.   If you do not know the answer, the best thing to say is “I do not know the answer, but I can point to another study here in my references section where other scientists are working on this very question.” Engage your audience and show them where to find additional work (e.g., journal articles, names of scientists) about the topic.  
  • Avoid using words like “stuff” and “things” and other general phrases like “this work was great”.   Give specific details because this demonstrates to the audience that you understand your topic.   Use the vocabulary words that you learned and explain these to the audience.   For example, rather than saying “This work was great for orangutans,” you could say, “This work was great because it was the first time that we observed orangutan feeding behavior in the wild and it allowed us to determine that female orangutans need 5,500 calories per day during their breeding season. Those females that obtained 5,500 calories per day were twice as likely to give birth.”
  • Be prepared for a lively and dynamic event ( Fig. 19 ).   Poster events typically consist of dozens or hundreds of individual poster presentations occurring simultaneously in the same room.   These events are typically very loud and energetic.   Food and beverages are typically provided at the event.  
  • Be flexible.   The audience will walk around to view as many posters as possible, stopping occasionally to view a poster and talk to a poster presenter about their research.   Some people may talk with the presenter for a few seconds, others may spend 15-20 minutes talking with a poster presenter.   Presenter-audience interactions will be rather informal and dynamic.  
  • Read or download the poster guide and map prior to attending the poster event.   A poster program guide and poster map will typically be published ahead of the event so that the audience knows where to find each poster and the presenter knows where to set up their poster.  
  • Wear comfortable shoes.   Posters are typically displayed on an easel and the presenter stands by their poster during the entire event, which can several hours.

Figure 18. Two-Way Communication is Key to a Successful Poster Event

student presenting poster to audience member

All scientific posters follow a similar organization in terms of parts (i.e., Abstract, Introduction, Materials & Methods, Results, Discussion, References) and layout (i.e., title and name at the top, 3-4 columns for content).   However, each scientific poster can be unique in terms of its font, color scheme, types of figures (e.g., chart, diagram, graph, map, photograph) and use of tables.   It is entirely up to the scientists to decide how they want to design their poster to best communicate their research with the audience.   Gallery 1 shows eight different scientific posters that were presented at a scientific conference.   As you look through Gallery 1 you can see that the posters are all similar in the way that they are organized but that each poster is unique in they way it is designed (e.g., color scheme, number and placement of figures, use of fonts).   While each is different, they all succeed in their goal of visually communicating the importance of their scientific research to an audience ( Gallery 1) .    

Figure 19. Poster Event

posters set up in rows with students and audience members mingling amongst them

Gallery 1. Examples of Completed Scientific Posters

Scientific Posters: A Learner's Guide Copyright © 2020 by Ella Weaver; Kylienne A. Shaul; Henry Griffy; and Brian H. Lower is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Preparing a Poster Presentation

Posters are a legitimate and popular presentation format for research and clinical vignettes. They efficiently communicate concepts and data to an audience using a combination of visuals and text. Most scientific meeting planners take advantage of the popularity and communication efficiency of poster presentations by scheduling more poster than oral presentations. Poster presentations allow the author to meet and speak informally with interested viewers, facilitating a greater exchange of ideas and networking opportunities than with oral presentations. Poster presentations often are the first opportunities for young investigators to present their work at important scientific meetings and preparatory for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Poster Production Timeline

In order to be successful, certain prerequisites must be met. First, you must have a desire to be scholastically effective and be willing to put the time into the design and production of the poster. Second, you need organizational skills. Like any other endeavor associated with deadlines, you must be able to deliver the product on time. Posters are associated with more deadlines than oral presentations, due to the necessary interaction with graphic artists, graphic production, and the needs of the meeting itself. Organizational skills are also needed to create a concise and logically structured graphic and text presentation of the research or vignette. In order to help you achieve these goals, this article addresses poster planning, production, and presentation. It may be helpful to create a poster production timeline .

  • Determine if your poster will be judged at the scientific meeting. If so, ask for the judging criteria , which will be immensely helpful for you to plan and construct the poster.
  • Know the rules . It is your responsibility to know the physical requirements for the poster including acceptable size and how it will be displayed. A 4' × 4' display area cannot accommodate a 6' × 6' poster and a 3' × 3' poster will look insignificant in an 8' × 8' display area. All scientific programs that sponsor a poster session will send you information on the display requirements at the time your poster is accepted for presentation. Review and follow the instructions precisely. However, be warned that not all scientific programs will automatically tell you how the poster will be displayed. Some programs provide a cork/tack-board system that allows you to display your poster by fastening it to a solid display board with stickpins. This gives you the option of displaying your poster as many individual parts (components of the poster, such as abstract, methods, graphics, conclusion, are fastened individually to the display board) or as one piece. Other programs "hang" their posters from a frame by large spring clips. This means that the poster must be created as a single unit and cannot be too heavy for the clips or too light such that it will curl upwards like a window shade. A few programs still use easels to display posters, mandating that the poster be constructed of or placed on a firm backing that can be supported in this way. The point is, find out how the poster will be displayed and engineer a poster that best meets the requirements.
  • Determine exactly how the poster will be produced. Will you hire a graphic artist for partial or complete production? Does your institution provide graphic services to your department? Will you need to do this yourself? If payment is required, who will pay for the production? Regardless of who is doing the work and how it will be financed, only you can determine the individual tasks and set the deadlines. Make sure your deadlines include sufficient time to revise the poster if you find mistakes or otherwise need to make changes prior to the scientific meeting. Finally, if you are working with a graphic artist, make your timetable after consultation with him/her so it is realistic and he/she understands your time constraints.
  • Compile a list of components that will appear on the poster. There are common elements to all posters, whether they are research presentations or clinical vignettes. At the top center, the poster should display the title, authors, and institutional affiliations. Any necessary acknowledgments can also be placed here. Many scientific programs will insist that the abstract be included on the poster and will specify its location (i.e., upper right corner).

Scientific posters should follow the IMRAD format (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion) .

  • The Introduction presents the background and the purpose of the research. The background information typically consists of a statement summarizing the current knowledge in an area, what knowledge is missing, and how this research project addresses the knowledge gap. A hypothesis can be included in the Introduction.
  • The Methods section should specifically address the following areas: research design, research setting, number of patients enrolled in the study, and how they were selected. The Methods section should also include a description of the intervention (if appropriate), a description of the outcome variables and how they were measured, and the method of statistical analysis.
  • The Results section includes the quantitative data. This section usually begins with a description of the subjects in the study and a description of those who were not included because they failed to meet the inclusion criteria or dropped out. Include the frequencies of the most important outcome variables. Consider comparisons of the outcome variables between various subgroups within the study (treated vs. untreated, young vs. old, male vs. female, and so forth). Numerical results should include standard deviations or 95% confidence limits and the level of statistical significance should be indicated.
  • Finally, in the Discussion section, state concisely what can be concluded from the study and its implications. Make sure that the conclusions are supported by the data presented in the Results and do not present unsubstantiated personal opinion.

Clinical vignette posters generally have three components: Introduction, Case Description, and Discussion. A short Introduction typically describes the context of the case and explains its relevance and importance. When describing the case, follow the basic rules of medical communication by describing in sequence the history, physical examination, investigative studies, and patient's progress and outcome. The main purpose of the discussion is to review why decisions were made and to extract the lesson from the case. Be wary of boasting that your case is the "first" to describe a particular phenomenon, since even the most thorough searches often fail to reveal all instances of similar cases. Keep in mind that the best research and clinical vignette posters are those that make a small number of points (even just one) clearly and succinctly.

As you review your content, make decisions on what can be displayed pictorially. Posters that are mainly text discourage others from visiting and reviewing your work. Make your presentation as visual as possible; not only does it make your poster more appealing, but information can be transmitted more efficiently with a picture, figure, or graph. For example, information on patient demographics could be represented as a pie chart, frequencies of outcomes as bar graphs, and comparisons of means and statistical significance as tables. Clinical vignettes offer an excellent opportunity to display clinical photographs that illustrate important points of pattern recognition.

Finally, find out if you are required to be present during the poster session. Most scientific meetings schedule a period of time for the author to stand by the poster during the session. This enables you to answer questions about your work and, in some situations, is part of the judging process. Find out if and when this is scheduled.

A Few Tips on Poster Appearance:

Avoid clutter.

Limit your poster presentation to a few main ideas. It's better to present a few of your findings well than present all of your findings poorly. Arrange your poster components to read from left to right and top to bottom. Emphasize important points on the poster with lines, frames or boxes, and arrows.

Keep the lettering simple.

Use no more than three different font sizes; the largest for the poster title, second-largest for section titles, and smallest for text. For all lettering, use both upper- and lowercase letters. Words composed of all uppercase letters are difficult to read. The smallest font should be large enough so it is easily read from a distance of 3 to 5 feet (usually, 24-point font).

Keep the colors simple.

Too much color can be distracting, while too little color can be boring and lifeless. Use color mainly to highlight important elements.

You will need to decide how your poster will be constructed. Your budget and available graphic art resources will most likely influence this decision. At one end of the spectrum, you can inexpensively produce a poster with a graphics software package (such as PowerPoint) and a color printer. Your output will be limited to individual components that measure 8" × 11" to 11" × 17". These components will probably need to be mounted on a stiff backing, such as poster board or foam core, to effectively display them. At the other, more expensive end of the spectrum, you can work with the graphic arts department at your institution. They can use sophisticated software programs, such as Quark, to design and create a poster. The electronic version of the poster can be sent by e-mail to a printing or service bureau. Service bureaus produce a variety of visual products including posters, slides, signs, and limited print editions of books. They can print any size poster with all its component parts as a single unit usually within 24 to 48 hours. The cost of this service is difficult to estimate because it is dependent on a number of variables including poster size, use of color, resolution of the print (dpi, or dots per inch), whether it is laminated, or backed with foam core. A moderately priced poster may cost from $500 to $600. The staff in your graphic arts department can help you pick the options that are within your budget.

At the time of production, it is your responsibility to review the first draft, or copy, of the poster. This is your best chance to correct errors and make changes to improve the accuracy and visual attractiveness of the poster. Use the Poster Checklist  to aid your review. In addition, have a colleague help you proofread. It's a good idea to have someone unfamiliar with the research or case help you because he or she will quickly identify areas that are confusing or ambiguous. It's a good idea to have someone who is expert in spelling and grammar review the poster as well. As mentioned previously, schedule the proofreading early enough in the process so that you have time to make any corrections or changes prior to the meeting.

As you prepare to travel to the scientific meeting, consider the following tips:

  • Arrange for a proper carrying case for your poster. A worthy investment can prevent damage to your poster and your reputation.
  • Don't check your poster as luggage. Carry the poster with you at all times. Better your clothes get lost than your poster.
  • Come with some basic equipment. Although these items are typically provided at scientific meetings, you may not have quick access to them. Bring with you:
  • Push pins, tacks, or stapler
  • Know where and when to set up your poster. The room or area reserved for posters is usually noted in the meeting program. Arrive early to set up your poster. This will allow you to adapt to any surprises in the physical layout or unannounced changes in the method of displaying the poster. Additionally, it's easier to put up your poster when there are fewer people competing for space and equipment. Most scientific programs assign a unique identifying number to your poster that corresponds to location of the poster in the display area. Find out what your number is and place your poster in the corresponding spot.
  • Know when to "stand-by" your poster. The time will be listed in the meeting program. Arrive on time and stay until the end of scheduled time. Don't wander off; you may miss the judges, your next fellowship director, or your next partner or employer.
  • Know when to take your poster down. Meeting rooms turn-over fast. Have a clear understanding when the poster session is over and when the poster must come down. Failure to take the poster down at the appointed time can result in the hotel or convention staff (not so gently) removing it.
  • Be prepared to promote yourself. Consider bringing handouts and business cards for those who visit your poster. Use this opportunity to "network" with other professionals who share similar academic interests.

This final section provides examples of what makes a poster effective. As you study the examples, note that they share similar characteristics:

  • Organized and easy to follow the flow of information
  • Easy to read, using large font size and are not overly dense with text
  • Attractive, due to judicious use of colors, use of graphics, and arrangement

Listed below are a number of important poster characteristics and examples illustrating those characteristics:

  • Use of a poignant attention getter
  • Use of graphics  to communicate data
  • Well organized  poster with easy to follow flow of information
  • Overly dense  presentation of content

Boston College Libraries homepage

  • Library Pages

How to Create a Poster Presentation

Getting started, poster design best practices.

  • Don't be too wordy! Keep text concise and clear.
  • Organization is key. Think about what you want to say first and then carefully consider layout.
  • Consider your audience. What will they have questions about? What do you want them to learn from your poster?
  • Make sure your title is descriptive and large enough to be readable from far away.
  • Think about image and font sizes so the poster is readable from 5-8 feet away.
  • Use headings, bullets, and graphics to break up text.
  • Make sure your images and graphics have contrast so they pop on the page.
  • Think about including contact information for those who want more information.
  • Remember, your poster will read left to right just like a page.

Example Posters (Click arrow to scroll through)

Lava Mae Poster

Award Categories

This year posters will be judged in two categories:

Most Visually Appealing Poster Description: A visually appealing poster can be judged based on the following criteria:

  • Do visuals enhance poster content? Is it eye-catching?
  • Are the components of the poster balanced across the space?
  • Easy to read, pleasing-on-the-eye font/ color scheme choices? Is text error-free?
  • Are photographs, graphs, tables, and other graphics creative?  

Best Articulation of Career Development Through Internship Description: In this category, we are looking for the poster to show how the internship impacted the student’s career path and development of career competencies.

  • Poster provides clear description of the internship including student’s responsibilities/accomplishments
  • Poster clearly identifies career readiness skills and how they were strengthened through internship
  • Poster articulates student’s next steps and career goals
  • Poster showcases internship in dynamic way such as “day-in-the-life”

Poster Template

This template will help you get started. Just download this and add your content to the boxes using PowerPoint. Be sure to keep the box sizes the same so that the poster will print properly.

Eagle Intern Fellowship poster template

Need Access to PowerPoint?

Because of the ease of importing images, formatting text boxes, and making slides with extra-large dimensions, many people use PowerPoint for creating posters. For this project, please use the PowerPoint template on this page for your poster. BC students can download PowerPoint for free . You are only allowed one download per computer. If you have received a new computer since your first download, you can re-download it on your new device. For any other technical assistance or if installation does not work, please connect directly with BC Information Technology Services by either calling (617-552-4357) or visiting the IT Help Desk located in O’Neill Library, 3rd floor. For those on or close to campus this summer, you can also use the Library computers that house all softwares.

Microsoft Office @ BC

  • Last Updated: Feb 7, 2023 11:38 AM

how to give a poster presentation

104: How to Give a Perfect Poster Presentation

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It’s a tragic fact: many jaw-dropping, eye-opening, and heart-pounding research results never makes an impact on the scientific community.

And it’s partly your fault.

By “your,” of course,  I mean all of us.  Because when we waste the opportunity to share our results in their best light at a scientific conference or poster session, our viewers may overlook this valuable insight.

But we can do better!  With a little planning, collaboration, and hard work, we can make even a humble poster presentation a vehicle for inspiring the next discovery and building our scientific network.

Let’s get started!

Poster Perfect

A poster session is a unique opportunity for a young scientist.

As a viewer, you get the chance to engage in a casual conversation with other scientists, often one-on-one, about a topic that interests you.  It’s an opportunity to ask for clarity, pose a question, or offer ideas without an audience of 200 staring at the back of your head.

As a presenter, you get all of those benefits, as well as an opportunity to build your network and identify collaborators.  You also get many chances to practice your ‘pitch’ as new visitors step up every few minutes.  It will sharpen both your skill as a communicator and your research plan.

And while there are probably some guidelines for being a good poster-viewer, in this episode, we focused our discussion on the best ways to prepare and present a poster.

Before You Begin

As with any presentation, answering a few questions before you get started will save you hours in front of the computer.

Know Your Audience

If you are presenting to the Microbiology Conference, you may want to include more detailed background information than if you’re presenting to other experts in your sub-field at a Malaria Symposium.  Space is limited, and thinking ahead about what your audience may, or may not, know will help you prepare for the proper range of visitor experience.

Start Early

You may be a wizard of poster creation and can put off your design until the night before you fly to the conference, but that’s a bad idea.  Instead, leave extra time before printing share your file with collaborators for review.  They need time to look over your work and offer feedback before it’s committed to (gigantic) paper.

Practice, Practice, Practice

You’ll also need time to practice presenting the poster.  More on this later, but sometimes the act of presentation lets us see where we have gaps or mistakes in the logic or design.  It’s a good idea to practice with people from outside your lab because if they are already familiar with your work, they won’t notice when you skip steps or fail to explain a concept clearly.

Find Your Story

It may sound odd, but poster presentation is a form of story-telling.  The best posters make that story clear and concise.

Even if you have multiple projects in the lab, choose ONE to present in your poster.  Start by jotting down a central question you’re trying to answer, or a hypothesis your lab is testing.  Keeping this key idea in mind as you prepare the presentation will give you a firm structure on which to hang the other elements.

Making a Poster

There are a couple of broad guidelines to keep in mind as you create your poster.

First, remember that the poster is a visual form, and space is limited.  That means you should avoid printing long paragraphs of text.  Instead, use the space to display graphs, images, and figures, with a few bullet points or figure legends to help the viewer track the story.

Second, stick with a ‘standard’ layout.  Your viewers have been trained for years to look for titles at the top and conclusions on the bottom right.  You make viewing your poster harder by moving these elements around.

Third, maintain consistency within your poster.  Stick with one or two fonts, and be sure that headings, bullets, and figures are matched in style, weight, and size.

Finally, give your work some breathing room.  White-space is important, and will make the poster more readable.

Poster Pieces

Manuscript titles are often formulaic and a bit dull as they describe the basic findings of the research paper, but your poster title can be more creative.  The goal is to catch a viewer’s attention while also letting them know what they’ll see when they visit.

Again, remembering your audience, include enough information to help them understand your main question or hypothesis.  Avoid paragraphs, and include a figure or diagram if you can.

Hypothesis / Main Question

This section is an absolute must, so don’t forget it!  It lets the viewer instantly understand what the poster is about and what they can expect to learn if they follow you through to the conclusion.

Again, a diagram or figure works great here.  Use this section to help the viewer understand your experimental approach to the question.  You don’t need to detail every last step – save that for the paper you publish!

This is where the action is.  Remember – you don’t need to include every experiment you’ve ever done.  Just describe the results that help address the main question/hypothesis.

Use descriptive figure titles that help the viewer understand your conclusion.  “Gel of Protein X” doesn’t help anyone, but “Protein X is Up-Regulated After Drug Treatment” tells them what they should expect to see in the scan. 

Cut out extraneous information or parts of the image, and use arrows or boxes to help direct attention to the relevant parts.

Double check this section for readability – axes and labels can often be too small to read from a four-foot distance.


Another chance to draw a diagram!  Or use 2-3 bullet points to help summarize what you’ve found.

Other Sections

Some posters include acknowledgements or future directions.  These are optional and might make sense on a case-by-case basis.

Every poster should include the author’s contact info, though!  This allows people to reach out even if you’ve stepped away from the poster, and helps collaborators keep in touch after the meeting.

Presenting a Poster

Crafting the perfect poster is only half the battle, now it’s time to describe that work from start to finish.

Timing is Everything

Walking a viewer through your presentation should take roughly five to seven minutes.  That doesn’t seem like a long time, but it’s an important target.  Many presenters take too long to share the poster, leaving the audience bored, uncomfortable, and searching for a way out.

By telling your story in five minutes, you let the audience guide the conversation.  If they’re satisfied with your description, or bored out of their minds, they can move on to another poster.

If they’re excited and want to learn more, they can ask questions or probe the results more deeply.

Act Like an Actor

As you present, remember that you mustn’t turn your back on your audience!  You’ll be tempted to turn to look at the poster yourself, closing off the conversation.  Instead, keep an open stance and point out relevant sections off to your side.

Also, check your enthusiasm.  Too many poster presenters seem bored, tired, or listless.  If they don’t think their work is exciting, why should their audience?! 

Stop a moment to notice your energy level, and try to step it up as you present.  Make eye contact, welcome new viewers as the approach, and modulate your voice. 

Your enthusiasm for your work can be contagious.

Tailor Made

Because most poster presentations occur one-on-one, it’s imperative that you actively tailor your pitch to the person standing in front of you.

When they step up, you can briefly ask about their background or interest in the subject.  If they’re a neophyte, you’ll want to avoid jargon and check that they’ve understood each section before moving on. If they’re an expert, they may want to skip straight to the results!

Be aware of their cues and body language, and let them help steer the conversation.

That’s it! Now you’re a poster-presenting-pro!  Go make a splash at your next poster session, and be sure to share YOUR tips and ideas for poster presentation in the comments below.

For more information on attending conferences, check out Episode  097: Conference Like the Pros – How to Plan, Network, and Win

I’m Getting Seasick

This week, we sample a very special ethanol that has probably traveled farther than we have. 

Jefferson’s Ocean Bourbon  spends its time in a barrel bobbing around on a research ship as it sails around the world!  Supposedly, all of that rocking, equatorial heat, and sea spray mimics the way bourbon tasted when it was shipped back from the New World.  

Best part: you get to read the Captain’s Log of each batch’s journey!

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