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Dos and Don’ts of

Making a Poster

Presentation

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A poster is a communication tool used for sharing the results of a

study, usually before it is formally published in a scholarly journal. In a

poster session, several posters are displayed and the authors present

at the same time. This means that visitors only have a few seconds

or minutes to spend on one poster.

So you have to concentrate on putting all information on a poster, in a

small space, and express it effectively and explicitly, in order to

convey the result of the research to the visitor in a very short

amount of time.

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There are three aspects to perfecting a poster presentation:

Planning

Designing

Presenting

In this article, we will discuss the dos and don’ts of planning your

poster. Planning involves everything from deciding the content to

the type of layout and format that you want to follow.

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✔ Find out how much poster space you are allowed beforehand. If you are

presenting your poster at a conference or convention, you would have limited

space. The space you are allowed will determine the content of the poster.

✖ Don’t wait till the day of presentation to find out how much poster space is

allowed. You might end-up with a poster larger than the board allotted to you.

The poster space is usually determined by the size of poster stands.

For example,

Maximum Poster Size usually allowed is 4′ w × 4′ h.

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✔ Opt for either of the following poster styles:

 One large poster (e.g., 33 × 44 cm)

 Individual columns (e.g., three 11 × 48 cm)

 Individual pages (e.g., twelve 8 × 11 cm)

✖ Don’t mix these styles, as it would lead to a very messy-looking poster.

✔ Choose a software depending on your technical expertise and design

skills.

Options

Beginner: PowerPoint is a relatively easy-to-use tool for creating posters.

Advanced: Adobe Illustrator, Corel, and InDesign have more features and

can provide very professional results, especially for posters including lots of

high-resolution images.

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Tip 1!

You can produce draft posters, i.e., reduced versions of the poster, using these softwares and use them for editing as well as instant handouts!!!

✖ Do not go for a difficult software or mix results using many tools.

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✔ Place your poster such that the average viewer will have about 60% of the

poster above eye level and 40% below because looking up is easier than

looking down.

✖ Don’t place it such that the viewers have to bend down or squat to see the

lower portion, since you may lose their attention.

Tip 2!

Choosing a Landscape orientation rather than Portrait might be

beneficial

✔ Allow yourself lots of time to plan the poster—at least a month!

✖ Don’t wait until the last minute since things will inevitably take longer than planned. Remember to allow time (and money) for printing/laminating.

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Tip 3!

You can plan a schedule for yourself using project management software

available for free on the internet.

✔ Decide on the poster content beforehand. Your poster should ideally answer

the following five questions:

Why is the research question important?

What strategy is used?

What are the results?

Why are these results unique/important?

How does this relate to other research? What comes next?

✖ Don’t make the following five common errors when deciding the content:

 Don’t trying to convey too much information. Only stick to the

essentials highlighted above

 Don’t use too much text. More words take longer to read

 Don’t use too many illustrations with no supporting text either

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 Don’t put too much detail in the graphs and diagrams. Keep it clean

 Don’t have a very long title

Well-designed posters catch your interest and communicate a clear message

through pictures and only the most essential words.

Title

✔ Use a short title. Highlight the study and not necessarily the conclusions.

Example

Average: A Study on How to Design Effective Posters

Better: Designing Effective Posters

✖ Don’t use long, all-inclusive titles.

These might be appropriate for a journal article but not a poster. Titles with

excess jargon or punctuation are tedious to read.

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Author Credentials, References, and Acknowledgements

✔ Give clear attribution to the names of the authors and affiliations—place this section below or next to the title. References and Acknowledgements are auxiliary sections that can be placed in the lower left corner of a poster.

✖ Don’t leave people to wonder about who did the work or omit References

and Acknowledgements to save space. Also, avoid excessive citations and

footnotes.

Layout

✔ Determine a logical sequence for the material. Sketch your layout by opting

for either of the following:

 Arrange materials into columns (3–5 columns)

Arrange materials vertically from top left corner to bottom right corner

Organize material into sections and number to make the flow obvious

✖ Don’t confuse your reader by segregating text, figure, and legends in

separate areas and in a haphazard arrangement.

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Tip 4!

Use arrows or numbers that lead the reader from one block to the next one

to enable them to follow your sequence.

Type Size

✔ Use a type size which is easily readable from a distance of about 5 feet:

 Title should be readable from 25–50 feet distance.

Author credentials should be a type size smaller than the title but larger

than poster text.

Poster text should preferably be of the same type size throughout,

except, headings, which can be larger, and references, which can be

smaller.

✖ Don’t make the type size too large or too small

Examples of type proportion

Title: 96 pt

Authors: 72 pt

 Affiliations: 36–48 pt

Section headings: 36 pt

Text: 24 pt

Acknowledgements: 18 pt

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Fonts

✔ Use plain fonts, e.g., Times New Roman, Century, Palatino, with italics or bold for emphasis.

✖ Don’t use many font styles. Shifting styles unnecessarily and using too creative styles can make reading your poster tedious, e.g., text written in Helvetica and Courier, as well as in uppercase are hard to read.

Tip 5!

Serif fonts help guide the eye along the line, thus improving readability and comprehension.

Color

✔ Use colors in your poster in a way that they help convey additional meaning:

 Use contrast scheme—light color background and dark color text

 Use 2 or 3 colors—too many will distract and confuse viewers

 Use multiple colors in a consistent pattern—or else viewers will spend

their time wondering about the pattern rather than the content

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✖ Don’t make the following errors when deciding the color:

 Avoid background colors that transition from light to dark—they will

reduce the contrast between the text and the background

Avoid gratuitous colors

 Avoid dark backgrounds with light letters—very tiring to read

 Avoid overly bright colors—they wear out readers’ eyes

 Don’t use red/green combinations—red/green colorblindness is

common

Graphics

✔ Use self-explanatory graphics

Good graphics—graphs, illustrations, photos, pictures—should be used to

reinforce content and not solely as embellishments.

Graphs should be large enough for viewing from a distance of at least 3

feet

Use simple 2-D line graphs, bar charts, pie charts

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Use bright, contrasting lines, and symbols, e.g., avoid dark red lines

against a dark blue background

Use heavier lines in tables and graphs for easier viewing

✖ Don’t use 3-D graphs unless you are displaying 3-D data, since these are

difficult to interpret. Don’t use too many pictures and photographs in your

poster.

Examples

✔ Example of a well-designed

poster

http://tinyurl.com/c3h3qo

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The design in this poster follows a logical sequence. The text has been

arranged in different columns and numbers have been used to make the flow

obvious, making it an ideal poster!

✖ Example of a poorly designed

poster http://tinyurl.com/cygz7v

In this poster, more than 3 colors are used with too much text and many

figures leading to a cluttered image.

Effective presentation skills play an equally important role in poster

presentation as a good poster. Making a good presentation is an art that involves attention to the needs of your audience, careful planning, and attention to delivery. Here we explain some of the basics of effective presentation.

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Where to stand?

✔ Allow the viewers to take a look at your poster. Arrive early at the display

site and stand next to the poster.

✖ Don’t stand directly in front of poster but don’t completely disappear

either!

Explanations

✔ Be concise when explaining a point to the viewer. You should be able to give

an overview of your work in 3–5 min. Practice your presentation ahead of

time, and time yourself!

✖ Don’t read your poster when explaining; instead, use it as a visual aid.

Studies show an audience can remember only three or four things you

present in a talk.

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Tip 6!

Make eye contact

Avoid jargon and acronyms

Speak clearly and slowly

Don’t overload on detail

Getting the Message Through

✔ Decide what the purpose of your talk really is. What is the “take-home”

message you want to give to your audience? Organize your talk accordingly,

explaining the main focus of your poster. Summarize your conclusions and

their importance.

✖ Don’t distract from your message by including peripheral topics or excessive

arcane detail.

Technical Terminology

✔ Clearly define any terms that may not be familiar to your audience.

Remember, they’re may not all be from the same specialty as you!

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✖ Don’t assume that people are experts in your field when they approach

you.

Inappropriate Words/Phrases

✔ Speak clearly. Express your ideas clearly and use appropriate language,

pronunciation, and enunciation.

✖ Don’t use qualifiers—maybe, perhaps, or start sentences with “So,” end

sentences with “right?” or “OK?”

Example

Starting with “Just real quick” or “Briefly” tells your audience is that “this isn’t really important or relevant, but I’m going to inflict it on you anyway.”

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Answering Questions

✔ Anticipate questions, rehearse answers.

Example

One of the most common question is “How does this work differ from the other

research in this field?

✖ Don’t fumble when answering.

Listen carefully. Wait for them to finish the question!

Confusing the Audience

✔ Remember that “I don’t know” is a perfectly good answer. If you’re working

on answering the question, just say that.

✖ Don’t make up stuff or go into a 5-minute explanation of why you don’t know the answer.

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Take-Away Information

✔ Consider having handouts.

Examples

miniatures of the poster

additional details not included in the poster

✖ Don’t forget that you want people to remember you and your work!

Practice!

✔ Practice beforehand.

Tip 7!

Submit your poster to the “two-minute test” with friends unfamiliar with

your project. Ask them if they can, after a two-minute review, grasp the

basics of your project and accurately summarize your core message.

✖ Don’t wait till the actual presentation.

In brief, smile, be and appear friendly and glad to be there. Dress appropriately.

Speak loudly. Articulate clearly.

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Remember the following additional points for effective poster presentation:

Check Your Spelling

Spelling mistakes on public display are embarrassing, especially if they

are on the title page, and give the impression that you have not put in the

effort and are not worthy of high assessment scores.

Maintain a Consistent Style

Inconsistent styles give the impression of disharmony and can

interrupt the fluency and flow of your messages.

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Review, Review, and Review

Make draft versions of your poster sections and check them for mistakes,

legibility, and inconsistency in style

Try different layout arrangements

Ask your partner, friends, colleagues or supervisor for their opinions

Use Poster-Making Services

You can opt for professional poster-making services.

Reference: Steven M. Block, Biophysical Journal, 1996;71:3527–9.

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