In the last edition of What’s On we wrote about how to prepare and deliver an excellent scientific presentation. In a similar vein, today we will share with you some tips on how to create an award-winning scientific poster!

Scientific poster presentations are an excellent way to communicate your research to your peers. A good poster will help you to form new connections within your field and can also attract potential collaborators and future employers. It is also a great opportunity to obtain feedback and ideas about your research. Here are some tips to help you to create a poster that will attract and inform your peers.

  1. Plan

    Check the conference requirements for the poster dimensions before you start. These are usually different for each conference, and the layout can be either portrait or landscape. Checking these requirements before you start can save you from a reformatting headache later on!

    You might also want to sketch a plan. Work out what figures you want to include and how you will put them together. Determine a logical sequence for your material and organise it into sections. If you want you can number the sections to make the flow obvious. Your poster should be able to stand alone, that is the reader should be able to understand what you have done and why without needing a verbal explanation.

  1. Design

    Avoid using textured backgrounds as this can distract from the text and figures. Sticking with just one background colour will help to unify the poster. Check with your university or institute to see if they have a poster template available to download – this can save a lot of time with the design aspect of your poster.

  1. Text

    Try to keep text to a minimum. Posters almost always have too much text! Keep it short and simple and remove all non-essential information. Pick one font and stick with it. Try to use bullet points instead of paragraphs. Here are some general guidelines for font sizes: Title 96, authors 72, affiliations 36-48, section headings 36, text 24, references and acknowledgements: 18

  1. Graphics

    Make sure graphics are large enough to see from at least 1 metre away. Text should be used to support the graphics, not the other way around. It’s usually better to use graphs instead of tables. You can also use a graphical flow chart to summarise your methods – this will help to reduce text. As a guide, try to aim for 20% text, 40% graphics and 40% empty space.

  1. Sections of your poster

    Title: Try to make an interesting title, you want to be able to lure people from a distance. It should be easy to read from 5 metres away

    Introduction: Your introduction will get your audience interested. Keep it brief, but it should clearly convey why the study was done. It will usually contain references and your hypothesis.

    Materials/methods: Be sure to include your subjects, experimental design, materials used and your statistical methods. Use pictures and flowcharts where possible.

    Results: This is the largest section. Base it around your figures, which should be the focus of the poster. Use headings to help your audience quickly understand your graphs.

    Conclusions: This is where you can summarise your take home message. What did you find? Was your hypothesis supported? Try to tie it back to the real world problem; what do your results mean in the larger scheme of things?

  1. The final check

    Always print out an A4 copy of your poster before you print the real thing. Check it carefully for errors, strange fonts or symbols and make sure the figures look right. It’s a good idea to get a colleague to proof read it as well, fresh eyes are better for picking up typos. Try not to leave poster printing until the very last minute, sometimes things go wrong which can cause a lot of stress. If you are travelling to another country with your poster make sure you save a copy on a USB or email it to yourself – posters sometimes get lost!

  1. Presenting your poster

    If someone shows interest in your poster, offer to take them through it. Introduce yourself and establish early on whether they are familiar with your field of research. This will determine how much time you need to spend on background and whether or not you can use acronyms that are specific to your field. Rehearse how you would take someone through your poster before your actual presentation – prepare a ‘2-minute spiel’. But make sure it sounds natural, not memorised. Try to convey your enthusiasm for your work, as this is infectious. Write down the names of people you spoke to, and any ideas that arose from your discussions.

Presenting a poster is an exercise in communication, all the way from poster design right through to the actual presentation. It’s a fantastic way to network and get your research noticed. We hope that you find this advice valuable for your next poster presentation!

From the YSSC