I strongly suggest going to a conference as many times as possible during your academic career. Not only will this allow you to work on those networking skills, but you can also show off your latest research via poster or oral presentation. In this post, we’ll give you tips to help you nail your poster presentation.
Before we delve into what makes a poster great, we first need to get your poster to the conference! While some decide to print their poster at the location, many students can print theirs for a reduced fee or for free at their university. If that’s the case, take advantage of that as posters are pretty expensive (I had to pay $58 for mine, once). Here are some tips to transporting your poster from Point A to Point B:
- The poster case. This is usually a white colored, hard cardboard roll with plastic ends that you can put your poster in for safe keeping. Your advisor/university might have one that they would be happy to loan to you. If not, invest in one. I travelled from the US to the UK without a poster case and I was a bit embarrassed by how wrinkled mine ended up being.
- Protect the poster case. A step further is a case around the cardboard poster case to protect it from the elements. I’ve seen these be mostly of leather or some synthetic fabric with a strap so you can easily fling it around your shoulder. If you’re going somewhere where there is rain, wind, etc. it’s well worth the investment!
You’ve made it to the conference with your poster intact, hooray! So what should this poster have had on it? Essentials include your name, your university/affiliations, a way to contact you (always put your e-mail; feel free to put your twitter handle as well), and the title of your project. With a poster you want to focus on just one aspect of your research and expand on that.
The next question I get a lot is, “What should my poster look like?”
There’s no cookie cutter formula that all academics follow (trust me, I’ve looked and asked around) because everyone presents data in a different way. Much like how your oral presentation shows your personality via PowerPoint, this poster allows your “design personality” to come through. Here are some tips I’ve seen replicated by many posters:
- Background. This varies person to person, but the majority seem to go for a plain background of either white or a dark blue/black. Some put a picture that is almost transparent but doesn’t detract from the important bit of the poster — the WORDS.
- Font. I was taught that font size should be minimum size 14 for a poster. Stick to traditional and easy-to-read fonts such as Verdana, Times New Roman, Arial, and Garamond as a few examples. Try not to use more than three different fonts on a PPT; think of one as a “title” font, another as a “subtitle” font, and a “body” font.
- Pictures. With pictures, make sure the resolution is big enough that it doesn’t get extremely blurry when blown up on the poster (dimensions vary by conference). Don’t forget to give credit to whoever took the picture!
- Tables and graphs. Make sure they are easy to read- may or may not have background depending the overall poster background.
These are a few “templates” that you can follow for your poster from previous conferences I’ve been to:
Once you have given your pitch (tips for creating your own pitch can be found here), encourage your audience to ask you questions! If you don’t know the answer, don’t make something up. Instead, admit you don’t know the answer to their question (which is perfectly okay) and that you’ll look into the subject more in detail and would be happy to get back to them at a later time.
Make sure you exchange contact information (e.g. give them your business card) to keep in touch! Include a stack of business cards by your poster so you can be contacted if not by your poster. Follow up with people you’ve met either during the conference or shortly after.
With all eyes already on you, you also want to make sure you are following the professional dress code. I usually go for either a simple dress (the attention should be on your poster, not you) or nice pants and a shirt. Flats or heels work; remember, you will be on your feet a lot during these conferences so comfort is key!
Practice your pitch in front of family and friends and see if they can give you any constructive criticism about it. I usually get my group to also look at my poster and rate it on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest) by how easy it is to read, how attractive it looks, and if it is a memorable poster. This helps me tailor my poster to not only professionals, but also those who are outside of my field and may happen to come across my work; be prepared and be confident! You’ve got this!
Do you have any tips on poster presentations that I haven’t mentioned? Share them with us in the comments below or tweet us at @mcmsharksxx or @OfficialFemSTEM!