‘Doing a poster presentation at a conference’

Conferences almost always have more abstracts submitted than can be successfully fitted into a programme. The programme is determined by the number of rooms available for concurrent session. The ‘scientific’ or “academic’ committee will often rank submissions if they feel there will be more “yes” decisions than can be accommodated. You may be offered a poster slot if your abstract is good, but not quite as highly ranked, or it could be that you submitted two, one for presentation and one as a poster. If you submit an abstract for a poster it still needs to be strong- the same guidelines apply as in the post on abstracts on this blog.

Focus on the key message you want to get across to your intended audience. Who is the intended audience? Be sure you write for that audience and ensure language, concepts and ideas can be understood by your audience. Remember the four or five key sentences for a good abstract and work out how you can communicate those concepts in the visual medium. All the text on the poster should be clear and concise: use short sentences, bullet points and avoid jargon, abbreviations and acronyms. Use colour and photos or graphics to attract the eye of conference participants.

You may be assigned a slot to speak to your poster, usually only 5 minutes, and in this case there will be a chair. Your task as the presenter is to manage challenging questions; and to expand on the messages in your poster. Prepare a 1-2 page handout. Have your business cards ready and have some available in an envelope pinned to the board for when you’re unavailable.

Handouts: Your presentation should include references but if you provide this on a hand-out you are not cluttering up the poster. Add your name, institution and e-mail address. Handouts or outlines may help the audience follow the presentation. You may wish to distribute them before the presentation when the content is dense and mainly text. Take a plastic pocket that can be attached to the poster board.

Production: you can use PowerPoint™ to produce your poster. The layout menu will guide you through this. Space doesn’t allow details here but essentially you produce two slides with content edge to edge, that a commercial printer can produce as large as you want, full colour etc. Getting these printed can be expensive so do ask for a quote! Posters can be produced on card or fabric. Remember to take pins or 2-sided tape.

Layout: All posters must have a title, along with an abstract, findings, key ‘take away’ points, and important references. Posters should also have sections which outline the problem, methods, discussion and results of your research. To get started map out how you will fit these sections in and work out how you will direct readers to the sections in logical order. Use letters, numbers or arrows to indicate the correct direction to your audience. Decide the main headers, text boxes, diagrams, data displays and photos and start designing.

Appearance: Keep it simple. Plain, light colour backgrounds allow for high contrast with text. Highlight developments, trends and comparisons with simple graphs and diagrams but avoid too many numbers, words or complex visuals. The use of colour improves the appearance and readability of your poster. The software easily allows you to develop theme colours. The golden rule is that lettering should be able to be read from a distance of 1.5metres and the title from 3 metres. Use bold thick font for titles, headings and subheadings to enhance readability. A poster is not the vehicle to present the detail from your research or project. The simplest posters are often the most successful. Test your design and text layout and ‘sense’ on friends or colleagues before you send to the printer. Many large format posters can be safely carried in cardboard cylinders and cloth posters can be folded up in your luggage.

Use the following guidelines for text size.
– Poster Title 96 – 180 point
– Author 20 – 36 point
– Headings (Abstract, Conclusions etc) 48 – 84 point
– Subheadings 24 – 36 point
– Body Text 14 – 20 point

And don’t forget to carefully read the instructions provided by the conference organisers and check the programme for the time your poster is to be displayed. at large conferences you may be assigned a day and your poster will need to be removed on time.
Free On-line Resources: Any problems just type “How do I make a poster in PowerPoint” In Google and you will find many easy resources.


About socialworknz

I'm a social work researcher in Aotearoa New Zealand
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