Academic posters are a common format for research to be presented in. Traditionally rooted in scientific disciplines the format is now used by a wider range of subjects.
What is an academic poster?
An academic poster is a large (usually A1 or A0) twqo dimensional presentation giving a brief visual summary of a research project. This is often how postgraduate researchers first present at an academic conference. However, many highly experienced academics continue to present some of their work in this way. If done well it can be a highly effective way to present research and one which encourages individual discussion and facilitates networking activity.
How do I put a poster together?
Designing a large format poster presents both technical and communication challenges. Technically a poster is usually put together using graphic design or desk top publishing software, but Word and PowerPoint are also popular choices. Ask experienced researchers in your department and seek appropriate IT help.
More challenging still is dealing with the communication issues. A large format poster is usually only looked at briefly so it has to convey a complex academic argument as simply and in the most eye-catching way possible.
When putting together a poster ask yourself the following questions:
- From how far away can I still read the main text/the headings/the title/the key results?
- How many words are there? (300-500 should be the maximum)
- What percentage is comprised of images or diagrams?
- Can I represent anything visually instead of in words?
- Is it easy to understand what order the poster should be read in?
- Does the poster look attractive? Do the colour schemes and layout follow any kind of design principles?
Many departments, faculties and institutions run internal poster competitions for their postgraduate researchers. Whilst entering posters in these may not raise your profile in your field a lot it is an excellent way to hone your presentation skills and receive tips from those who view your poster.
How will the exhibition/presentation work?
Each conference will organise its poster session in a different way. Check the details of how the posters will be displayed and how the sessions will be organised beforehand. Typically you might receive guidance about the following issues:
- Size and orientation of the poster
- Any other requirements of formatting and display
- When poster sessions will be held (including information about putting up and taking down times)
- Whether you will be expected to stand with your poster (you should take this opportunity even if it is not a requirement, see below).
Standing with your poster is an ideal opportunity to raise your profile and build your academic network.
- Be proactive. Approach people and ask them if they are interested in your research. You may have already met some people before
- Prepare a short introduction to your poster
- Give people time to read it
- Ask the people that you are talking to for their name and what they do. Being interested in others is shows that you are socially skilled and will help you to judge what level to pitch the presentation at and make connections. Make a note of their contact details and read their publications later, they might prove a valuable contact for your future career
- Listen. This is an opportunity to get feedback on what you do and to make contacts
Think about how people are going to remember you. Producing a hand-out or business card may ensure that interested (and interesting) people leave with your contact details.
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