Posters are visual communication tools that serve as a starting point for in-depth conversations. Posters are not research papers blown up to poster-size, nor are they meant to provide all the details of your work. An effective poster will attract attention, tell a story, be concise, and cover significant information. There is not one perfect way to organize a poster. Everyone’s content is different, and your personal style needs to be reflected, albeit in a professional manner that conveys important information without overwhelming your viewers. As you have a limited amount of space to get your message across, it is important to ask yourself what you really want someone to take away from viewing your poster.
The general tips and guidelines provided here and in our Preparing Your Poster handout will be applicable to most fields; however, there are variations in the preferred style and format of posters in different fields. We recommend that students consult faculty mentors for specific guidelines and criteria relevant to the discipline.
- Review the guidelines and instructions: When your poster is accepted for presentation at a conference or other event, such as Frontiers in Undergraduate Research, you will be given instructions and guidelines outlining key information such as size requirements, restrictions and/or space limitations; pay close attention.
- Consider your audience: There are three types of audiences – specialists in your discipline, those in related areas or fields, and a general audience. You will need to tailor your poster and presentation for the type of audience attending the poster session. For example, if presenting to a general audience, you will want to simplify your content to avoid overwhelming people with technical jargon. Conversely, if the poster session will be attended by specialists, you may want to include technical details.
- Determine your message: What key information do you want to get across to those who attend the poster session? Brainstorm what you want to highlight and essential information that needs to be included. Create an outline of the information to include on your poster. If you submitted an abstract as part of an application to present, you can use this to guide the development of your outline.
- Sketch a mock-up: Sketch a mock-up of your poster to go along with the content outline. Show your outline and mock-up to your faculty mentor and ask for feedback. Plan to do this multiple times during the poster development process.
Plan ahead and give yourself ample time to create an outline and mock-up of your poster, get feedback from your mentor, and edit. Effective posters aren’t developed overnight!
Our Preparing Your Poster handout will provide you with general guidelines to supplement the discipline-specific guidance provided by your faculty mentor. Topics addressed in the PDF include poster content, format and layout, and information on getting your poster printed.
Discussing Your Work
So much time is spent preparing a polished and effective poster, but this is only one half of the presentation. You need to spend just as much time preparing yourself. Poster presentations are a chance for you to share your work with others and to promote your accomplishments – take full advantage of the opportunity!
The tips provided in our Preparing Yourself for a Poster Presentation handout will help you make the most of this opportunity. The PDF includes advice on discussing your work, what to wear, and how to prepare for the poster session.