Poster Presentations

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Planning Your Poster
Before compiling images, writing text, or doing anything, imagine your poster completed. What is it that you are trying to say? Some things to think about before starting to work on your poster:

DEFINING YOUR AUDIENCE. Is this a general audience, or a group of professionals? Knowing your audience will affect the kind of language you use, and how detailed about concepts you will need to be.
QUICK TIP: The amount and type of detail you include in your poster should be influenced by your audience's knowledge level in mind. A presentation on steroid biosynthesis to biologists from a a range of different specialties will require far less detail than a presentation on the same topic to biochemists attending a conference on lipid metabolism. Ask yourself: How familiar is my audience with the topic of my presentation? Is my audience likely to understand the terms I'm using, or should I explain new terms? Remember: it's as bad to talk over your audience's head as it is to talk down to your audience. 

KNOWING YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH: If the viewer takes away one thing from your presentation, what do you want it to be? You may only have 30-90 seconds with a viewer. ​
QUICK TIP: Select a statement, photograph or diagram that is sure to attract your audience's attention. This is your 3 second hit. Your focus item should be enlarged so that it will occupy at least 30% of the area of the finished poster. Remember that your audience will not approach you if it is not clear what your topic or theme is from a "safe distance" of 10 feet
Tools for Creating Charts & Diagrams

Creating charts, graphs and diagrams is a simple process if you have the right tool. Below is a list of products that will allow you to put your data into an easily digestible form.

Microsoft Office (Full-featured office software, Paid)
Google Apps (Web-based, Free)
LibreOffice (Full-featured office software, Free)
Gliffy (Web-based, Free)
Lovely Charts (Web-based, Free)
Canva (design infographics and graphs)
Designing Posters
You've decided to create a poster presentation -- congrats! There are many considerations in creating an effective poster, including not just concisely presenting your topic, but also creating a design and using images that enhance your poster and do not distract your audience.
Poster Design Example
Sections to Include
Title A title that describes your conclusion or question in non-technical terms will attract more viewers to your poster
Introduction A statement that gives a quick overview of your poster. Include relevant background to provide a context for understanding the central question or theme of your poster. Define acronyms if you use them, and avoid lab jargon.
Objectives, Aims, Goals, or Problem A concise statement of the goal, question, or problem. Include an hypothesis, if appropriate.
Methods A brief description, diagram, or flow chart representing each key process or procedure used to test the hypothesis.
Results Describe the data collected and the methods used to analyze the data. Photographs, tables, or graphs should be as large as possible, easily interpreted, and labeled with a caption or figure legend.
Conclusions Provide a summary, discuss significance of results, and key conclusions. Do the results support or not support the hypothesis?
References Cite key publications in the text of your poster and list the references here. Include sources of any images or other materials used in the poster.
Acknowledgements Thank the individuals, programs, and funding sources that contributed to the research.
Fonts and Font Sizes
Choose Appropriate Fonts and Font Sizes. Use common font types, such as Times New Roman or Arial. If you use an unusual font, or a non-postscript font, it can cause problems when your poster is converted to a.pdf format for printing. Use the following guidelines, to make your poster easy to read at a distance:
  • Title 90-150 point bold
  • Author 36-42 point bold
  • Section Headings (Sub-titles) 36-54 point bold
  • Main Text 28-32 point
  • References & Acknowledgements 18-28 point
  • 30 point font size will accommodate 250 words per square foot.
  • TEXT AND TITLES WRITTEN ENTIRELY IN CAPITALS ARE HARDER TO READ for ease of reading, nothing beats black text on a light background.
Using Colors

Colors and backgrounds should be subtle. Color should highlight, separate, define and associate information. If it begins to compete with your information for attention, then it is too strong. Color works best as a background element, such as a field against which text is set, rather than as a foreground element itself. Colored text is often harder to read than the same words in black. Just setting headings in color does not necessarily mean that they will be more noticeable than the text surrounding them. Small text set in color is hardest to read of all.


Be aware that colors look different on your screen than they will in print. In general, a color will appear lighter on the screen than in print. So, select a lighter color than you think you need for your background if you are using black text.

Using Graphics
Although graphics can take longer to prepare, they can be much more powerful than written text in a Poster Presentation. Try including a focus image (or series of images) near your title or at the center of your poster. Select a graph, chart, picture, or drawing that will attract your audience's attention and enlarge it so that it will occupy at least 30% of the area of the finished poster.

Free and Legal Image Repositories

If you are not creating your own images (i.e., a graph, chart or drawing) and are instead looking online for an image to use, you will need to consider the copyright implications. Even images found online have copyright. If you would like to use an image in your poster, you can do so by: Getting permission from the image's copyright owner; Buy images from a stock photo site; Use an image that is in the Public Domain or has a Creative Commons license; Create your own images or take your own photos. The following section details some online image repositories where you can find images that are free to use.
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons is a media file repository making available public domain and freely-licensed educational media content (images, sound and video clips) to everyone, in their own language.
Wellcome Collection
The Wellcome Collection is a free museum and library that includes a huge online digital collection. Most of the resources have Creative Commons licenses, and are free to use as long as you provide attribution to the Wellcome Collection.

NLM Digital Collections
The National Library of Medicine's Digital Collections allow you to search for historical medical images. This resources allows you to refine your search by copyright status, and uses MeSH terminology for searching. The Images from the History of Medicine Collection (IHM) is a great collection if you are looking for vintage Chinese medicine art.
Flickr Commons
Flickr allows you to filter search results by license.

Some images in institutional collections, like the National Library of Medicine's History of Medicine archive, may have unclear licensing terms. You may see the license, "No Known Copyright Restrictions." In these cases, the institution believes the image to be in the public domain. For images from NLM's History of Medicine collection, they ask that if you use an image, to use the following credit: “Courtesy of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland.”
Google Image Search
By filtering the "Usage Rights" in a Google Image search, you can see images that allow for reuse. If you are not planning on making money from or otherwise selling your poster presentation, you can select "Labeled for noncommercial reuse" to get the most results.

Evaluating Your Poseter
Have someone from your target audience evaluate your poster.

Create a draft of your poster several weeks before it is due, and send the PowerPoint file to your research mentor, colleagues, and friends and ask for them to send you their comments. Include the checklist (below) to provide your reviewers with a convenient guideline. You can print a miniature version of your poster on letter-sized paper to get a better visual impression of the overall layout, balance of graphics and text, and alignment of elements within your poster. You probably won't be able to read the text or fine details on the letter-sized version, so be patient and proofread your text carefully in PowerPoint.

Download checklist (.pdf)
Checklist adapted from University of Guelph's "Effective Poster Design"
Attracting Your Audience
  • If you encountered this poster at a poster session would you stop to look at it?
  • Is the poster directed to the target audience?
  • Is the title of the poster concise and does it stand out?
  • Is the poster's theme or take-home message quickly discernible?
  • Is the poster layout visually pleasing?
Delivering Your Message
  • Is the research objective made explicit and highlighted under a heading such as "Objectives," "Aims," or " Goals?"
  • Are the main points explicitly labled (e.g., "Main Points," "Conclusion," "Results")?
  • Does the information flow logically?
  • Has the content been carefully edited?
  • Is the text legible in terms of font choice, size, color and spacing?
  • Does the title bar include the presenters' names and is the department or institution identified?
  • Is the poster free of curious acronyms and jargon?
Creating Visual Impact
  • Are the graphics large enough to be seen from a distance of 10 feet?
  • Are the graphics attractive and relevant?
  • Have figure legends or captions been used to guide the viewer?
  • Does the poster have sufficient clear space?
  • Are text and graphics evenly balanced, with enough text to explain the graphics?
  • Have items been aligned?