Advice for Poster Presentations

by Heather Thorstensen | Aug 12, 2019

2018 Student Poster Presentation

A student presents her poster during the 2018 Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference.

Sigma Xi members in The Lab online community recently shared the following advice for students giving their first research poster presentation. 

"If you’re asked a question and don’t know the answer, slowly take a breath and think about the question. You can always say, 'Well I am not sure but I think…' This response has stimulated a lot of positive conversations and  debates where I learned a lot." 
 —Jennifer Carr,  Wenham, Massachusetts

"The American Astronomical Society (AAS), of which I am a full member, has recently given the option for its members to present digital iPosters* instead of traditional posters at their conferences. You create a web-based template for an electronic poster that is displayed on large interactive touchscreens at the meetings. Visitors can enlarge images on screen and play accompanying videos. The iPosters can be downloaded by anyone who is interested."  
—Robert Elowitz, Beaver Creek, Ohio

"My advice to students giving presentations: Know your material and practice in front of friends and other students."
—Robert Buntrock, Orono, Maine

"The most important function of conferences is to provide informal contact among the participants. The most important sessions are the coffee breaks, meals, and other social events. Next are the poster sessions, when you can have serious discussions with the few participants who are really interested in your work. Be present at your poster throughout the poster session. Be proactive: Buttonhole each passerby, and give them a two-minute 'elevator talk' highlighting your most important result and its significance. If the participant is really interested, continue with a more detailed conversation. If your lab can afford it, print the poster on cloth rather than poster board. This allows the poster to be folded without degradation and carried in your backpack."
—Raymond Boxman, Tel-Aviv, Israel

"I have judged student poster competitions in my discipline society. It is not always made clear that a poster is not a consolation prize (to not giving a talk) and certainly not a regurgitation of a journal article, but rather it’s a chance to graphically and succinctly express a story  of your research. Type should be large enough to read comfortably from a meter or two away and text should be minimized to emphasize/underline points. White space is valuable to the esthetic and approachability. For viewers who want to be reminded of what you said, provide a link to a PDF or a page-sized printout of the poster along with your card or contact information so someone passing by can contact you for more details if you are not there at the time."
—Gail Kampmeier, Savoy, Illinois

* Editor’s note: Electronic posters will be an option for poster presenters at the 2019 Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference, November 14–17, 2019, in Madison, Wisconsin.

Active Sigma Xi members can access The Lab for more conversations at community.sigmaxi.org.

What's Your Advice?

Do you have advice to add about poster presentations? Please comment below. 

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