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How to make a poster
David Sargan firstname.lastname@example.org
What is a poster session?
- Most scientific meetings have more presenters than platform time
- Posters provide the means to present additional short communications
- There ’ s plenty in it for you!
- The poster communication often provides the means to get to the conference
- Posters provide a launch point for networking
- Some poster submitters may be given platform talks.
- Many meetings run poster competitions - some have worthwhile prizes, all winners have a boost to their cv ’ s.
Problems of the Poster Session
- Posters are presented in large groups
- The environment is usually crowded
- The time allotted to poster sessions is limited
- Most people are in a hurry
- You have about 3 seconds to persuade the average passer-by to read your poster.
Two messages with three words...
Saatchi and Saatchi, 1979
Posters should have immediate impact
Getting to that Conference -the Abstract
- Watch the date
- Abstract deadlines are typically four to six months before conferences.
- Quality control
- Most conferences peer review abstracts before inviting posters or platform talks
- Your abstract will be published in the conference programme. For many it may decide if they visit your poster
- Your abstract is an important personal ad!
The submitted abstract - content
- The title is important
- In theory the title of submitted abstract and poster should match
- BUT… your abstract title needs to be detailed enough for web searching
- … whilst your poster title needs to catch attention in 3 seconds
The submitted abstract - content
- The abstract should be very concise and clear
- Describe the purpose of the experiment, the methods (brief) and the results.
- A conclusion should take a maximum of one sentence.
- Use short sentences, and don ’ t use references.
The submitted abstract - content
- There is a temptation to hint in the abstract about the results you hope to get in two months time.
- DO NOT BE TEMPTED
- you can put new results into the poster, even if they are not in your abstract
- Retractions are less easy!
- Check the word limit and formatting conform to conference requirements.
The poster - planning 1
- Allow time to write, layout and print your poster.
- Writing will be quick if you have your data ready and plan what you want to say properly.
- Layout and then editing can take more time.
- Although printing can be done quickly if you are desperate, it is more expensive.
- The first time you make a poster you should start about ten days before your departure date, with at least three days of these ten set aside for poster work.
The poster - planning 2
- Your audience at a meeting has three groups
- Your scientific competitors
- They will come by anyway, however badly you present!
- Scientists in closely related areas
- These people will be interested in a good presentation and can be helpful to you in your current project.
- Scientists in more distant areas
- These people are a bonus, but may have useful perspectives drawn from disparate fields.
- So write for group two, but ensure group three can follow!
The poster - planning 3
- No amount of good presentation makes up for bad science!!
- Pick related data to make a short group of points
- Usually about 4 - 6 figures (or groups of figures) is plenty
- Plan the text around each figure
The poster - planning the text
- You have 3 seconds to capture the audience
- You have about 30 seconds to persuade them to stay
- The poster abstract (and/or “ main points ” )
- In poster competitions, judges are asked to review posters at an average of 1-2 minutes per poster
- No-one will stay to read for more than five minutes
- So make sure they can read all of it in that time!
Consider the Audience
- Sometimes you will be trying to appeal to a wider group
- More general meetings, “Public face” of science (Science week) etc.
- Some members of any audience may be colorblind, have reduced vision or suffer dyslexia
- Fonts and figures
Figure design and colour blindness
- Colour blind people have particular problems with fluorescent images.
- Substituting red with magenta gives an image that can be read by all.
- To do this make a copy of the red image in the blue channel and add to the original.
- Use direct labelling of lines or dashed as well as solid lines on charts.
- Red-Green colour blindness in males is more common than the AB blood group!
BAD!! Sub-retinal administration of AAV-PDE6B in the rcd-1 Beagle X Irish setter cross: photopic responses
Better   Gene transfer restores cone function in an animal model of retinitis pigmentosa
Think about your title
- Write it down
- Swap with a neighbour
- Do they understand it?
- Can you simplify?
The poster - planning the text 2
- Don ’ t forget to include all authors and contact addresses (including email) under the title.
- You do not have to stick to standard scientific journal layout
- You do need to introduce the topic, describe any unusual methods, describe your results and set them in context
- Methods should be brief
- Results and their discussion should be close to the relevant figures
A take home message as a set of bulleted points is very helpful . use a box to make it more visible
- Use short sentences (average 8-10 words)
- Do not use jargon or unexplained abbreviation
- Some of your audience will not be specialists in your area
- Keep references to a minimum
- Avoid excessive detail
- Edit ruthlessly: ask yourself - is this absolutely necessary? If not, omit it.
- But maintain a formal passive style
- This conveys information efficiently.
An attraction point
- If you have a large bright figure/picture easily visible near the title this will help draw the non-competitor scientist group.
- Don ’ t sacrifice your science to this.
Gene transfer restores cone function in an animal model of retinitis pigmentosa     Bainbridge, Mistry, Balaggan, Squire, Ali & Sargan Centre for Veterinary Science University of Cambridge Email: email@example.com
Layout and all that
- I am going to present a set of rules for laying out your poster.
- They are useful, but remember you need your poster to look distinctive and attractive.
- You must catch the eye.
Specialist packages for laying out your poster abound..
- Adobe Creative Suite (Illustrator, In Design etc)
- Illustrator is a good drawing package, but you have to define edges. Limitations with text editing.
- In Design is complex to use though powerful. Sledgehammers and nuts…
- Pagemaker Pro. This used to be quite good, but I haven ’ t tried it for several years. Max page size A0.
- QuarkXPress. Flexible but expensive package. Max page size 900 x 1200mm.
- Corel Draw. Useable especially on PC, but can create enormous file sizes.
- Microsoft Word and Publisher are not good for final poster preparation.
Programmes for layout cont..
- PowerPoint is a useful programme for general poster layouts.
- simplicity and familiarity
- Part of MS Office - compatibility
- limited drawing package
- a bit clumsy with ruler based layout
- problems with Mac/PC conversion
- Nevertheless, this is the most commonly used package amongst our students
- Make sure that your data files are compatible with your layout programme.
- PowerPoint accepts jpeg, tiff, psd and some but not all forms of pict, as well as excel and word files.
- You can make limited alteration to imported files (shape, contrast, scale, but not moving or recolouring components of the imported file, text etc.)
- In Page Setup use the “Custom” setting to set size, then set Portrait or Landscape
- A0 = 118.9 x 84.1cm
- Keep text in boxes - Keep Snap-to-Grid on whilst you align, then turn off for fine movements
Powerpoint tips for posters
- Create text by cutting and pasting or typing directly into PowerPoint - Do not use “ insert ” .
- Tables can be typed directly into Powerpoint - use the tab functions rather than the space bar.
- Graphics should be “ Inserted ” as a picture. Do NOT import graphics by cutting and pasting.
- Leave a one-inch margin all the way around the outside edge of the poster to avoid having your content “ cut off. ”
- Ideally graphics and photos should be scanned at the size you want to use them on your poster (not necessarily actual size). Scanning resolution should be 150 dpi.
- If you are enlarging a file for the poster, import at up to 300dpi maximum.
- Keep fonts simple
- This is Times New Roman , a serif font: these are easy to read quickly and are compact, but can look fussy. Good for main text but less good for headings.
- This is Ariel , a sans-serif font with a very clean look, but harder to read in big blocks. (Look also at Helvetica and Verdana ).
- And this is Comic Sans MS , with a less formal feel.
- Do not be tempted to use anything more elaborate
- complex fonts are hard to read
Layout - 3
- Do not use more than two fonts across the whole poster.
- Text should be readable from at least 1.5 meters without strain.
- For most fonts this means at least 24 point; some of the denser ones, e.g. Times New Roman may need 28 point.
- Titles should be at least twice as big.
- Author names, addresses etc. intermediate.
- Choose background and text colours to maximise reading ease.
In a light room, and in the absence of projection, dark text on a light background is easier to read than light text on a dark background.
(The converse is often true in a dark room with projected images, or when viewing the phosphorescent image on your computer screen.)
Layout - 4
- Graded and patterned backgrounds look pleasant
- But avoid strongly graded backgrounds
- There is no font colour that will let you read the whole poster!
- Avoid strongly patterned backgrounds for the same reason
Problems with colour scheme & with font sizes
Layout - 5
- Before you start, check the dimensions of your meeting ’ s poster boards!
- (See the meeting programme or instructions for authors)
- A0 is 1189 x 841mm
- Most poster boards are 1.5m x 1m, but some are not!
- Check whether your board is “ Landscape ” or “ Portrait ”
- Some poster boards are huge (4 ’ x 8 ’ ) - but it is still better to stick with A0. This can be read without moving / craning.
Layout - 6
- Plan your poster in vertical columns, not horizontal rows
- This prevents gridlock amongst those trying to read your poster
Layout - 7
- Indicate the sequence in your poster
- You can use numbers or arrows
- Panels placed in regular columns are easier to follow than panels placed asymmetrically
Layout - 8
- Show, don ’ t tell!
- Very good for methods
- But don ’ t let the audience miss important results
- Use a simple visual grammar that reflects the importance of the elements
- Large titles
- Medium text
- Small legends
Layout - 9
- Large figures are easier to read
- Where text linked to a figure has to be in a different section or column, you can use an arrow
- Try to leave some blank spaces
- They rest the reader ’ s eye
- The main results should be summarised
- State conclusions from these results separately.
- These sections should be easy to find
- QR codes can link in extra information, web sites etc.
- Don ’ t forget acknowledgements
Layout - 10
- Print an A4 copy before you get anything larger printed.
- If you can ’ t read the A4, print on your poster will be too small.
- Use it to check appearance, and colour balance
- Nowadays most posters are printed on glossy A0 paper or laminated A0 paper.
- Your work has cost hundreds of hours and probably thousands of pounds. Poor presentation is a false economy.
- Lots of A4 sheets on a board look tatty. Get an A0 print and a poster tube to carry it!
- If money is tight don ’ t laminate unless you are going to leave it up for a long period
- Photographic and Illustration service (pandis), New Museum site; Dept Biochemistry; Medical illustration, Addenbrookes;
At the conference
- You could print 30 or so A4 colour copies to take with you and give out at the conference.
- Make sure your poster goes up and comes down at the time recommended.
- There may be multiple poster sessions re-using the same poster boards
- The conference organisers usually provide velcro tape for felted poster boards, or pins etc, but it is useful to take some of each with you.
- Check your poster from time to time to make sure it hasn ’ t fallen down.
Your poster session
- You can leave a notepad and/or your A4 poster copies attached to the poster board when you are not there
- Collect email addresses of anyone interested
Your Poster Session
- Wear your conference badge.
- People will know who you are
- The best way (the only good way) to get across the message of your poster is to talk people through it.
- It ensures that your work is understood
- It makes more impression
- It gets you known
- You or your appointed deputy must stand by your poster throughout your poster session for maximum impact.
- As all other posters you care about are probably in the same session this calls for planning and division of labour
- Engage people who glance over the poster
- Offer an explanation
- DON ’ T WAIT TO BE ASKED!
- Think about a short way to take people through the poster
- Use the figures
- Keep to the main points
- Try to make a note of any good suggestions
Your Poster Session
What about public communication of science?
- Bringing your science to a wider audience
- The audience may still be highly educated in biosciences
- e.g. Graduate School Poster and Image Competition
- Part of the Cambridge Science Festival
Dates to remember
- Dec 16 th – Departmental poster and lightening talk competition
- March 7-20 th – Cambridge Science Festival
- Poster and image competition (Dates TBA)
- Big prizes!!
- March 19 th - Science Festival Vet School Open day
Examples for your comments
- Fewer words, more pictures
- The poster must give the message by itself
Enjoy your conference!
My thanks to all poster makers, especially Dr’s Rens and Tiley for letting me use their “bad examples”