Academic conference posters are used to summarise research projects and findings in a simple, easy to understand and visual way.
There are two main ways to use such posters.
You can stand next to your poster and use it as you engage with people interested in your work. They can read the poster as you wait and then ask you questions about it. Or they might ask you to talk them through the poster, and then you use it as a visual aide to talk about your research.
Often though you might not be with your poster, and it has to stand on its own as a representation and explanation of your research. You might be attending a session, or having lunch, or be in a meeting with someone. The poster then was to ‘work’ on its own.
Your poster should be designed to work in both situations. It will summarise your work and will include visualisation of some of the most important findings. Very occasionally a poster will be of a work in progress and will include interim findings and plans for how the research will be completed.
The five core elements of a research poster are:
- A title
- White space
A good poster will attract an audience with a clear, uncluttered design and it will have a pop of colour. There will be a lot of white space, and it will be logically organised so it is easy to follow. There will be clear headings and a logically organised sequence so it can be read through.
The title is a specific description of the contents of the poster. It should eb a maximum of two lines of text.
Posters are typically around 800 words of text. Your text should be organized into sections and labelled with appropriate section headings. These headings help the reader navigate the poster. The headings should be short and clear, like: Introduction, Methods, Results, Findings, Discussion, Conclusion, References, Acknowledgements.
Graphics must appear with the main text: results graphics should appear with results text, for example. The graphics should be of high quality (300 dpi or higher), and correctly labelled, and referred to in the text e.g. see Figure 1, see Table 2 etc. Sources of the graphics should always be given.
White space gives your text and graphic space within your poster, which helps viewers avoid feeling overwhelmed by the information being presented. The poster should not be too busy. It should be clear and well organised.
Layout, Flow and Colour
There are many design options for the layout of a poster. Posters can be vertically or horizontally organised. Your reader’s eye should be able to flow smoothly through the text and graphics from the beginning to the end. A maximum of three colours can be used to highlight key details of your poster.