Hi Julia! Any tips in making a poster for a conference? What did you use to make your poster?
Hi Anon! I’m happy to help!
I use Powerpoint to make my posters (which can also be saved as a pdf file if necessary).
Here’s one of mine at 26% zoom (actual size next to me here!). (Sorry I can’t show any more detail; the stuff hasn’t been published yet)
You can adjust the size of the powerpoint to the desired poster size by going to File > Page Setup and then choosing “Custom” for “Slides sized for:”. Adjust the Width and Height and confirm the “Orientation” of your Slides is what you want (Portrait or Landscape). I used the following dimensions for my above poster:
Determine your poster size before starting on your poster as resizing after the fact may crop some images/text.
Be sure to a) check with the size requirements as per the conference poster guidelines, as well as b) the maximum printing size for wherever you’re getting your poster printed at (places usually have a height maximum due to the size of their paper).
If you google image “academic poster samples” a bunch of posters pop up for you to draw inspiration on layouts, but in general it’s these main categories:
(Title, Authors, Affiliations, Institutional logos if desired)
Introduction (can include separate sections of Background, and Purpose & Approach if desired)
Results (Figures/Tables/Graphs) - usually in the middle of the poster aka the center of attention
Summary of Results
References/Bibliography (not required, only put if you have room or want to give a shout-out to your lab’s papers)
Acknowledgements and/or Disclaimers (such as funding sources)
Some other general tips:
Check out other examples of posters at your institution. Take a mental note of what you like/don’t like. Also check with your mentor or program if they have templates ready to go. Every institution will also have official logos you can use (or even a quick google image should do it, though ones provided by your institution will be of higher quality).
The figures/tables/graphs in the Results section are the most important and should be easy to read and understand. They should be of high image quality, have titles (one title can be used to described a group of related figures if applicable) and figure legends (that can describe the figure alone without the need for the reader to go through the methods or results). This should include explanations of all abbreviations, symbols (such as stats), what any arrows mean, etc. Essentially someone who has a basic understanding of your field and methods should be able to look at your figures and understand your entire poster. In addition, when you present your poster, you will be using your figures to guide you, so make sure they tell the whole story.
Also consider if you need any figures/diagrams as part of the Introduction, Methods, or Conclusions (say to explain a biological process or proposed theory or complicated protocol).
Fonts should be legible to the audience. 25 or 28 pt font is the smallest I’ll ever go.
I have a separate powerpoint file that I use to dump all my figures (even those i don’t end up using). It’s also a good way to organize the order (as ppt slides are easy to move around). I also don’t like to do any figure manipulations on my actual poster file (the less moving pieces on a file that large just makes life easier imo). I do all that in my figures dump ppt and then screenshot the final version for my poster. That’s just what’s worked for me though; you may find another method to be more streamlined.
The less text, the better. Enough text is necessary so someone reading your poster without you present will understand it, but not too much text to intimidate someone from approaching.
Get feedback and go through multiple revisions. Very important! I usually will have my PI look over my poster continuously at least 2 weeks before printing for feedback. For example, sometimes wording is really important, or I may miss a technical detail in a figure legend, and these nuances are best picked out by someone with much more experience (like a PI). Also you never know what your PI or mentor may not want you divulging to a general audience (for fear of being scooped).
And related, proofread to the best of your ability. Will you discover a typo an hour into your poster presentation that you didn’t catch before? Probably. Happens to all of us. That’s ok, but try your best to make sure your care and attention to detail shows.
Make it aesthetically pleasing. I know it’s all about the data and information of course, but also think human psychology and what catches someone’s eye–color*, organization, flow, neat lines, clear images, etc. If your poster draws the attention of someone who wasn’t planning on stopping by, then that’s one more person who got exposed to your hard work! (*Don’t always rely on color to organize your variables on graphs, etc; use shapes too, to be considerate to the color-blind)
Also keep in mind that some colors on your computer screen may look different (lighter or darker or fuzzier) when printed (depending on the paper and ink quality). It’s best to have some buffer time between when you need to leave/present and when you receive your printed poster for any issues related to a final print of your poster in case you need them fixed.
Somewhere in the poster (like at the very bottom) I like to put a disclaimer that states: “This
presentation is the intellectual property of the author/presenter. Contact them
at __my email__ for permission to reprint and/or distribute.” We had to do it for a conference I went to and I thought it was a really good idea. Doesn’t hurt, and somewhat protects me/my data.
Hmmmmmm I think that’s all I can squeeze from my brain! I hope it helped, or gave you inspiration for your own ideas! Let me know if you have any other questions, and good luck at the conference! You’re going to do great :)
(If anyone else has any suggestions to add, please do!)