How to make a successful poster

     A successful poster conveys a clear message

          by high-impact visual information and a minimum of text.


Posters have become one of the most important vehicles for presenting work at conferences. Poster sessions provide a wonderful forum to meet colleagues and discuss scientific work on a person-to-person basis. Unfortunately, a fairly large number of posters does not succeed in drawing significant attention. In this brochure we list some of the most frequent mistakes that presenters make and we make some recommendations for making efficient posters. A few nice examples are displayed at the EFCATS website.

What is a successful poster?

At the end of a meeting a poster can be considered successful if it conveyed a clear message to the visitors, and generated valuable comments to the presenter. In order to achieve these goals, the poster needs to be crystal clear about the objectives, the approach, the main results and the major conclusions of the work, and all this preferably within the proper perspective of existing knowledge on the particular subject.

Frequent mistakes

Too many posters do not succeed in getting their message across. Here are some of the main errors presenters make:

In seven steps to an efficient poster

  1. The message of your poster.
    Try to formulate the essence of what you want to present in a single sentence. Examples of such sentences are:

    Use this sentence as a guide for selecting the data you need to include. You probably wonít actually print this sentence in the poster but it helps you to make up your mind and focus on what your poster is about.

  2. Introduction. Write a few sentences of introduction to identify the problem you address, what is known about it, the objectives of your work and what your approach is to investigate the problem. Use short sentences and keep this section as concise as possible. Consider if complete sentences might be replaced by a bulleted list or by a graphic.
  3. Results. Select the most pertinent results that support your message. Remove everything that is not absolutely necessary. Think about attractive ways to present the data in figures. Try to avoid tables as much as possible. Figures and captions should be easy to read (see also Figures 4-6). Consider adding a brief conclusion below every figure.
  4. Conclusion. Write the conclusions in short, clear statements, preferably as a list. Finish with an assessment of what you have achieved in relation to your objectives, and, perhaps, what your future plans are.
  5. Attention getters. How are you going to draw the peopleís attention? An attractive title serves as such to some extent, but is not enough. Select one of your most important results, a photo, a scheme explaining the scientific background, a model or the main conclusion, or whatever you consider as highlight of your presentation and give it a prominent place on your poster, for example in the middle or at the beginning. This is what the audience will see first. It should raise their interest and stimulate them to read your poster.
  6. Layout. Arrange all the parts of the poster around your attention getter. Add headers if necessary to clarify the structure of your poster, and add everything else that is needed, such as literature, acknowledgements. Ensure that author name(s) and affiliation are on the poster.
  7. Review, revise, optimize. Ask your co-authors and/or colleagues to comment on a draft version of your poster. Assess very critically if the poster indeed conveys the message you want.

A good poster enables the reader to grasp the message in a short time, e.g. less than a minute. If he finds the subject of interest he will stay to learn about the details, and discuss the work with the presenter. If you fail to get the readerís attention in a short time, he is likely to go on to the next poster, unless he really wants to know about your work.