A successful poster conveys a clear
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.
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.
Too many posters do not succeed in getting their message
across. Here are some of the main errors presenters make:
seven steps to an efficient poster
- Too much text. At the last EUROPACAT meetings, roughly 65% of all
posters had way too much text on it. Posters containing 2000 words or more
were no exception!
- Unclear structure. If key elements such as objectives, approach,
conclusions, or perspectives are missing, everyone who is not an insider on
your subject will not understand why your poster is relevant (and why he/she
should spend time on it).
- Inappropriate structure. Many people blindly apply the standard
structure of a written report, thereby using their poster as a sort of
miniature article, which almost automatically leads to a lot of text. There is
no standard structure for a poster.
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- Poor figures. Some figures may be real puzzles, with incomprehensible
legends, secret codes, small lettering, and cryptical captions, etc. Note that
many spreadsheet and data programs do not produce "reader friendly" graphics
(see Figures 1 and 2).
- Information overload. Many presenters overload their posters with too
many data, and greatly overestimate the time that the average visitor is
willing to spend on the poster.
- No presenter present. This is obviously a missed chance for valuable
discussions. Another frequent mistake is that presenters take a passive
attitude and make no effort to initiate discussions.
Figure 1. Spreadsheets often produce unsatisfactory
figures, particularly with respect to labeling. A good figure has labels
on the curves and not in a legend. Secret codes and jargon should be
avoided as much as possible
Figure 2. To understand the left figure one must read the
caption; the right figure explains
- 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:
- I want to convince the audience that my new catalyst is the best one for
converting methane into ethylene.
- Analyzing kinetic data on reaction x with our microkinetic model enables
one to define better processing conditions.
- The new ABC technique yields reliable surface areas of supported oxide
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.
- 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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.