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Reading & Writing

How to design a poster

How to design a poster

Posters are a good way to showcase your research and receive feedback. The skills required to design a poster are subtly different to writing a paper.

Plan ahead so that you know which conferences you aim to attend, when the deadline to submit abstracts is and whether there is the option to apply for a bursary at the same time (and if so, what is required).

If there is the option of submitting your abstract in either a poster or oral presentation category, always consider opting for the oral presentation Even though this may seem daunting, an oral presentation is more prestigious and showcases your research to a larger audience.

When writing the abstract:

Follow the conference guidelines on abstract style regarding structured vs unstructured and length.

Remember that the aim of the abstract is to capture the interest of the abstract reviewers. The title should be informative and interesting. The abstract should clearly and concisely outline the aims, methods, results and discussion.

Read a number of abstracts from papers published in high impact journals for inspiration.

Send your abstract to all of your study authors for their feedback.

When designing the poster:

Follow the conference guidelines on style e.g.

  • landscape versus portrait
  • size
  • paper versus fabric (paper posters will need to be transported in poster tubes whereas fabric posters can be folded and packed in suitcases)

Check with the printers (University or NHS):

  • how long it will take to print
  • the information they need (e.g. grant code)
  • the format they need the poster to be in (usually posters are designed in PowerPoint but may need to be submitted to the printers as a PDF). The size of the poster can be set in PowerPoint.

Allow sufficient time to draft the poster, receive feedback from the study authors, make changes and submit for printing.

Include high quality logos from your University and funders (often available on their websites).

Ensure the poster is eye catching with a clear layout. The aim is to attract the attention and interest of people walking past and for the poster to convey a clear message.

Ideally print a small version of the poster for proof-checking.

Send the poster to all of your study authors for feedback.

When presenting the poster:

The aim is:

  • to showcase your research
  • to showcase yourself as a researcher
  • to receive feedback on your research and potentially new ideas
  • to potentially generate new collaborations
  • to compete (there are usually prizes for the best posters)

Find out from the conference organisers what format the poster presentation will be (e.g. a formal 2-3 minute pitch versus informally explaining the poster/answering questions).

It is worth practising so that your explanation of the poster is clear and succinct.

Anticipate questions the judges are likely to ask.

Make sure you are present by your poster at your assigned time.

Some people make handouts or business cards to accompany their poster.

After presenting the poster:

  • Make a note of any useful feedback/ideas or potential collaborations.
  • Update your CV.
  • Consider what further work is required to progress the research from a poster into a publication.