Apr 10

Affordable & Professional Scientific Communication 101

By Cole Dawson, WSU Vancouver Neuroscience student

Cole pic1


When you need to present information to a large audience on a budget, turn to posters. Not familiar with the ins and out of poster making? Don’t worry, I’ve got some tools to take to your next poster session that will make you appear organized and professional. To start off, what are posters used for? Posters are a great way to put your research into the public eye without needing to provide all the text heavy paragraphs in the published paper itself. Scientists use poster sessions to lay out the methods and outcomes of their research, often occurring at conferences in a sea of other presenters. How can you stand out at these poster sessions with thousands of others trying to get their research out into the world? I’ve laid out 7 major steps to follow when putting together a poster that, if followed correctly, will help represent your data in the best way possible.

  • Plan, Plan, Plan: This can’t be stressed enough. Beginning with the due date allows you to make proper milestones to attack your goal. The best part about planning the poster production, this gives time for critiques from peers to help create a simplistic, attractive, and eye-popping poster. Also, understanding that printing doesn’t always goes as planned. Make sure to give yourself proper time prior the when the poster needs to be printed.
  • Know the Guidelines: Imagine preparing for a 2×3 poster to find out you need to adjust the material to a 4×8 poster. Knowing the size of the poster plays a key role in just how much information you can present.
  • https://www.elsevier.com/__data/assets/image/0015/35043/Figure-2.jpg


    Graphics: The whole point of the poster is to use images and graphics to illustrate the story, initiate conversation. The goal of viewing a poster is to get the main point from the research, get a chance to speak with the researchers or collaborators, and not spend most your time reading. Take advantage of being able to color bars or lines that strongly emphasize the take home of each figure. There should be no more than 6 figures included in the poster, only use graphs that help truly emphasize what’s important! The most important part of including these figures is that they’re understandable. Can you easily get the takeaway from this graph or do you just lose interest? I’m sure this graph contains valuable data, maybe this is something that can be done with the addition of another graph to reduce just how convoluted it is. As scientists, it can be difficult to reconfigure how we communicate with others that don’t have the same background information that we do. Therefore, it’s important that you can explain these figures in a succinct and clear manner.

  • Text: When it comes to text, less is more. Don’t inundate your poster with so much text that passersby feels like they’re reading a novel, you should use 24-point font with nothing flashy. Most importantly, utilize bullet points! These help the reader understand the main takeaway from a section while you have the understanding to go deeper than the bullet points, if necessary. When making a poster using PowerPoint, you can zoom the material into 100% to get an idea of what the poster looks like once printed. A good rule of thumb is the 3-foot rule. This means that people should be able to see what you’re presenting 3-feet from your poster, seems simple right?
  • Headings and Titles: A title or heading should be used to guide viewers through the poster and summarize the findings. The heading should be used to drive home the main point.
  • Poster Size: Once you know the dimensions of the poster requirement for your conference or showcase, utilize all the space you can. A good way to gauge the quality of content is to have roughly 20% of your poster as “empty space”.
  • Colors: Contrast is the major key when putting together a poster but you never want to take advantage of all the options in the drop-down box that has more colors than you can count. Make sure to keep the colors somewhere between two and three throughout the poster.

These rules for quality poster presentation have time and time again been shown to produce high quality poster sessions that bring people back wanting more. Remember, the most common mistakes you can make in constructing a poster are flooding the poster with text, using a font far too small, and not planning for the appropriate dimensions. So much time and effort goes into collecting data, analyzing results, and drawing conclusions from the work. So when you’re storyboarding and compiling all the info you want to properly represent your hard work with, do you want to end up with a poster like this or this? You want to make sure you represent your hard work well. You put all the effort into collecting all the numbers and compiling data – show what you’re worth!

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