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beefgallo

First Poster Presentation - a few questions

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I am going to present my first poster presentation at a conference (also, my first presentation of anything at a conference), it's gonna be a poster based on parts of my MA thesis.

 

I read a bunch of stuff here in the forums and generally online, on how to prepare and what a poster should look like.

 

Main points I got  - not too much text, visual aids (graphs, charts etc.), prepare a 2-3 minute explanation about what's presented in the poster, maybe print handouts people can take with them, some design tips etc.

 

Do you have any tips or something you didn't think of while preparing for presenting a poster and later realized?

 

Also, what would you say (it's hard for me to imagine, since i've never printed a poster) is the minimal size of font one can use in a text box in a poster?

 

Any feedback will be appreciated.

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The LSA has very good poster guidelines: http://www.linguisticsociety.org/resource/lsa-poster-guidelines. It answers some of your questions, e.g. about font size. 

It sounds like you're going to be prepared and you have nothing to worry about. A poster is a great opportunity to meet people one-on-one or in small groups and to tell them about your work. You get to tell them as much or as little as they want, and you can just ask them "do you want the short version or the long one?" and they'll let you know. 

Things that I have found to be useful:

Make a self-explanatory poster: Have a very clear box labeled "take home message" or similar that summarizes the main points. This should be *the first thing on the poster that people's eyes go to*, so probably the top box on the left. The way these things go is that there will be a large room with lots of posters in it and people will walk around trying to decide which ones to look at more carefully. People are usually first intrigued by the title. Once they are nearby, they will skim your poster quickly, trying to identify the main points. Make this step easier for them.   

Don't just stand there and wait. Say "hi" to people who come near your poster. Ask them if they want you to tell them about the poster or just look at it first. Ask them if they want a handout. Don't be afraid to ask people for their name if they are not wearing a name tag! (This is a perpetual problem, especially among older (male) researchers who assume everybody knows who they are, so be polite and explain you're inexperienced if you suspect you might be talking to a famous person. But if you are, you want them to remember your name so it's good to have this "formal" introduction).

If you don't have a readymade handout, it's fine to just print your poster on a sheet of paper and use that as a handout. 

Put examples and main points in numbered examples and try using colors or boxes to highlight them. It will make it easier to point at them when you speak. 

Make an outline on a piece of paper and imagine how you'll want to tell the story of your poster. It will help you construct it more efficiently. 

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As I recall, 26 pt. is generally the accepted minimum font size for relevant info. References can be 18 pt.

 

I've done quite a few poster presentations over my undergrad. I think the hardest thing is making that 2-3 minute pitch. You're bound to change it as more people ask about your poster.

Also, make the design visually appealing without it being distracting. I tend to flair up my posters too much, haha.

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Thanks!

 

Also, the poster is based on my MA thesis, I should write the name of the university where I submitted this thesis, right? I am now going to start a PhD at a different university.

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Write your current affiliation. You won't be affiliated with your new school until September (or whenever your program starts). If it's after then, you write your new affiliation and you could have a box in the corner that says "This work is based on my MA thesis, written at X University under the supervision of Dr. Y."

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This is such a helpful thread! I'm in the same place as you, Beefgallo. Thanks for the input, Fuzzy.

 

I found this short book to be helpful - How To Make A Scientific Research Poster by John Elder. I got the Kindle edition for free on Amazon.  It can be annoying at times, as the author is promoting his own printing company, but overall I've found it helpful to think through content and design. 

Edited by med latte

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Just searching the internets, I stumbled upon this video on yotube

 

it is rather funny and rather amateurishly made, in a sweet way, but the tips seem solid.

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I think that for now i'll just do the handouts, and of course include my email address in them.  Since some of my information is gonna change soon.

 

fuzzylogician - regarding the take home message you recommended on putting at the top left part, do you have an example with this practice implemented (I mean a poster somewhere online)? I was thinking of putting an introduction of some sort in that area, is that not a good idea?

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If you want to see a lot of examples and even critiques of posters, read this blog: http://betterposters.blogspot.com/. People often submit their posters and the authors discuss what's good/bad and make suggestions. Lots you can learn!

 

I go with really minimal text on my posters. Not counting references, I think the smallest font size I use is about 36. A helpful guide that someone taught me is that 72 point font is usually 1 inch tall. My style of poster is that I just use my poster as a visual aid while I talk. Sometimes posters in my conferences are judged and I lose the most points in "content" (either for the text part or because the judge looked at the poster outside of the poster session so I wasn't there). I don't really mind losing points here because I make my poster to help me communicate my science, not to win poster awards :)

 

The other advice I want to add is whether you have an oral or poster presentation, decide ahead of time what is the one single key point you want your audience to go away with. Just focus on that. Most MA level projects are deep and cover a lot of things and you might even feel the need to justify/prove your methodology. Don't do that for a conference presentation--it's not the same as a paper! (At least in my field). In my conference presentations, I only focus on the "what", not the "how". I tell them what the question we want answered, I tell them what we did, and I tell them what our results are. It's definitely important to say why the audience should care, but you don't have to say why you chose the method you did, or why that method worked, or what 1000 other methods/techniques you tried before you got to this result. Also, if you find multiple results, just pick one to present (and be ready to talk about all the other cool stuff if you get someone who is really interested).

 

Edited to add: Maybe there's one more thing! Use your titles in useful ways. For example, I don't usually have "Introduction", I just have a sentence fragment that gives introductory material. For example, one recent poster, my "introduction" section is titled "Hot Jupiters are on very small orbits". Similarly, don't have a section titled "Results", I just write a phrase that summarizes our main result: "50% of hot Jupiters have companion stars", for example. Since section titles stand out and are big, someone standing a few feet away should be able to get a mini summary of your poster by just reading the headlines.

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A handout is a good idea. So is having business cards handy so that people can easily take your contact info with them in case they want to follow up with you later on.

 

No one in linguistics uses business cards. Not saying you can't have them, but I have never seen them exchanged. People might write their contact info on their handout, but that's it. It's a small enough field, it's not that hard to find someone who you were talking to.

 

fuzzylogician - regarding the take home message you recommended on putting at the top left part, do you have an example with this practice implemented (I mean a poster somewhere online)? I was thinking of putting an introduction of some sort in that area, is that not a good idea?

 

 

I'll try and look. Stay tuned. 

 

Putting an introduction in the top left corner is the "traditional" thing and there is nothing wrong with that. But think about it this way: the first box is the first thing people are going to read. If they read just that and have to decide based on that if they are interested, will the background set up an intriguing problem? Or is it technical stuff you need to know to ask the question? Or is it possibly confusing without knowing the rest or what the point is? The goal of putting a take-home message there is that if they read no further and move on, they still know the gist of your poster even if they aren't going to find out why you say the things you do. It maximizes the chances that the people who should read your poster actually will. I find it the most effective. (But yes, it possibly makes for a less traditional structure.)

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I was convinced the first time you mentioned putting the 'point' on the top left part, but couldn't imagine the way I would structure the poster exactly, examples are usually useful to get this planning process started. *staying tuned*

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If you want to see a lot of examples and even critiques of posters, read this blog: http://betterposters.blogspot.com/. People often submit their posters and the authors discuss what's good/bad and make suggestions. Lots you can learn!

 

I go with really minimal text on my posters. Not counting references, I think the smallest font size I use is about 36. A helpful guide that someone taught me is that 72 point font is usually 1 inch tall. My style of poster is that I just use my poster as a visual aid while I talk. Sometimes posters in my conferences are judged and I lose the most points in "content" (either for the text part or because the judge looked at the poster outside of the poster session so I wasn't there). I don't really mind losing points here because I make my poster to help me communicate my science, not to win poster awards :)

 

The other advice I want to add is whether you have an oral or poster presentation, decide ahead of time what is the one single key point you want your audience to go away with. Just focus on that. Most MA level projects are deep and cover a lot of things and you might even feel the need to justify/prove your methodology. Don't do that for a conference presentation--it's not the same as a paper! (At least in my field). In my conference presentations, I only focus on the "what", not the "how". I tell them what the question we want answered, I tell them what we did, and I tell them what our results are. It's definitely important to say why the audience should care, but you don't have to say why you chose the method you did, or why that method worked, or what 1000 other methods/techniques you tried before you got to this result. Also, if you find multiple results, just pick one to present (and be ready to talk about all the other cool stuff if you get someone who is really interested).

 

Edited to add: Maybe there's one more thing! Use your titles in useful ways. For example, I don't usually have "Introduction", I just have a sentence fragment that gives introductory material. For example, one recent poster, my "introduction" section is titled "Hot Jupiters are on very small orbits". Similarly, don't have a section titled "Results", I just write a phrase that summarizes our main result: "50% of hot Jupiters have companion stars", for example. Since section titles stand out and are big, someone standing a few feet away should be able to get a mini summary of your poster by just reading the headlines.

 

Great advice, thanks!

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Here is an example of a poster critique with the take home message at the top (not the top left though): http://betterposters.blogspot.com/2015/04/critiques-icy-bodies.htmlThe blog post did have a few suggestions on how to improve the readability of the "takeaway point" though.

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The reason I suggested business cards is because the OP's affiliation is going to change soon, which may make them harder to find. I'm not in linguistics and, at least in my field, finding someone by their institution is easy but becomes less so when they move from one institution to another. (Also, it's something people told me when I changed institutions between MA and PhD because they'd emailed my MA email acct but the university had shut that down so they ended up emailing a faculty member there to get my current info.)

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It's ok. But i'm gonna put my email address which is not university related on the handouts, so I think that should be OK.

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I was convinced the first time you mentioned putting the 'point' on the top left part, but couldn't imagine the way I would structure the poster exactly, examples are usually useful to get this planning process started. *staying tuned*

 

Alright, can't find anything good to post that won't reveal my identity. Look for a PM. 

 

 

Here is an example of a poster critique with the take home message at the top (not the top left though): http://betterposters.blogspot.com/2015/04/critiques-icy-bodies.htmlThe blog post did have a few suggestions on how to improve the readability of the "takeaway point" though.

 
Yep, the idea is to make it the most prominent thing, and hence first thing, that people's eyes will go to. There are ways of doing that without putting the box in the top left corner -- like, for example, by having a take-home message across the top of the poster. Whatever works for your design.

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You can also make the title itself be the takeaway message, if your message is short enough.

 

Regarding business cards, so far, my field has a small number of them. In my field, they basically function exactly the same as a poster handout that you scribble your email address on, but they are more professionally designed, durable, and useable for more than one project. I am going to make business cards for myself since I'm now a PhD "candidate" and by the time my next conference rolls around (August), I'll be one year away from applying to jobs! I anticipate handing out 5-10 cards total--I think in my field, the "norm" is that you either leave them near your poster for people to take (like handouts) or you only give them out when you are exchanging info or someone asks you for one. Business cards don't work in my field the same way they work in the "business" world (i.e. where people seem to just be handing them out to others all the time). 

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This is going to sound crazy but, I found that once I had business cards, I ended up exchanging them way more often than I exchanged contact info before I had business cards. I mostly got them when I was on the job market so I could pass them out to grad and undergrad students I met with who wanted things like references that I couldn't just easily give them on the spot. I also drop my cards into all those giveaway things at restaurants and conference book exhibits in the hopes of winning free stuff, though it's never panned out for me.

 

One thing to keep in mind when presenting a poster is that the poster session room is often crowded with a lot going on. You'll need to be fast and engaging with your message so that people get interested and get what you want them to get from the poster. In terms of design, you want to use some colors that draw people in without being distracting or difficult to read.

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Another question - my poster is ready, now I need to work on my presentation of. How different should it sound/be phrased than what appears in the poster?

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Another question - my poster is ready, now I need to work on my presentation of. How different should it sound/be phrased than what appears in the poster?

 

Here's how I do it. I think it's useful to have multiple different versions of your oral presentation to accompany your poster. I'd say you should have a 30 second version, a 2 minute version and a 5 minute version.

 

The 30 second version should simply say what your result is and why it's interesting. Don't talk about methods, background (except to say why it's interesting) or any of that. When people walk by your poster, don't wait for them to engage you. Instead, you should greet every single person that walks by and ask them if they would like to hear a 30 second summary (or just deliver it). Make sure it's actually 30 seconds so you don't waste people's time. For this version, you should really focus on one single part of your poster only and ignore everything else. Usually I just focus on the most important figure.

 

The 2 minute version would be a selection of the most interesting part from each part of your poster to create a brief summary. Again, don't bother going over every single part of your poster--it will take too long! This version should be given to people who demonstrate more than just a passing interesting in your poster. For example, if they stay and sound interested after you deliver the 30 second version. You should pick which sections to form your 2 minute summary based on who you are talking to.

 

The 5 minute version is the only version that will fully cover everything on your poster and you would really only use this for people who are really really interested. I guess this version is the only one that would be the same as things are phrased on your poster.

 

I don't think you should ask people if they want the 30 second, 2 minute or 5 minute version. If you do, everyone is going to say 2 minutes because they don't want to offend by saying 30 seconds. This will waste both of your time! I'd always start with the 30 second version and end it in a way that leaves it open to questions (but also allows the person to just thank you and move on).

 

I also think 30 seconds is a good option because in a busy poster session in my field, a person walks by every 30 seconds or so, so that you don't miss talking to someone while the person you're talking to is already bored. My aim is to be basically talking non-stop for the 2 hours of the poster session so everyone who walks by will get invited to hear the 30 second version. 

 

Finally, when preparing your 2 minute and 5 minute versions, be prepared for the fact that people will join you at your poster midway through your spiel. If you're halfway through an explanation with Person A and then Person B comes up, you should pause, acknowledge Person B, give them a one sentence summary, then continue what you're saying to Person A. When you're done with A, go back and cover whatever B might have missed. 

 

Because of the "fluid" nature of how your audience flows, I'd avoid talking about the work in a way that requires you to have heard the first part in order to understand the second part. That is, try to make your 2-minute and 5-minute versions actually be composed of discrete chunks of ~30 seconds or so that stand alone. So, never use abbreviations or jargon, even if you define them in the first 30 seconds because someone joining later might have missed that, unless you are at a specialized conference where everyone knows the terms. Avoid the urge to make your speech something that builds up to a wonderful conclusion at the end--make sure the impact is still there even if they only hear the last 30 seconds. 

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Here's how I do it. I think it's useful to have multiple different versions of your oral presentation to accompany your poster. I'd say you should have a 30 second version, a 2 minute version and a 5 minute version.

 

^ This. 

 

I always start with a 30-second summary that's usually 3-4 sentences long. I try and give some motivation for why we should care about what I'm doing, describe the findings -- but without explaining how I reached them, and say why it's interesting. 

 

At this point, people who are interested will probably ask some questions. Two frequent ones are "can you say more about [the problem you are studying]?" and "how did you conclude that [result]?". If so, you take it from there. If you didn't get a question, you can just ask "would you like me to tell you more about how I found [the results]?" Pick the most important aspects of the background and the results and do a 2-minute version of the spiel, building on your 30-second version. I'd try for around 30 seconds setting up the problem, 1 minute on the main findings, and 30 seconds for why your contribution is important and interesting. 

 

If people are still interested in more, that's when you walk through the remaining details. Free-styling it is generally more appealing to the audience than having you read the text directly off the poster, as long as you follow the general organization of your poster and gesture at the right part of the poster as you're talking about it (this is especially relevant for reading example sentences or looking at tree diagrams). If your examples are in a language your audience doesn't speak, you should summarize the language data in words and not necessarily read the examples (at least, not all of them). Skip technical details unless someone asks about them (e.g. it's ok not to mention exactly how many participants you had in an experiment, or how many native speakers you consulted for a certain judgment). It's fine to have some things you basically never say out loud, that are there just in case someone asks about them.

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Do everything in bullet points because block text is hard to read, and don't give handouts or business cards--take his/her business card or contact information and contact him/her. This will make the networking more memorable and you'll get a chance to get his/her information.

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Do everything in bullet points because block text is hard to read, and don't give handouts or business cards--take his/her business card or contact information and contact him/her. This will make the networking more memorable and you'll get a chance to get his/her information.

 

I will have their information, but I have a feeling that it would be better if they had mine.

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Here's how I do it. I think it's useful to have multiple different versions of your oral presentation to accompany your poster. I'd say you should have a 30 second version, a 2 minute version and a 5 minute version.

 

 

 

^ This. 

 

I always start with a 30-second summary that's usually 3-4 sentences long. I try and give some motivation for why we should care about what I'm doing, describe the findings -- but without explaining how I reached them, and say why it's interesting. 

 

At this point, people who are interested will probably ask some questions. Two frequent ones are "can you say more about [the problem you are studying]?" and "how did you conclude that [result]?". If so, you take it from there. If you didn't get a question, you can just ask "would you like me to tell you more about how I found [the results]?" Pick the most important aspects of the background and the results and do a 2-minute version of the spiel, building on your 30-second version. I'd try for around 30 seconds setting up the problem, 1 minute on the main findings, and 30 seconds for why your contribution is important and interesting. 

 

 

 

Thanks, that's a useful outline for how I will approach this - quick summary of the whole thing, a more elaborate version and answers to questions likely to appear.

Edited by beefgallo

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