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Poster Presentation Design

Provides basic design tips for those creating poster presentations for class or research conferences.

Preparing to Present a Poster

Dress Appropriately:

For undergraduate research conferences business attire (suits, ties, dresses, dress pants, collared shirts, and similar clothing in good condition without tears or stains) are a typical expectation. As you get more established in your research discipline you may find other attire is common, but a good general rule is to dress more formally (to be "over-dressed") than not dressed formally enough. Jeans are considered too casual for this setting.

Prepare Your Verbal Message:

You will likely repeat the same 2 to 3 minute speech multiple times during the period that posters are being presented. Determine which brief highlights of information explaining your research you wish every audience member to know. A great way to prepare for this is to consider how you would briefly explain your entire research project to a friend without losing their interest. These short speeches are sometimes referred to as "elevator speeches," because the expectation is for the presenter to provide complete overview information within the short amount of time it would take to ride an elevator from one floor of a building to another. These speeches act as an introduction to or summary of your research, the poster text will provide the finer details, and you as presenter are there in person to supply further details and answer questions as needed. 

Some audience members may want to only read posters and not interact with presenters. This is ok! Smile, be present and attentive, and indicate you would be happy to answer any questions they may have.

Print Out Additional Information Sheets / Handouts (Optional):

Depending on your research project, you may wish to have a copy of the following with you to share during your poster presentation:

  • Common: If your research project used a survey or other tool to collect data, it is common for presenters to have an unused copy of the survey or a print out of the survey questions, etc. on hand in case audience members would like to review the questions/tool. 
  • Common: Your reference list / works cited page. If you have provided in-text/parenthetical citations directly on your poster or need to give credit for images that are not your own, you should be prepared to provide the full reference citation to the audience if asked. 
    • Less Common: Some presenters choose to include a full reference list on the poster itself. This option can take up a lot of space on a poster, but it is especially true if the conference organizers intend for posters to be collected and later distributed electronically to conference attendees or intend to make the posters publicly available on the internet.
  • Optional: Your professional business cards. (Undergraduate and graduate students are not expected to distribute business cards)
  • Optional: Additional charts or graphs of results data that wouldn't fit on your poster.
  • Uncommon: some poster presenters will create and distribute actual handouts covering some of the data and materials included within the poster.
Know Your Information and Research:

The night before presenting a poster, review your research outline/paper and perhaps the most important reference you cited so that the information is fresh in your mind. Being able to quickly recall most details of your results or findings when asked questions by the audience increases your perceived credibility. If you don't know the answer to a question or hadn't considered something introduced by an audience member, that's ok! Be sure to respond kindly and honestly. This can signal a moment of exchange where the audience member may wish to share additional information or ideas with you, and where the real conversation about research begins.