Throughout this page words such as create and design have been used to describe preparing your poster. You should not be 'writing' a poster! Posters are your chance to get creative, to break out of the mould of journal articles and university thesis requirements. Most universities offer a template, but many are happy for you not to use it!
Why?At a really basic level, why do researchers create and present posters?
Consider your Why before you plan your poster, as the answer should then focus what you include on your poster. Do you want to:
- connect with people
- share your ideas for a project
- find a collaborator
- show off your results
- get noticed by employers
Who?Who is your audience, what level of detail will they understand?
Everyone will have a slightly different level of understanding of your topic. Of course you understand it, probably those in your research group and your supervisor team, but what about those in other research groups, or those who last studied physics, or your area of it, a long time ago. Will you be trying to reach:
- specialists in your area, at a small, niche conference
- physicists at a discipline-specific conference such as CLEO
- physicists at a non-specific conference, such as the SUPA Annual Gathering!
- other researchers but not necessarily physicists, perhaps at a university research showcase
- the public, perhaps part of a science centre display or at a festival
How do you match your "why" with your "who"?
When considering content, you'll need to combine why you're creating a poster, with who it's for. Lots of results and equations won't connect you with recruiters but would help you network with other researchers in your area. A summary of your research and the impact it is having will connect you with recruiters and the public, but only if it's pitched at a level that can be understood by non-specialists.
What?After people have read your poster, what key message do you want them to take away with them? What do you want them to know? Whether it's a key statistic, a particular result, proposed methodology or something else, make sure that its visible, clear, and consider making it part of the title. So instead of "A statistical review of building physics models: UK government calculation methods combined with IPCC projected climates" it could instead be "Better energy modelling better prepares us for the future".
Alternatively, the title can be a question, such as "What constitutes better building energy modelling?", but it should be a short question.
It's a good idea to include a "call to action" on your poster. This could be as simple as a QR code linking to full article text or to your LinkedIn profile, or a prompt for conversation with "Ask me about..." somewhere on the design.
How?A good poster is a poster than can be accessed by all. It needs to work with you there, and when you're not there. It needs to be eye catching from afar: when you walk into a room of 200 posters, what draws you to a particular poster, when you have limited time and can't view them all?
Human brains process images quicker than words. Think about emoji's: a single emoji can put across the message of "I can't believe what I'm seeing" 🙈 or "it's really hot, too hot, I'm melting" 🥵
Consider using a visual on your poster, even one loosely related to your topic. They are eye catching and will separate your poster from others. Additionally visuals can address language barriers: most people would recognise a picture of a light bulb, but translation software may assume the wrong type of bulb (daffodil anyone?!), and your reader may not know the word light.
Do's and Don'ts
- Do start with a large paper size, such as A0: it is much easier to downsize from A0 to A1, than it is to enlarge images to go the other way without losing resolution.
- Do check the event organisers for any restrictions or templates, and stick to the requirements. If you are the only landscape poster in a sea of portrait posters you will stand out but for the wrong reasons.
- Do give consideration to how you will incorporate citations, see this great blog piece for more thoughts.
- Do check your colour contrasts, so ensure people can see your content clearly. The Tanaguru Contrast Finder is designed for the web and screens but is an easy tool to use.
- Do consider how people see colour. This Colour Blindness Simulator will help you understand how your visuals will appear to different people. This data visualisation blog has some great considerations for how to use colour.
- Do NOT include an abstract in your poster (unless it's on a template you have to use), because the poster IS your abstract!
- Do NOT use more than 250 words on the whole poster. No really! Your text needs to be big enough for people to read from well more than a metre away, and visuals should be the primary element, no poster should be a wall of text.
- Do NOT include tables of data - they are not easy to read or understand at a glance. No p-values either!