How to make a successful poster
A successful poster conveys
a clear message
high-impact visual information and a minimum of text.
Posters have become one of the most important vehicles for
presenting work at conferences. Poster sessions provide a wonderful forum to
meet colleagues and discuss scientific work on a person-to-person basis. Unfortunately,
a fairly large number of posters does not succeed in drawing significant attention.
In this brochure we list some of the most frequent mistakes that presenters
make and we make some recommendations for making efficient posters. A few nice
examples are displayed at the
What is a successful poster?
At the end of a meeting a poster can be considered successful
if it conveyed a clear message to the visitors, and generated valuable comments
to the presenter. In order to achieve these goals, the poster needs to be
crystal clear about the objectives, the approach, the main results and the major
conclusions of the work, and all this preferably within the proper perspective
of existing knowledge on the particular subject.
Too many posters do not succeed in getting their message
across. Here are some of the main errors presenters make:
Too much text
. At the last EUROPACAT meetings, roughly 65% of all
posters had way too much text on it. Posters containing 2000 words or more
were no exception!
. If key elements such as objectives, approach,
conclusions, or perspectives are missing, everyone who is not an insider on
your subject will not understand why your poster is relevant (and why he/she
should spend time on it).
. Many people blindly apply the standard
structure of a written report, thereby using their poster as a sort of
miniature article, which almost automatically leads to a lot of text. There
is no standard structure for a poster.
is not recommended for a poster
. Some figures may be real puzzles, with
incomprehensible legends, secret codes, small lettering, and cryptical
captions, etc. Note that many spreadsheet and data programs do not produce
"reader friendly" graphics (see Figures 1 and 2).
. Many presenters overload their posters with
too many data, and greatly overestimate the time that the average visitor is
willing to spend on the poster.
No presenter present
. This is obviously a missed chance for valuable
discussions. Another frequent mistake is that presenters take a passive
attitude and make no effort to initiate discussions.
. Spreadsheets often produce unsatisfactory
figures, particularly with respect to labeling.
A good figure has labels on the curves and not in a legend.
Secret codes and jargon should be avoided as much as possible
Figure 2. To understand the left figure one must read the caption;
the right figure explains itself.
In seven steps to an efficient
The message of your poster
Try to formulate the essence of what you want to present in a single
sentence. Examples of such sentences are:
I want to convince the audience that my new catalyst is the best one
for converting methane into ethylene.
Analyzing kinetic data on reaction x with our microkinetic model
enables one to define better processing conditions.
The new ABC technique yields reliable surface areas of supported oxide
Use this sentence as a guide for selecting the data you need to include.
You probably won’t actually print this sentence in the poster but it helps
you to make up your mind and focus on what your poster is about.
. Write a few sentences of introduction to identify the
problem you address, what is known about it, the objectives of your work and
what your approach is to investigate the problem. Use short sentences and
keep this section as concise as possible. Consider if complete sentences
might be replaced by a bulleted list or by a graphic.
. Select the most pertinent results that
support your message. Remove everything that is not absolutely necessary.
Think about attractive ways to present the data in figures. Try to avoid
tables as much as possible. Figures and captions should be easy to read (see
also Figures 4-6). Consider adding a brief conclusion below every figure.
. Write the conclusions in short, clear statements,
preferably as a list. Finish with an assessment of what you have achieved in
relation to your objectives, and, perhaps, what your future plans are.
. How are you going to draw the people’s
attention? An attractive title serves as such to some extent, but is not
enough. Select one of your most important results, a photo, a scheme
explaining the scientific background, a model or the main conclusion, or
whatever you consider as highlight of your presentation and give it a
prominent place on your poster, for example in the middle or at the
beginning. This is what the audience will see first. It should raise their
interest and stimulate them to read your poster.
Arrange all the parts of the poster around your attention
getter. Add headers if necessary to clarify the structure of your poster,
and add everything else that is needed, such as literature,
acknowledgements. Ensure that author name(s) and affiliation are on the
Review, revise, optimize.
Ask your co-authors and/or colleagues to
comment on a draft version of your poster. Assess very critically if the
poster indeed conveys the message you want.
A good poster enables the reader to grasp the message in a
short time, e.g. less than a minute. If he finds the subject of interest he
will stay to learn about the details, and discuss the work with the presenter.
If you fail to get the reader’s attention in a short time, he is likely to go
on to the next poster, unless he really wants to know about your work.
© DECHEMA e.V. 1995-2014, Last update 13.10.2008