Thursday, April 12, 2012

Creating a better Poster Presentation

I've blogged before about poster presentations, but recently I came across this post by Colin Purrington and thought it might be worthwhile to discuss again. I recently attended the SITE conference in Austin, TX and had a poster accepted surrounding our GLIP project (more on that later). I found the posters at SITE, as I do at most conferences, range from professionally graphic designed and glossy to printed out 8.5x11s of a Power Point presentation. Now, a lot of times poster sessions are considered on the low end of the totem pole, if you don't get accepted as a session you can always put in a poster. But I find that poster sessions are great times to really talk to colleagues about the work they are doing. However, a badly designed poster, or worse just a series of Power Point slides can really hurt your chances of getting any interaction with people.
SITE 2012 Poster for GLIP Project
Designing a Poster
I design all of my posters in either Adobe InDesign or Illustrator. Now I used to teach Adobe InDesign and do layout work, so I'm comfortable in it. However, if you bought the Adobe Suite and are only using Photoshop, I HIGHLY recommend you start playing with this software. I use it for all of my posters, both large and small as well as my handouts.  What most people will use to design their poster is PowerPoint. The key to using PP is to make your slide be as large a you will be printing your poster. In other words, if you have a plotter, see what the width of the printable area is, that should be the height of your poster. This is important because some people will design a slide at regular size and just "blow it up" to poster size. This produces grainy and pixelated disatsers.

Now that you have your poster size figured out. Imagine that your poster is separated into quadrants or columns. I personally like a 3 column approach, but that doesn't always fit. I like to use color and outlines to separate areas without "trapping white space." Speaking of white space, don't go over board with a large graphic in the background of your poster or use a black background with white text.  All you will end up doing is wasting ink and making it harder to read. Use your images or diagrams to denote where the quadrants are in your poster.  These should be prominent and have meaning.

Your text should be easily read from about 10 feet away from your poster. The idea of the poster is to be a representation of your ideas, not a copy and paste from an article you wrote.  Remember - YOU will be there to explain the poster. Have your 5 minute elevator speech rehearsed and ready. However, some people are going to want more information. Instead of having a handout, I prefer to create a website (or use the project website you already have) and insert a QR code on your poster. This makes it easy for people to find your extended paper, as well as remember you later.

Colin has a great list of Do's and Don'ts at the bottom of his post that I highly recommend, especially when it comes to effective diagrams.  But the most important thing about poster design is that it really shouldn't be left to the last minute. Start planing and designing early - Colin even recommend posting an image to Flickr to get feedback, a good poster always makes a good impression!

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