At the Challenger Society for Marine Science conference in September 2016, the UK Polar Network ran a workshop for early career scientists on making and presenting good scientific posters. The event was attended by over 50 people and we had a panel including Dr. Yvonne Firing (National Oceanography Centre Southampton) and Dr. Sian Henley (Univ. of Edinburgh).
The workshop began with a few hints on what makes a good poster; attractive, clear visible title, easily readable without large amounts of text, clear diagrams and not overcomplicated. We then showcased some examples of winning posters. Sian Henley bravely slipped her poster into the session for anonymous criticism. It became clear during this that while there are many different opinions on what makes a “great” poster, there was aspects which people didn’t like. It is important to consider the type of conference you are at (Is your poster up all week?) and your audience.
The UK Polar Network also provided two poster examples, one which was obviously “bad” and the other which was an improved version of the same (fake) research about moving polar bears to the Antarctic to cope with a declining sea ice environment and loss of food. You can see both of these examples below, hopefully which one is bad and improved is obvious to you.
Before our panel discussion we went through a few other ideas for making a great poster, some of these are:
- Keep text to <800 words
- Have handouts available (also if you print your poster on A4 you should be able to read it)
- Avoid dark backgrounds and consider colour blindness!
- Use other media tools, if you have a video think about having a tablet
There were also some good tips for presenting a poster, a few unique suggestions also:
- Keep hands out of pockets and don’t chew gum
- Talk to your audience, not to the poster (it doesn’t care)
- Keep sweets or chocolates with you, it will draw people in
- Make a t shirt advertising your poster, or even put your most interesting figure on it
- Don’t wear sunglasses inside, people will assume you are hungover, high or both
During the panel discussion a lively debate occurred on the consumption of alcohol during poster sessions. Some were in favour, some were not, however everyone agreed that over-consumption was bad, and you shouldn’t be slurring and spilling drink on your poster (or worse your audience)!
Overall, the event went well with plenty of discussion and participation from the audience. We hope that people take away some of the hints and tips provided, and we look forward to seeing some excellent posters at the next Challenger Conference!
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