Poster Design Madness

So your abstract was accepted at "Insert Medical Conference Name" and you are all excited and busy booking your fight and hotel, but wait! You need to get a poster ready to present! And suddenly you realized... I have never made one! What do you do?

Well, several options. Speak to your professor or colleagues who have made posters in past and sit down and go over some ideas, randomly Google search examples to copy (not necessarily a bad thing), or throw something together at the last minute and send it to the printing press. Hopefully, the following information will be beneficial for you at least in terms of tips and ideas for those starting from scratch.

Where to start?

Your poster should center around the key information that you want to present as proposed in your abstract. Foremost, take into consideration what information or data you have to present. Ideally, this can all be split into several categories that can then be oriented nicely on the poster. Several traditional categories to consider include:

  • The Introduction/Background will be location where you present what your poster is about. What was the research question? What inspired the project? What other research has been done and why does yours differ? How does this research contribute to the overall body of knowledge? Feel free to cite other works. Remember, this is how you get your viewer interested in what you did.
  • The Materials/Methods section will be a larger portion of your poster depending on how you went about your research. Ideally, it will present what population you looked at, interventions, statistical mechanics, primary and secondary outcomes, what was measured, and IRB approval if pertinent.
  • The Results section will then be the meat of the poster, with both qualitative and quantitative data. Ideally, this will show your population, the outcomes of your objectives measured, and other interesting parts of your research. Often times, this is the part of the poster with the most graphical representation with associated tables and figures presented.
  • The Conclusion/Discussion will then pull the previous three sections together, where you will summarize and critique your results and what it means for the overall body of knowledge, offering what can be done differently now, or where future research should be conducted.

Collating all of your material and identifying where it will be placed in the above categories will be the easiest way to start the organization of your poster. If you have alot of material, triage what information is most pertinent to present, especially if you have alot of data. If so, ideally your result section should be the most encompassing with a smaller introduction/background section, and key points in the methods. However, if you are finding some sections do not have enough, the creative process will come out in order to fill the gaps.

Note: Your poster is not an abstract. Do not try to reproduce your abstract as a poster, it will become word heavy and will add nothing.

Designing your poster

One of the key facts to remember: Your poster should be visible, clean, and eye-catching, with information that easily understandable so that viewers can understand your work and conclusion in less than 5 minutes. As such, the following is advice to consider as you start to create your poster:

Size and Measurements:  The one place to start is understanding what you poster layout and size is in regards to the the physical requirements. This if often specified by the conference or venue, which will tell you what size the presentation board is or give advice on the size to use. Use this to your advantage, you would hate to go to a conference and find that your poster is either ridiculously small or to large to fit.

Get the Title Down: It's one thing to have a flashy poster, but you are going to need something that will tell them what it's all about and make them interested in reading it. Make it interesting and captivating while true to the research being presented.

Think about a Theme: What colors are you going to use? What typeface will work? Do you know what kind of look you are going with? You may not have the answer at this point, but it should be a consideration. 

Rough Draft: Sketch out on a piece of paper what you are planning on doing. Where are the sections going to be on the poster? Do you know what figures or tables you want to use and how big they need to be? Think closely on the flow. Ideally, you want it all to go together and not be haphazardly arranged.

Software: Decide now what you will use to design the poster in. Is it Microsoft Powerpoint? Adobe? Figure out what software you have to make the poster on and start with that.

Printing Your Poster: If you haven't considered it yet, find out how you are getting the poster printed. How long will it take? Who is doing it? Does your school offer a printing service or will you being going outside for it?


Helpful Links:

  • A Great presentation from Kevin Clauson, PharmD entitled "Seminar Recitation aka Pimp My Poster" (Available Here) is a great graphical demonstration of the use of design, colors, and overall poster presentation skills.
  • Do's and Don'ts of Poster Design (Available Here) by Colin Purrington