November 2011 Archives

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Today's topic focuses on what you need to do before you start building your poster: plan!

Planning your message for your specific audience and purpose are key concepts for any communication, and especially for effective posters. Begin by asking two questions: what is my purpose, and to whom do I need to direct this message?

You may consider that your overall purpose is to communicate your key findings to a scientific audience. You also want to gain recognition and knowledge through your interactions with your colleagues. Your science must be credible and your poster must be concise and organized to accomplish these objectives. What additional specific objectives do you have?

Also, analyze your audience with respect to their previous knowledge, expectations, and preferences. Keep in mind the most common problem in poster design is including too much information. Ask yourself, "is this absolutely essential to this audience's understanding?" and if it's not, cut it. Make "less is more" your mantra, particularly with respect to the text. A good rule of thumb is to select approximately four to six main points. Don't try to convey too much; you will have to make choices about what's most important.

Image flickr by hooverine

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Conference planners provide instructions for the exhibits. Read these thoroughly. The general set up is that you're given a small display area in which to hang your poster. Often the conference will arrange a time you're on call, usually for an hour or so, and this is when you're expected to be available to discuss your poster with attendees. Keep in mind that your poster needs to be self-explanatory because when you're not on call, you may still have viewers. Also,the way in which a poster is viewed is different from a paper or presentation.

The audience is likely to be interested but distracted because most posters are displayed in an exhibit hall or hallway. Often there is a social component to the interaction including the serving of food and beverages. Your audience will stop and chat only if your poster quickly conveys the main points, is aesthetically interesting, and you look friendly. A few may have decided in advance which posters to view, but many more decide where to stop based on what catches their attention during their casual stroll through the exhibit. Therefore, it is important to carefully create your poster to catch viewers and ensure you're not standing alone talking to yourself.

Here are some poster guidelines:
Association of American Geographers

American Meteorological Society

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