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Creating a Conference Poster

Common Sections

Since common poster sections can vary from discipline to discipline, you should take time to consider what is appropriate for your discipline by doing one of the following:

  • Review the structure of a journal article from a flagship journal in your discipline (or the subject of the poster).  Divide your poster into the same sections.
  • Read articles about creating posters within your discipline.  These will often provide common sections that should be included in your poster.
  • Consult with a faculty advisor to see what recommendations they have.

Title

Two simple rules:

  • Keep the title short.  Some recommend that titles should only take up one line of the poster.
  • Provide your finding in the title. 

Text

Since conference attendees will only view your poster for a short time, you need to keep your text to the bare minimum.  Over the years, a number of guidelines have been developed for determining the appropriate amount of text for a poster:

  • Graphics first, text second - by choosing your images, charts, tables, and graphs before writing your text, you will likely avoid writing text for information that is easier to understand with graphics.
  • 5 minute rule - the belief that 5 minutes is the longest amount of time an attendee will spend viewing a particular poster.  You should be able to read the text and view the associated graphics within this amount of time, otherwise it is too much.
  • Half rule - the approach where you write the bare minimum amount of text and then challenge yourself to cut half.
  • 300-800 rule - your text should be more than 300 words, but less than 800 words.

There is no set rule as far as using bullet points or paragraphs.  Some believe using bullet points permits more brevity than writing in paragraphs.  If you choose to write in paragraphs, a good rule of thumb is to have no more than 40 characters per line and 4 to 5 lines per paragraph.

You should develop all text in a word processor before adding it to the poster document.  Not only is it easier to type up, but reviewing the text for errors is far easier in a word processor than in the application you are using to create the poster.

Graphics

Due to limited poster space and the common desire to keep text to a minimum, poster creators often try to pack each chart and graph with as much information as possible.  However, the more complex a chart or graph becomes, the more difficulty the attendee passing by will have in determining what it all means.  That's why poster presenters often recommend keeping your graphics simple, only displaying one main point per graphic.