Preparing a poster for a scientific conference can be a difficult endeavor. While most of us are trained to write manuscripts, designing an appealing and engaging poster can be an unfamiliar task. To help, we’ve compiled some easy to implement suggestions that will improve the presentation and readability of your poster.
1. If you must include the abstract in the poster, reduce the font size to an extremely small value. No reader will be interested in the text-only abstract.
2. Vertical columns can be a productive approach. They provide a framework for the reader’s eyes to follow a path through the poster. Vertical columns also reduce line length, which improves readability.
3. Bullet points will greatly improve readability. They allow the reader to identify—just as they start reading the first few words—the number of points that will be made in each section. This greatly eases cognitive strain as the reader moves from section to section.
4. Use font differences more frequently than you would in a manuscript. Separating headings from statements and even individual words can substantially improve readability. Use underlining, bold, italics, color, etc. to separate critical words and clauses. This helps the reader speed read the sentences without having to laboriously read through every single word.
1. Use shorter sentences. Decreasing sentence length allows for easier cognitive processing. The reader will be able to avoid re-reading sentences for proper context.
2. Separate out values. When reporting results in the text, separate the quantitative information from the sentence. Include spacing between lines for clarity.
3. Create parity between sections. The background/introduction should have approximately the same amount of content as the conclusions section. Do not produce an extensive list of conclusions. Select one or two that align specifically with the major aim of the study, as presented in the background section.
4. Use a follow up conclusion with broader implications to finish the poster. Because of the manner in which posters are viewed, a strong take-home message is essential at a busy scientific conference.
A final item to consider is the figures and tables. Remember, not all figures and tables from the manuscript need to be included in the poster. Prioritize based on the following criteria:
a. Figures that aid understanding of the study design and rationale. These often include schematics or timelines.
b. Figures that provide those data directly aligned with the statements in the conclusions section. This should be 1 or 2 primary figures.
c. Figures critical to study validity. These should only be used when their absence would be extremely conspicuous for the given scientific field.