The key parts of a scientific poster

Scientific poster

Why make a scientific poster?

Posters can be an excellent eye-grabbing method for showcasing your data in scientific meetings (conferences, exhibitions, meetings, etc.). Through showcasing your work, you can effectively get feedback from peers on your data as well as use it as a "networking tool" and attract fruitful interactions with peers.

Type of poster formats

  • Physical posters: A poster that is located in an exhibit hall and pinned to a poster board, mostly alongside other posters. Physical posters are advantageous since they are visually available for the duration of a meetup, unlike oral presentations.
  • E-posters: A poster that is fashioned as a slideshow presentation and plays on a digital screen, with each slide carrying a sliver of information.

Some events allow for a combination of both formats.

Anatomy of a scientific poster

  1. Main Heading: A heading that should include your research title in a short and descriptive manner. The heading should be in boldface and should be styled in the largest font. The heading should also comprise the type of manuscript, list of contributing authors, their affiliations, and contact details as well as the host institute for the research project. The logo for the event/conference/meeting should go on either side of the main heading.
  2. Introduction: A section that should include the background information as well as the aims and objectives. The introduction should also highlight the novelty of your research.
  3. Methodology: A section that should include a chronological order of the steps and techniques carried out in your project. The methods should also include rudimentary information such as study duration, inclusion/exclusion criteria, independent and dependent variables assessed.
  4. Results: A section that should include a visual element (table, graph, image, etc.) that describes the data analysis and data stratification in relation to the research hypothesis. The supporting graphics should be readable, clear, and not too busy.
  5. Conclusion: A section that should answer the research hypothesis. Confounding variables, limitations, improvements, and expansion potential should also be cited.
  6. References: A section that should only include key sources used in your study.

Technical elements of a scientific poster

1. Content

Make sure to include information that is novel and valuable to your audience. Your core message should be in a salient spot on your poster. Also, jargon should be avoided, and text elements should not be more than 10 lines and 50 words long.

2. Layout

Poster sections should have a logical flow, ideally in a longitudinal fashion. Headings, columns, graphs, figures, and diagrams should be aligned and distributed with enough spacing and balance. The text should be left-aligned at all times while maintaining an appropriate amount of "white space' i.e. areas devoid of any design elements.

3. Typography

One or two font styles should be enough, preferably a serif font for the main body and a sans-serif font for the title. Titles, headings, and subheadings should be in bold. Underlining should be avoided; instead, a mixture of boldface and italics should be used. Also, 'all capitals' i.e. capitalizing all letters in a single word/statement should be avoided. Adequate line spacing and one-inch margins should be used for the poster content to ensure enough breathing space.

4. Colors

Multicolored posters stand out better than dichromatic or black and white ones. Contrast should be considered when picking a color for the text versus the background color. Preferably, background colors should be darker while the text color should be lighter. The color palette should also be restricted to two or four colors maximum.

5. Images and Illustrations

Dimensions for illustrations, diagrams, and figures should be consistent. As for the background image, it should be a legible image with no complex patterns or visuals. When inserting charts, grey backgrounds and grid lines should be avoided to avoid ink consumption and an unaesthetic look. Graphics used must be two-dimensional, consistent in scale, have proper labels, and an adequate size. Resolution is also another aspect that should be considered, images with a 200 dpi or higher resolution are preferred, especially those with a .tiff or .gif file extension. To add, images from the internet should be generally avoided to evade copyright infringement.

6. Design

Tools for poster design include Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Publisher, Illustrator, In Design, Photoshop, Impress, and LaTeX. When starting with the design, the page size should be identical to the final print size. You should also stick to one design tool to avoid formatting errors and lost files.

How to seek feedback

A proofreading and assessment round is due before you put up your final poster draft by following these steps:

  1. You should share your poster draft with peers, both experts and non-experts to get feedback.
  2. A draft should also be sent to your assessors to seek professional feedback.
  3. Your primary poster draft can be put up to elicit a more honest review from peers.
  4. Comments and suggestions received should be studied and implemented.
  5. A spellchecker can be used to proofread your draft before printing.

How to finalize the presentation talk

Whilst preparing your poster, you should work on how you will present the content to encourage engagement from attendees through the following steps:

  1. You have to study the profile of the attendees and check if they are generalists, specialists, etc.
  2. For large meetings where the audience is a mixed population, you can prepare 2-3 levels for your speech, starting with a one-minute talk consisting of background information and take-home messages.
  3. Then, you can prepare a 3-5 minute presentation explaining the methods and results for those in your audience with an "advanced" background.
  4. It is best to contemplate possible questions that could arise during your talk and prepare answers for them beforehand.
  5. It is advantageous to show your speech to peers to attract comments and suggestions.
  6. Practicing your speech as well as the anticipated "questions and answers" sessions is crucial. You can make use of friends, family, or colleagues to help you through your practice sessions.

On the day of your poster presentation

A checklist for your presentation day should include:

  1. Arriving early and bringing tape and extra pins to put up your poster properly.
  2. Wearing professional attire and comfortable shoes.
  3. Printing a mini-sized version of your poster for attendees to take away is always a good idea.
  4. Maintaining eye contact with attendees visiting your poster and starting the conversation by introducing yourself and requesting their names, affiliation, and field of interest, and offering to explain your poster briefly.
  5. Alternatively, you can give attendees ample time to read through your poster first and then offer to explain your poster in 10 seconds followed by a "questions and answers" session.
  6. Pointing to salient figures and charts is important while maintaining proper eye contact.
  7. It is important to check if they found what you said comprehensible.
  8. Paying due attention to all visitors at once.

In conclusion

A scientific poster is an excellent method to present your work and network with peers. Preparation is essential before your poster session with regards to drafting your poster, speech, and answers to anticipated questions. It is also crucial to stick to a readable poster that is legible from a one-meter distance.

Frequently Asked Questions about scientific posters

✉️ What is the main goal of a scientific poster?

A scientific poster can be used to network with colleagues, get feedback on your research and get recognition as a researcher.

📎 What should a science poster include?

A scientific poster should include a main heading, introduction, methods, results, conclusion, and references.

📝 What is an e-poster?

An e-poster is a poster fashioned as a slideshow presentation that plays on a digital screen, with each slide carrying a sliver of information.

⏳ Can I design my own poster?

A handful of tools can be used to design a poster including Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Publisher, Illustrator, In Design, Photoshop, Impress, and LaTeX.

📌 How should I present my poster?

Start the conversation by introducing yourself and requesting the attendees' names, affiliations, and fields of interest, and offering to explain your poster briefly. Alternatively, you can give attendees ample time to read through your poster first and then offer to explain your poster in 10 seconds followed by questions and answers.