What is a poster session?
A poster session offers an alternative to the
lecture-style presentation or formal workshop as a means of
delivering your ideas to a walk-up audience that can be engaged at a
very personal level. It is an informal way of sharing content
with your colleagues.
A poster session can take the form of a poster
printed through a print shop; a hand-pasted compilation or collage
on poster board or tri-fold; an electronic presentation, such as a
web site or PowerPoint presentation; or even simply a meet and greet
or demo (some visual aids or handouts recommended).
What outcomes will participating in poster sessions have?
Posters will be presented during Highline’s
Opening Week this fall. Presenters will stay with their exhibits and be available to share
and answer questions.
In addition to the benefit your poster session
bring to Highline, you can take your presentation on the road
and present it at
academic/professional conferences you attend.
Here’s the process as we see it:
contact Janice Adams,
firstname.lastname@example.org, ext. 3650.
Our poster and this handout (see link to .PPT
at left) are based on
information from a web site by Jeff Radel, 1999. Text in boxes is
copied and pasted directly from his site:
The Poster's background
Two basic rules to keep in mind are
1) Artistry does not substitute for
2) The fancier the poster, the greater
the time investment.
There are several common approaches.
- Some folks use pieces of mat board
(or Bristol board) to make a solid background for the
entire poster. They may then choose to use a
complementary color as a border for important elements
of the poster.
- Others use smaller pieces of board
to frame only the elements of the poster, leaving spaces
between the elements empty.
Either approach works; the
former gives a unified appearance and is easier to hang
straight, while the latter is easier to carry to and from
the meeting. It is also possible, but often expensive, to
have a commercial house reproduce your completed poster as a
single large sheet of paper, which can then be rolled into a
cylinder for transport.
This page contains comments applying to presentations and
meetings in general, rather than to the details of poster
- Since a poster is essentially a
visual presentation, try to find ways to show
what was done - use schematic diagrams, arrows, and
other strategies to direct the visual attention of the
viewer, rather than explaining it all using text alone.
- Design the poster to address one
central question. State the question clearly in the
poster, then use your discussion time with individuals
to expand or expound upon issues surrounding that
- Provide an explicit take-home
- Summarize implications and
conclusions briefly, and in user-friendly language.
- Give credit where it is due. Have
an acknowledgements section, in smaller size type (14 -
18 point), where you acknowledge contributors and
- Vary the size and spacing of the
poster sections to add visual interest, but do so in
- Do not wander too far away from
your poster during the session; be available for
The poster should use photos, figures,
and tables to tell the story of the study. For clarity, it
is important to present the information in a sequence which
is easy to follow:
- Determine a logical sequence for
the material you will be presenting.
- Organize that material into
sections (Methods, Data/Results, Implications,
- Use numbers (Helvetica boldface,
36 - 48 points) to help sequence sections of the poster.
- Arrange the material into columns.
- The poster should not rely upon
your verbal explanation to link together the various
Make it easy on your
- Use a simple, easy to read font. A
san serif style, such as Helvetica (Mac) or Arial
(IBM), is ideal.
- Use boldface and all-caps for the
- Use boldface and mixed upper/lower
case for the authors names.
- Use plain text, no boldface, and
mixed upper/lower case for affiliations.
- Use boldface for the poster
session number (the number you are assigned by the
The most important parts of the title
banner, the title itself and the poster session number,
should be readable from about 25 feet away. Your title will
lure viewers closer to see your imaginative and exciting
study. The rest of the title, and the body of the poster,
should be readable from about 10 feet away.
- The final size of letters in the
title itself should be about 1.5 - 2 inches tall. That
is about a 96 point size (or 48 points enlarged by 200%
- The authors names may be printed
smaller, at 72 points (1 - 1.5 inches)
- Titles (Ph.D., M.D.) are usually
omitted, although the meeting organizers may require
that the presenting author, student authors, or society
members be indicated.
- Affiliations can be even smaller,
at about 36 - 48 points (0.5 - 0.75 inch)
- The poster session number should
be printed separately, at about 96 point size. It
typically is placed in the top of the title banner, to
the left, right, or at the center.
Double-space all text, using
left-justification; text with even left sides and jagged
right sides is easiest to read.
The text should be large enough to be read easily from at
least 6 feet away.
- Section headings (Introduction,
Methods, etc.); use Helvetica, Boldface, 36 point
- Supporting text (Intro text,
figure captions, etc.); use Helvetica, 24 point
(boldface, if appropriate)
- If you must include narrative
details, keep them brief. They should be no smaller than
18 point in size, and printed in plain text. Remember
that posters are not publications of record, and you can
always come to the session armed with handouts.
One option is to consider using a
larger size (36 pt) for the Conclusion text, and a smaller
size (18 pt) for Methods text.
Attempt to fit blocks of text onto a single page:
- This simplifies cutting and
pasting when you assemle the poster.
- For the same reason, consider
using 11 x 14 inch paper in the landscape mode when
printing text blocks on laser printers.
- Other options for fonts include
Helvetica, Arial, Geneva, Times Roman, Palatino, Century
Schoolbook, Courier, and Prestige. Note that these fonts
represent a range of letter spacing and letter heights.
Keep in mind that san serif fonts (having
characters without curliques or other embellishments)
are easiest to read.
Finally, be consistent. Choose one font and then use it
throughout the poster. Add emphasis by using boldface,
underlining, or color; italics are difficult to read.
Use of color
Mount poster materials on colored art,
mat, or bristol board:
- Mat board is available in a large
range of colors.
- Mat board is heavier, making it
more difficult to crease the poster while traveling.
- Mat board has a more durable
surface than other art papers.
- Mat boards is, however, heavier
and more difficult to attach to display boards in the
Use a colored background to unify your
- Muted colors, or shades of gray,
are best for the background. Use more intense colors as
borders or for emphasis, but be conservative - overuse
of color is distracting.
- Two to three related background
colors (Methods, Data, Interpretation) will unify the
- If necessary for emphasis, add a
single additional color by mounting the figure on
thinner poster board, or outlining the figure in colored
Color can enhance the hues or contrast
- Use a light background with darker
photos; a dark background with lighter photos.
- Use a neutral background (gray) to
emphasize color in photos; a white background to reduce
the impact of colored photos.
- Most poster sessions are held in
halls lit with harsh fluorescent light. If exact colors
are important to the data, balance those colors for use
with fluorescent lighting. Also, all colors will be
intensified; bright (saturated) colors may become
unpleasant to view.
There ALWAYS is too much text in a poster.
- Posters primarily are visual
presentations; the text materials serve to support the
- Look critially at the layout. If
there is about 20% text, 40% graphics and 40% empty
space, you are doing well.
- When in doubt, rephrase that text
or delete it. (Keep chanting this mantra: There
always is too much text. Always too much
- Use active voice when writing the
text; It can be demonstrated becomes The data
- Delete all redundant references
and filler phrases, such as see Figure ...
- Remove all material extraneous to
the focal point of the poster.
- Since the abstract is usually
published, there is no need to repeat it in the poster.
The brief introduction should be sufficient to identify
the purpose of the study.
- Since graphs & figures will have
explanatory captions, there is no need to label the
graphic with Figure 1, Table 2, etc.
The poster is not a publication of
record, so excessive detail about methods, or vast tables of
data are not necessary. This material can be discussed with
interested persons individually during or after the session,
or presented in a handout.
Before you go any further, save & back up your work!
Don't say I didn't warn you . . .
The success of a poster directly
relates to the clarity of the illustrations and tables.
- Self-explanatory graphics should
dominate the poster.
- A minimal amount of text materials
should supplement the graphic materials.
- Use regions of empty space between
poster elements to differentiate and accentuate these
- Graphic materials should be
visible easily from a minimum distance of 6 feet.
- Restrained use of 2 - 3 colors for
emphasis is valuable; overuse is not.
Show no mercy when editing visual materials!
Once again, ruthless editing is very
important. Visual distractions increase fatigue and reduce
the probability of viewers giving the poster a thorough
- Restrained use of large type
and/or colored text are the most effective means of
emphasizing particular points.
- Use short sentences, simple words,
and bullets to illustrate discrete points.
- Have the left edges of materials
in a column aligned; center alignment produces ragged
left & right edges. This makes reading the poster more
- Avoid using jargon, acronyms, or
- Remove all non-essential
information from graphs and tables (data curves not
discussed by the poster; excess grid lines in tables)
- Label data lines in graphs
directly, using large type & color. Eliminate legends
- Artful illustrations, luminous
colors, or exquisite computer-rendered drawings do not
substitute for CONTENT.
- Lines in illustrations should be
larger than normal. Use contrast and colors for
- Use colors to distinguish
different data groups in graphs. Avoid using patterns or
open bars in histograms.
- Use borders about 0.5 inches all
around each figures. Border colors can be used to link
related presentations of data.
- Colored transparency overlays are
useful in comparing/contrasting graphic results
Jeff Radel *
Get feedback on your poster at every stage of
its development. Here are some suggestions:
- Get outside viewers
- First let them look at it; watch them, and
- Give them a task (or tasks) to find
- Ask them questions to determine if your
poster is communicating to viewers as you plan
Set-up and Presentations
- Overestimate the time you’ll need to set
- Be prepared both to describe your poster
to viewers, and to only answer questions
- Make handouts
- Obtain event evaluations if possible
- Do a self-evaluation of the process
Good luck and enjoy the process!
Other good URLs:
Page showing sketch illustration.
Browse through a lot of color palettes.
*Our poster and this handout
are based on information from a web site by Jeff Radel, 1999. Text
in boxes is copied and pasted directly from his site:
July 24, 2007