Making a better research poster

you even if you’re not invited to speak at your neck scientific meeting you still have a great opportunity to share your results and wow your fellow scientists at a poster session a well-designed poster that efficiently gets across your main ideas can make the difference between a lackluster showing and a standout appearance here we’ll go over some things to consider when making a research poster from content and organization to increasing visual appeal the number one mistake of scientific posters is to pack in too much information even the most interested visitors to your poster are not prepared to stand for half an hour and read the entire thing so make it easy for them to get the gist you don’t need to include all the information you would in a manuscript and you don’t need to use full sentences use bullet points justifying your text on the left side can help make it easier to read and as always a picture is worth a thousand words your figures are the heart and soul of your poster use them to your advantage and don’t bury them with large blocks of text that no one will read structure is just as important to a poster as it is to a paper present your ideas in a logical order with your poster layout facilitating this organization keep in mind that people naturally read from left to right and from top to bottom one popular option is to split a horizontally oriented poster into three columns regardless of the pattern you choose make sure it’s clear to readers where to start and end in designing your poster don’t be afraid of white or negative space if you fill every inch your poster will look cluttered and be hard for viewers to take in in fact as much as 40% of your poster should be blank use this space strategically to draw attention to your most important messages color can really liven up your poster but be selective only use three to five colors and avoid ones that are too bright or print poorly don’t even think of using patterns or dark colors for the background these can be distracting hard on eyes and will also make your figures look bad keep it simple white is the easiest to work with and the cheapest to print even if your poster looks great and includes the right level of information if the text is too small Illinois visitors and drive away your audience a good rule of thumb is to have everything easily visible from 6 feet away and nothing smaller than 24 point avoid unprofessional fonts such as Comic Sans and don’t include too many different fonts it will give your poster a chaotic look for your body text it’s usually a good idea to choose a serif font those are the ones with the extra strokes at the end of letters like Times New Roman which are easier to read when small for titles and headings pick a non serif or sans serif font such as Arial or Helvetica short and sweet titles are usually better because many conference attendees scan the poster session titles to find the presentations they don’t want to miss a good title that conveys your message and a well-written abstract can really draw people to your poster don’t assume a cell where the figure can simply be slapped onto your poster simplify your graphs and provide titles and even arrows to help your readers along consider relabeling your images with more general descriptions so that scientists from outside your specific field will still get the basics of a given experiment and summary figures do wonders for giving passers-by the gist of your work if it’s artfully done they might even stick around to hear more of course remember to think about how to present your poster as well an attractive design will still fall flat if you get flustered trying to explain it but master both and you’re set to be a hit at your next poster session

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