Accuracy, efficiency, and ease of communication should be the main criteria in designing posters. Secondary criteria include aesthetic appeal and variety (such as mixing graphs with tables, use of color, and attention grabbers). There are few rules in preparing posters, so use this flexibility to your advantage. The following suggestions will help to produce a poster that people will read and possibly remember:
- Allow plenty of time to prepare the poster so that there is time to make corrections or obvious improvements.
- Ask a colleague not directly involved with the material to read the poster and make suggestions.
- The poster title should be in very large letters that can be seen a long distance away (ideally, 8 cm high). The poster number should be in the top left-hand corner.
- The names and addresses of authors should be in much smaller letters than the title.
- It should be possible to read and understand a poster within 5 to 10 minutes. Longer posters are unfair to those who want to peruse a roomful of 200 to 300 posters, and are ignored by most attendees. Text letters should be at least 1 cm high.
- For posters, lists are preferable to text; tables are preferable to lists; and graphs are preferable to tables. Long and complex tables and complicated graphs have no place in posters.
- A little color adds immensely to posters, particularly graphs, but a lot of color or gaudy color is worse than no color at all.
- The following parts are absolutely essential for most posters:
- Introduction (putting work into context)
- Procedures (materials and methods)
- Results (what was found)
- Hypotheses often are appropriate or informative, but this depends on the nature of the experiment. Minimize abbreviations to one or two per poster. It is very difficult to remember three or more abbreviations (other than standard ones like FSH) when studying a poster.
- Most people read the title and conclusions. If these do not pique their interest, they go on to the next poster. Design the title and conclusions to be simple and effective. Use English, not jargon.
- Be creative, but not cute. A good large color photograph frequently adds greatly to a poster, but overdoing this can be boring.
- Get the housekeeping right: Make sure that you have the right poster size and method of attaching materials to the poster; use lightweight material that travels well and doesn't fall off the poster board; make sure the poster is legible from a distance (boldfaced letters at least 1 cm high are suggested), have the poster up (and down) at the appropriate times, and stand by the poster at the correct time.
If you submit an abstract and then do not come to the meeting, send poster materials with a colleague or mail them to someone going to the meeting. A blank poster board is an egregious insult to the program chairman and reviewers, who labored hard to evaluate the abstracts; to the scientific society, which paid dearly for the unused poster board; and to the attendees, some of whom perused the abstract titles to determine which posters to be sure to study. These factors are sufficiently important that IETS keeps a list of authors from previous conferences who submitted abstracts, but did not present a poster; abstracts will no longer be accepted from scientists who authored or co-authored previous abstracts and failed to display a poster.