The primary purpose of your poster is to act as a communication tool. It is not a place to dump all of your data, every finding, conclusion and alternative interpretation of your results! Instead, think of your poster as a visual abstract of your research: it should provide an accessible visual summary that draws attention to your work, with the purpose of opening up a dialogue between yourself and the audience.
So, how do you achieve this? The following sections will cover some of the main things to consider when designing your poster.
The type of event you are presenting at is likely to impact the demographics of your audience, so it's important to consider who is going to be reading your poster. Are they experts in your area of work/research or do they have a more general interest? Making your poster accessible and clear of technical jargon will open it up to both experts and non-experts alike and therefore increase your audience and the dissemination of your research. Remember your poster should be the starting point for a conversation about your work and this is much easier to achieve when your poster is understandable to all!
Top tip - Posters are a great networking tool to spark conversations with other researchers after an event has taken place, so remember to add your name and email address if you are happy to be contacted. Posters can also provide a unique talking point at job and PG study interviews as they give non-specialists a snapshot of your work and interests.
Dividing your poster into sections helps to make it easier for your audience to read. Try to have large headings for each section - you might consider numbering each section to clearly mark the reading order.
The following sections are usually included on a poster:
It's important to note that not every poster will necessarily include all of these sections, or arrange them in this exact way. For example, many qualitative research project posters may integrate the 'Results' and 'Conclusions' sections. Likewise, if you are presenting an essay or a literature review, a 'Methods' section might not be appropriate - this might instead be replaced with a section called 'Literature Search'.
What if my project is unfinished?
Don't worry if your poster is based on a project or assignment that is yet to be finished; many posters present work-in-progress or projected findings. Think of your poster as a storyboard for your research - the ending may not have been written but you could always hint at a possible conclusion or predicted results. You might even decide to leave the audience on a cliff hanger…
Ultimately, it is important to remember that this is YOUR poster and you are free to include the sections that will be the most effective in communicating your research to your audience.
It's important to remember that less is more when it comes to your poster - if your poster is too wordy, it won't grab people's attention. Here are some top tips: