A poster session is a good opportunity to present yourself and your research in a favorable light, make contacts and get useful feedback. There will be considerable competition for the audience’s time; you’ll need to capture their attention and communicate your message quickly and succinctly.

A successful poster presents you and your work clearly and professionally; it encourages the audience to stop to discuss your work with you and gives them the opportunity to take any detailed information that you’ve prepared as a handout.

An effective poster operates on multiple levels …

  • source of information
  • conversation starter
  • advertisement of your work
  • summary of your work

An effective poster is not just a standard research paper stuck to a board. A poster uses a different, visual grammar. It shows, rather than tells.

1. The poster title should quickly orient the audience

While phrase titles are most common, some scientists and engineers effectively use sentence titles for posters that present one main result.

If a person is going to remember only one idea about your work, what do you want that idea to be?   Now write down your answer.
Make this the theme of your poster, its focal point. The title you choose for your poster needs to carry this theme.

2. The poster should quickly make the subject and purpose clear

One approach is to pose your work as addressing a decisive question, which you then address as best you can. Once you have posed the question, which may well also be the motivation for the study, the focus of your poster should be on addressing that question in a clear and concise way.

Ask a friend if they can identify the subject and purpose within 20 seconds of seeing your poster.

3. Sections should be easy to locate on the poster

Once readers recognise what the work is, they decide how much energy to invest into the poster. An effective poster has specific sections that are easy to locate. Make sure you have copyright permission for all content.

Check out this visual grammar guide for tips on effective layout.

4. Design individual sections of a poster so they can be quickly read

Posters should not contain large blocks of text. Neither should the poster contain long sentences. If possible, the sections should rely on images: photographs, drawings and graphs. Consider the use of infographics – some infographic tools: https://www.canva.com/ And a couple more: https://infogr.am/ and http://piktochart.com/. Or try Venngage Chart Maker.

Remember to leave white space – try to keep 40% of the poster area empty of text and images.

5. Prepare Supplemental Handouts

Write your poster for the readers who have little background knowledge but prepare supplemental handouts for those with greater interest and to make it easier to follow up with you.

Have copies of relevant papers on hand as well as copies of the poster on standard-sized paper.  Follow up with people who come to the poster by having a signup sheet.

Some online resources used in preparing this blog post:

This is a re-published article contributed to the previous version of Teche by Helen Carter.

Posted by Natalie Spence

Senior Learning Designer in the Faculty of Science and Engineering


  1. Great advice for staff and students, Natalie


  2. Natalie Spence 24 July, 2020 at 8:36 am

    Canva contacted me to point out they have a poster maker tool, templates and design tips at https://www.canva.com/posters/. These aren’t quite the same type of posters, but it might provide some ideas out of the box.


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