While there's a lot of advice out there on making presentations at conferences, there's not so much for designing and presenting posters. Post facto
, I have found this extensive post by Colin Purrington on how to design and present scientific posters
. Good advice, all of them, that will do no harm if followed.
My approach is different. Poster presentation, like conference presentation, belongs more to the area of dramatic arts than to marketing. It is information/entertainment, and that is the main thing you have to bear in mind when preparing for the session. Plus, while at a conference you have the full attention of your audience (shared, of course, with email, Facebook, plus the 10% that are simply speaking) in a poster session you have to first attract the attention of the people wandering around a hall shared with other 20 to 100 posters, then keep them there for the duration of the spiel and while you start a new one, and then, of course, convey the information you want to share with your poster.
I will not give you a few bullet points, just share my experience and you can pick and choose whatever you want.
First thing is to choose well the place. Show up early, put up your poster near the entrance or close to the toilettes, in a place that people will see easily, not after walking the halls for a while. As in shops, location is important. If your place has been assigned in advance, look for the best no-show and move there. Near the corners or the ends of halls is always important.
Second, keep your poster minimalistic and use dynamic elements to convey information during the spiel. A poster is just a prop to deliver the presentation, so I used velcros to set up slots so that I can move things around
You can use them to show just a few graphs at a time, or to show real-life animations, data flow, phases in a methodology, whatever. The whole point of this is that the poster has been created for being explained, not to be there and be self-explanatory all by itself.
Posters are actually, or can be, 3-d objects. So put solid things there, papercraft stuff, use them for illustration or for fun, make it mobile, make it rock. I used a couch (my paper was about CouchDB
and a skull to show two parts of my algorithm, but there are lots of things you can do. Use fun metaphors, create mockups, things people can look into and from the side.
Be short and state clearly you've finished. To emphasize the closure, give something out. It can be your card, a copy of the paper, or even something related to the paper. I gave out origami couches
made by my daughter, which people really liked.
Besides, it gave them an incentive to stay for the whole duration of the spiel: they were only given out at the end.
Finally, design the poster to draw the attention of the audience, not to shoo them off. Too many graphs, too many letters, too many formulae... too much work. Too little, some mistery, what are those velcros for, hey, I can have a free origami (or a pizza, whatever) after the talk, it's worth the while to devote one of my 5-6 poster spots to this person. And always remember to smile and thank them after the talk.
Did it work? Oh boy did it work. People kept coming for the whole duration of the poster session, and you could see former customers brought their coworkers and friends, to have a look or to listen to you. Which brings me to the last bit of advice regarding liquids. Remember to empty your bladder right before the start of the session. And drink a bit of water (never coffee, never tea) after (never during
each presentation). You'll have to stand there the whole time, delivering your presentation. You'll never have to leave your post.