Guidelines for poster presentations at scientific
As with all presentations, it should be clear what the main
aim of this poster presentation is: presentation of new results,
presentation of a new method, discussion of conflicting measurements
etc. Your poster should clearly reflect this aim in the title and/or
in its structure (how much space you allocate to which part), and in
Poster presentations differ from oral presentations mainly by the
fact that your audience is not a captive one: individuals have
to come to you. At a poster session, members of your audience often
apply a set of three filters:
criteria as to whether or not they will finally start to discuss your
work with you.
Make your poster attractive and inviting to read. Try to
make it stand out from the others and look
- Your title is a condensed statement of the main aim
of your poster, e.g. new method, interesting results,
- Make it large and clear! Include author(s)
name(s) and address. It should be easily readable from a
distance of 5 meters.
- How about a headline (everyday language,
understandable to a larger audience) rather than a
- Make it as interesting as possible: in
question form, unusual choice of words. Take care not to
overdo the gimmicks to the extent that the scientific
Good visual impact
- At least 50% of the surface area is to be used for
photos, graphs, diagrams: posters with less than 50%
graphics are uninviting. If you are forced to display
words, use flow diagrams, key-word lists, simple concept
maps or selective tables.
- Minimum amount of text: «the less - the
better» (see below)
- Clear structure and layout (see below)
- Good use of colour: be able to justify your use of
colour (highlighting, structuring). Use black or dark
blue for text. Too much colour can be offputting!
- Use objects if possible: mount small instruments,
plant specimens, rocks on an appropriate place on the
poster: «TOUCH ME».
- One or two large, high quality photographs attract
Make your poster easy to read and easy to follow. Provide
visual instead of written information wherever possible.
- Concentrate on "need to have" not "nice to have".
The shorter the text, the
greater the chance that people will read your poster.
Reduce the text to the minimum: use key
words and lists, not full sentences. Few people can
read more than 2-3 sentences comfortably and easily when
they are standing in front of a poster. Avoid superfluous
information (e.g. "shake for 5 minutes" in the section on
method). Do not write: "This poster shows . . . ."
- Use a large font (minimum 5 mm).
- Use generous line spacing (as least 1 mm larger than
- Never copy A4-text pages on to your poster. If
you do so, you discourage potential readers («killer
posters»). If you want to provide interested persons
with more information or text, hang an envelope
containing copies of your full paper under the
- Allocate a specific font / style / colour to
subtitles to distinguish them clearly from the rest of
- All figures should have self-explanatory captions and
- Utilise two columns for the layout (or three for
- Designate distinct areas for aims,
introduction, method, results, conclusions, perspectives
(coloured background, coloured frames or bars).
Conclusions often get placed at the end, at the bottom
edge and can easily get "lost". Make them stand out
(coloured background, larger font).
- Make it clear in which order the poster should
be read: use (large) numbers, arrows etc.
- You may want to list a few key references in a corner
of your poster. They need not dominate and can be
displayed in a smaller font.
Posters are an ideal instrument for not only presenting
your work but also for discussing it with other interested
scientists and engineers. You can encourage this contact
when you design your poster.
- Show provocative material and declare it as such!
e.g., conflicting or surprising results, comparisons with
work of other scientists, loose ends. Use this
opportunity to display unsolved questions for work in
- Place large question marks on results you find
unusual or inexplicable.
- Build in interactive elements e.g. transparencies to
hold on top of graphs to show parallel series of
- Choose the vocabulary according to the audience you
are addressing. Write acronyms out in full the first time
- Mathematical or statistical formulae should only be
displayed if they are central to the main message and if
appropriate to the audience's background.
- Consider providing a handout of your aims and
conclusions in a second language (e.g., your native
tongue) to overcome potential language barriers.
to the participants of the workshop «Powerful Posters»
at the Postgraduate Conference in Terrestrial Ecology, ETH
Zürich, 27.11.96, for their valuable contributions to these
guidelines for poster presentations.
Any constructive ideas as to how these guidelines can be improved
are gratefully received and should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org