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  IN THIS Article
 ::  Advantages of a ...
 ::  Before you begin...
 ::  Layout
 ::  Title banner
 ::  Poster text
 ::  Illustrations
 ::  Use of colour
 ::  Time to utilise ...
 ::  Down to the wire...
 ::  Tips for the org...
 ::  References
 ::  Article Figures

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Year : 2000  |  Volume : 46  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 112-5

The art and science of presentation: the poster.

Seth G. S. Medical College and K. E. M. Hospital, Parel, Mumbai - 400 012, India. , India

Correspondence Address:
A N Supe
Seth G. S. Medical College and K. E. M. Hospital, Parel, Mumbai - 400 012, India.
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 0011013481

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Keywords: Data Display, Human,

How to cite this article:
Supe A N, Sahu D R. The art and science of presentation: the poster. J Postgrad Med 2000;46:112

How to cite this URL:
Supe A N, Sahu D R. The art and science of presentation: the poster. J Postgrad Med [serial online] 2000 [cited 2023 May 28];46:112. Available from:

A research work will remain confined to the walls of the research room or the institute unless and until it is presented to an audience. In this series we will try to analyse the different ways of projection of one’s research work. We will begin with one of the most widely used methods of presentation- the poster.

A poster is a visual combination of bold design, colour, and message intended to catch and hold the attention of the passer-by long enough to implant a significant idea in the mind[1]. A poster presentation offers the opportunity for better acceptance, understanding, and appreciation of one’s research work. It is a good avenue for multi-author papers.

  ::   Advantages of a poster presentation Top

Increased participation and interaction: In a traditional panel presentation, many a times research work cannot be shared and discussed. A series of interactive poster sessions allow more flexibility.

Poster format can be superior under certain circumstances: Papers containing large graphics, photographs, and statistics can be perhaps better presented in the poster format, which allow for a clearer and more reflective process of presentation.

Poster presentation accommodates for the variability of understanding in the audience: The presentation of posters allow the readers to absorb the information at every person's own pace as they view the poster, unlike the traditional panel presentation, in which audience have to ‘run’ with the speakers.

The individual presentation time of a panel is often not sufficient: In specialised research it is advisable to present the data in the poster session to allow considerable dialogue and engaging interaction, instead of forcing oneself to try and discuss the whole data in 8-10 minutes of talk and another 2-3 minutes of the discussion time.

Language no bar: For those who can write in English but may not speak so fluently, posters are better media for presentation of their research work.

  ::   Before you begin, organise yourself Top

Organise according to the organisers: Read and understand the instructions supplied by the organisers. An idea about the size and other requisites beforehand will make the course of poster preparation easier. Before sending the abstract of the article to the organisers, make sure that you can fit the title in the given size of the poster.

Organise according to the audience: One also needs to consider the target audience. Generally, one might assume that in the audience, some are experts; but the poster should also give enough background for the general audience to have sufficient understanding from it. Thus, one may give a brief introduction section as one part of the paper or figures that give capsulated information.

Organise to motivate: One should concentrate on most important objective, to motivate the audience to understand and agree with the theme of presentation.

Organise according to the time: The time management skills are always at test during such preparation. Waiting for a last moment preparation, is invitation for trouble. On the other hand, too much of lead-time encourages endless fussing. Hence, allocate time wisely, give best of ability, and then go do something else. If help of professional services for photographs, artwork, etc. is required do it first.

Organise to prevent mess-up: Re-reading of abstract once again and confirming the accuracy of the results is a crucial step. By planning carefully, striving to be clear in presentation, and assuming a professional attitude one will avoid making it a public spectacle.

  ::   Layout Top

The general outlay suggested for poster presentation is shown in the figure. Usually 6 to 10, A/4 or legal size papers fit in one poster. Use of regions of empty space between different these individual papers (poster elements) can differentiate and accentuate these elements.

With availability of good quality colour printers, it is advisable to make poster with use of these. The individual element of the posters can be printed on thick paper or special coated inkjet paper and then can be mounted on a coloured art paper (background), or mat board or can even be laminated. The mat board being heavier will be safer while travelling, but is difficult to attach to the display boards. If you laminate your individual pieces, you may not need to mount it on a backing board. Velcro (the hook side) can be used to make it easy to move panels around. Precise information about what facilities the organisers are going to provide will help to take pick up from these options.

  ::   Title banner Top

Title lures viewers closer to see study material. Therefore, it should be concise, attractive and readable from about five to seven metres away. The size of letters in the title itself should be about 96 points (1.5 - 2 inches tall). The authors’ names may be smaller, 48-72 points (0.75-1.5 inches). Academic degrees can be omitted. Affiliations can be even smaller, about 36 - 48 points (0.5-0.75 inch). The poster session number should be printed separately, at about 96-point size, can be placed in the top of the title banner, to the left, right, or at the centre.

Use a simple, easy to read font. A San Serif style, such as Helvetica or Arial is ideal and boldface and all-caps for the title; boldface, and mixed upper/lower case for the authors’ names; plain text, no boldface, and mixed upper/lower case for affiliations is preferred. The name of the author who is the main communicator should be asterisked in the title. Multiple affiliations can be handled in this manner with different symbols. There are seldom rules regarding line justification of the title. One can left- or centre- justify the text of the title banner based upon the personal preferences and the space availability.

  ::   Poster text Top

The text of the poster should be double-spaced, using left-justification; text with even left sides and jagged right sides is easier to read as compared to one with both right and left justification. For section headings (Introduction, Methods, etc.), use Arial, Boldface, 36 point. If your topic is engaging, some will have to read your posters while peering over the shoulders of others, hence the font size of the text should not be smaller than 24 point printed in plain (non-bold, non italic) text. You can consider using a larger size (36 point) for the Conclusion text, and a smaller size (18 point) for Methods text.

Attempt to fit the blocks of text onto a single page to simplify cutting and pasting while assembling the poster. For the same reason, consider using the largest size paper your printer can accommodate, in the landscape mode, when printing the text blocks on a printer.

Other options for fonts include Helvetica, Times Roman, Century Schoolbook, and Courier, because these fonts represent a range of letter spacing and letter heights. Do not jumble with multiple fonts, select one, and stick to it; add emphasis by using boldface, underlining, or colour; italics and capital letters are difficult to read.

  ::   Illustrations Top
[4],[5],[8], [11],[12]

Poster presentation is like a show business, so make it attractive with use of illustrations. Illustrations can increase the audience attention, interest, and retention. But remember that crafty illustrations, glowing colours, or delicate computerised graphics do not substitute for content.

Graphic materials should be visible easily from a distance of six feet. Controlled use of two to three colours for prominence is valuable; overuse is not. The illustrations and tables should be unambiguous and self-explanatory. A nominal amount of text material should complement the illustrations. Remove all dispensable information from graphs and tables (e.g. excess grid lines in tables and charts). Label data lines in graphs directly, using large type & colour. Use of different types of graphs (e.g. bar, pie, etc.) can accentuate the data. Lines in illustrations should be larger than normal. Use contrast and colours for emphasis and to distinguish different data groups in graphs. Use borders all around each figures and use the border colours to link related presentations of data.

  ::   Use of colour Top

There is competition between the participants to entice the limited audience and sometimes for the prize and a coloured background can unify your poster amongst the hundreds of the posters. Cool colours like purple, blue, and blue-green, or shades of grey, are best for the background. Use warm, pure hues like yellow and orange which are considered more attention getting, as borders or for accent, but be unadventurous, don’t try to repel your viewers by distracting colours. Visual distractions increase fatigue and reduce the probability of viewers giving the poster a thorough reading. In addition, colour should not outclass the visual impact of your data. Colour can enhance the hues or contrast of photographs: a dark background with lighter photos and the vice versa; use a neutral background to emphasise colour in photos.

Most poster sessions are held in halls lit with fluorescent light. Due to this, all colours will be intensified; bright (saturated) colours may become unpleasant to view. If exact colours are important to the data, balance those colours for use with fluorescent lighting.

  ::   Time to utilise your craft skills Top

When the print outs of the individual elements are ready, put these elements as per the layout of the poster. See if you need to trim some element, if yes use a roller trimmer, sharp paper cutter, or straightedge blade for this purpose. When you have finished cutting the text elements, have good look at it after assembling the parts, if it appears crooked, it probably is. Trust your first impression and re-trim the aberrant piece.

If you plan to use a coloured background, you will require to stick the poster elements to the background. After washing hands, using a T-square and a pencil, mark the positions of each of the poster elements on the background. Use a thick adhesive to paste the poster elements on the background. Beginning in one corner, smooth the banner onto the background using diagonal strokes (to avoid air pockets), working from the attached end of the banner to the free end. Use absolute alcohol to dissolve & clean sticky spots if any, but be sure to test it in an inconspicuous spot first. After finishing, look for errors and misaligned bits. If required carefully detach the banner and try again, before the adhesive sets.

  ::   Down to the wire and beyond Top

* If separate sheets of poster elements are used, make a layout of the assembled poster and number each element on the back. Then write the numbers of the corresponding poster elements on the layout. Now someone else can hang it if you cannot be there.

* Use brown wrapping paper to bundle together the poster elements. This keeps it clean and, if more than one poster is carried to the meeting, the parts of different posters will not be mixed together.

* Label the wrapped poster with author’s name, the accommodation details, and the poster session number. A lost poster with a label like this may find its way back more quickly.

* If the poster is in the form of a single sheet, it can be rolled into a cylinder.

* Remember to carry the poster yourself. Do not check it in on the plane!

* Don’t be the last one to leave for the meeting from your institute; know who is leaving after you, so they can bring the poster you left behind.

* The world of portable computers, cyber cafés, and the Internet offers interesting possibilities for a graceful recovery. As an extra precaution, leave your poster text on a server or mail it to your own web-based e-mail account and you can access it from a remote site.

* Hanging the poster can be one of the more difficult and frustrating aspects of poster sessions and can even lead to formation of painful blisters. Use of Velcro can make the task easier.

* Be present near you poster with few handouts, all ready to answer any thing and everything.

  ::   Tips for the organisers Top

Organisers of the meetings can make the task of the presenters easier. Give clear instructions for the size of the posters (do not change that if you get more number of posters than expected and have limited space to fit those). Provide information about the type of display board. Give all the necessary materials, like pins, tape, adhesive, etc. (presenters are requested not to depend on the organisers for these). Inform the conference attendees what time the presenters will be available next to their own posters, so that there can be some interaction. Recognition of the good work will encourage better presentation.

 :: References Top

1.   Back to cited text no. 1    
2.Northern Arizona University OTLE Faculty Studio. Poster & podium presentation. 1998. nur390/ Mod5/poster/lesson.html [Accessed on 8 June 2000]  Back to cited text no. 2    
3.Tutis Vilis. Going to scientific meetings. 1998. http://www. [Accessed on 8 June 2000]  Back to cited text no. 3    
4.Matthijs Luger. How to make a poster? 1999. [Accessed on 8 June 2000]  Back to cited text no. 4    
5.Levine MA. Creating posters for humanities & social sciences. 1999. [Accessed on 8 June 2000]  Back to cited text no. 5    
6.U. S. Department of Energy, Environmental Management Science Program Workshop. Tips for effective poster presentations. 1998. sexhib its.html [Accessed on 2 June 2000]   Back to cited text no. 6    
7.Mandoli DF. How to make a great poster. 1998. http://www. [Accessed on 8 June 2000]  Back to cited text no. 7    
8.Tham MT. Poster presentation of research work. 2000. http:// [Accessed on 2 June 2000]  Back to cited text no. 8    
9.Radel J. Developing a poster presentation. 1999. http://www. [Accessed on 2 June 2000]  Back to cited text no. 9    
10.Twelfth Annual Symposium United States Regional Association International Association for Landscape Ecology. Presentation tips. 1998. html [Accessed on 1 June 2000]  Back to cited text no. 10    
11.Kroenke K. Poster sessions. Am J Med 1987; 83:1129-1130  Back to cited text no. 11    
12.Whimster WF. Wanted: reader friendly posters. Br Med J 1989 298:274  Back to cited text no. 12    
13.Hammarling S, Nicholas J. Higham. How to prepare a poster. 1996. [Accessed on 2 June 2000]  Back to cited text no. 13    
14.Preheim LC. Poster presenter's thumb. N Engl J Med 1986;314:1518.  Back to cited text no. 14    


[Figure - 1]


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Official Publication of the Staff Society of the Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital, Mumbai, India
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