Hello there bloggies! Welcome to Trainee Tuesday!

I’m currently preparing a poster for the upcoming American Society of Human Genetics Annual Meeting. I’ve lost count of the number of posters I’ve given over the years at conferences, recruitment events, and department retreats.

Giving a poster the first few times can be daunting experiences. How do I summarize so much research on a simple poster board? Here are some things I try to keep in mind when making my posters:

Focus on a couple key messages

It is tempting to try to put every aspect of your work onto your poster. Don’t do it! There is no way to fully walk your visitors through your poster if you include every little detail of your work. Identify the few primary points you want to communicate to your audience and focus on these. Include these more tangential points in the conversations you have with visitors to your poster.

Limit the text

Here’s something that’s similar between oral and poster presentations: limit the text you use. No matter how interesting your science and story may be, no one is going to stand in front of your poster and read line after line of text. Try to illustrate your points with figures and tables. The text you would have included can serve as the basis of what you say to your visitors.

Care about your spacing and color scheme

Like it or not, we are all influenced by aesthetics. People are more likely to stop by and chat about a pretty looking poster than a messy one. Take a moment to choose colors that complement each other. Organize your figures, tables, and text so that there is flow between sections and they are not right on top of each other. It makes your poster more appealing and easier to communicate your science.

Print your poster at the conference if possible

The worst part about giving a poster is transporting it to and from the conference venue. It’s even worse if you have to travel by plane. Balancing your awkward poster tube with your carry-on and laptop bags is nearly impossible. I may have left a poster tube back at security once and had to run back for it. Fortunately, many conferences now offer to print posters at the venue itself. If available, do it! Another option is to print a fabric poster that you can nicely fold. Use one of these options if possible! It will save you an aggravation.

Chat with your poster neighbors

Even if you have the most interesting poster ever, there will be lulls in the traffic to your poster. It can be awkward standing there with your poster neighbors in silence staring at the floor. Don’t be awkward! Take this moment to chat with your poster neighbors. Who knows you could meet a new collaborator or even make a friend. Worst case, you’ll help pass the time in between visitors.

Include contact info

One of the goals of presenting at a conference is to make connections with other researchers in your field. You’ll want to continue these conversations and cement these relationships after the conference. Print your email address on your poster. Post business cards around your board. Make sure that interested people can contact you after the conference.

Giving a poster presentation is a great way to communicate your research and to meet people in your field. Putting your best foot forward through a fantastic poster is important for any trainee.

Thank you for stopping by Trainee Tuesday! These are some of the poster lessons I’ve learned over the years (mostly through my own mistakes…). What tips do you have for giving a great poster? Let us know in the comments below or on twitter @DrFsThoughts.

See you all later!

-Dr. F

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