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Academic posters & poster presentations

This resource explains how to plan and present an academic poster, also called a research poster.

What is an academic poster?

An academic poster uses a blend of written information and images to explain research to an audience. The aim of the academic poster is to provide individuals with a clear, concise and accessible overview of a specific topic which encourages enthusiasm for further exploration of research. It is often a feature of academic or professional conferences.

Planning your poster

  • Understand who your audience is. Are they the general public, specialists, your peers? What will help these individuals engage with your work?
  • What is the main story or message of your research?
  • Can you think of a visual image or sequence of images which would powerfully convey that story or message?
  • Does the assessment information include any specific requirements?

What makes a good academic poster?

To ensure your audience can comprehend your research and remains engaged, consider the following points when crafting your academic poster:

  • The primary message of the poster should immediately clear from headings and images and understandable without the accompanying verbal explanation
  • The poster should incorporate a balanced blend of visuals and text
  • Structure your page into columns to facilitate an information flow and make it clear to your audience where they should start and finish reading
  • Cut down on text and aim for between 400-800 words
  • Use clear legible typefaces, and ideally no more than two or three different typefaces (one for headings, one for text, and possibly a third for captions)
  • Use short, captivating headings to grab readers attention
  • Ensure font size for headings is legible from at least 2-3 metres distance (48-60 pt) and the body of the text from at least 1 metre (16-24 pt).

Incorporating images

Images help make your poster engaging and give it structure and coherence. An academic poster should include at least one strong image. An image could be a graph, photo, hand-drawn sketch, diagram, map, infographic or even a creatively presented table.

The image to text ratio for your poster will vary dependent on the disciplinary context and the audience you are attempting to engage, however as a general rule of thumb a 50/50 combination of images to text is a sensible target to aim for.

When placing images in your poster ensure that you:

  • Use headings, especially on diagrams, figures and tables
  • Caption the photographer/artist’s name
  • Simplify figures, tables and graphs to avoid overwhelming your audience
  • Place images to balance the poster and give it structure
  • Ensure that images are properly referenced and appropriate for public use.

Creating your poster

Many academic and professional conferences now designate a specific template to use when creating your poster. Check your subject outline and/or assessment instructions, as a template might have been provided.

To create your own poster design, two easy-to-use applications are Microsoft PowerPoint and Publisher. Both programs are on the computers in the UOW computer labs, and videos and resources are readily available online to help step you through. Advanced users might prefer to use graphic design or layout software for greater creative control: e.g. Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign, available in some UOW labs.

When creating your poster you should:

  • Include author and illustrator names, as well as details such as the date and the name of the subject
  • Leave plenty of white (empty) space, to avoid filling the entire area with information
  • Ensure that the page dimensions are set to match the final poster size. Designing the slide before designating the print size can lead to a low-quality print
  • Printing usually leaves a white area around the edges of the page. Unless you will be guillotining the edges or using commercial printing, plan for the 1 cm white margin
  • Make the poster read from top left to bottom right
  • Include academic references to meet the requirements of your discipline area, ideally in the bottom right corner.

Delivery – presenting your poster

Before presenting, ensure that you have rehearsed a brief 2-3-minute talk about your research and that you can speak further on the issues that your poster raises. Prepare yourself for likely audience questions and, if possible, rehearse the answers you will give.

When preparing your delivery and presentation for an academic poster you should:

  • Ask your research group and/or friends and family to act as an audience to practise for your poster presentation.
  • Be proactive and ask people if they would like to hear about your work before speaking
  • Offer to answer questions
  • If you don’t know an answer, rather than avoiding the question you might begin an interesting discussion where you ask the person for their perspective.
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