This short presentation is sometimes referred to as an “elevator speech” because it is a talk that you would be able to give to someone during a short elevator ride (3-4 minutes). Thus, prepare a short explanation (an overview of study motivation; why it is important; what you did; what you learned). Engage with your viewer and check to see if the listener is able to make sense of your work and follow the technical aspects of your explanation. Use your poster as a visual tool that will help guide your explanation referring to your graphs, images, figures, and charts as much as possible. Explain your results by using the figures.
Avoid reading your poster to your viewer as it is best utilized as a visual tool that supports your presentation. Reading directly from your poster typically disengages your readers. Your prepared presentation (discussed in Tip #1) will help prevent you from reading the poster.
The poster session is primarily an opportunity for you to convey the main ideas associated with your research project. Due to the abbreviated format, you are not obligated to cover every detail from your research on your poster or throughout your poster presentation. Consider making a two-sided handout with a miniature version of your poster on one side and more related information on the other side. The additional information can include details that are not added to the poster.
One of the most important elements of a poster presentation is the question and answer session that follows the presentation. This opportunity for high-level interaction differentiates poster presentations from traditional presentation formats. Common questions include: what was your primary research question, did your results surprise you, and where will you go from here with your research? If you don’t know how to answer a question, don’t try to fake it. Sometimes you can use a statement like “that is outside of the scope of this research project” or ask the viewer if s/he has some ideas that you might think about. Bring business cards and make the viewer responsible to follow up with you. This will streamline the networking process and free you up to focus on presenting your poster (rather than writing down contact information).
Conversations with other presenters are fine but remember that your poster presentation experience can provide important networking opportunities. Always be ready to give your attention to your viewer(s) as it is possible that your viewer will be a future collaborator or perhaps your viewer is a judge. Interact with the viewers and be courteous; include others if they want to join the presentation and the follow-up conversation.
When presenting at a conference be sure to look for poster presentation (and poster design) tips on the conference website. Professional societies may offer tips on poster presentations.
It helps to practice on your friends and family first.
Last Updated: December 17, 2013