Tips for presenting a poster - Anna L. Smith
- Print out copies of your paper and have them ready to hand out at request, or bring a sign-up sheet for people interested in more information.
- Some people might give you a business card for further contact. Bring an envelope to keep them all together and contained.
- Be sure you know how you’ll be hanging the poster, and if the conference will be providing the material or if you need to bring pushpins or Velcro yourself.
- Make sure you have a way to transport and protect your poster. A 42” poster tube will hold most posters you will ever need to transport. Either write or attach your contact information to the poster tube in some way in case it gets misplaced.
- If you are traveling by plane to your conference, it is a better idea to take your poster as a carry-on rather than checking it with your luggage. Airlines can often lose checked poster tubes since they roll around easily. Alternatively, you can mail the poster to the hotel, or to someone you know who will be attending the conference who lives in or near that city. Mailing posters comes with its own set of risks, however.
- Practice talking through your poster. Have a colleague act as one of the conference attendees and discuss your research with them to get a feel for what you need to say. Make sure they ask different questions about your research as well. The more times you repeat this with other people, the better.
- Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be standing for a while.
- Consider bringing a water bottle, since you’ll be doing a lot of talking.
- Stay near your poster, even if there aren’t a lot of viewers around. You never know when someone might show up.
- Smile at people when they pass by. They could be walking through to see which posters they’d like to come back to.
- Greet viewers, but do give them time to look at your poster. If they look like they have questions, comments, or are finished looking, that’s when to start discussing your research.
- Be aware of everyone looking at your poster. Don’t be too focused on speaking to one person that you ignore someone else who might want to discuss your research.
- If you find that viewers are asking some of the same questions during or after your discussion, start slipping that information into the discussion with later viewers before they need to ask.
- If someone is especially interested in your research, offer them a copy of your paper or ask if they would like to be included on your sign-up sheet, but don’t force it on them. If they do ask to be included on your sign-up sheet, after they’re gone, put down a word or two next to their name or on their business card if they seemed interested in a specific area of your research.
- Don’t take criticism too hard. Oral and poster presentations are often used to receive critique before publishing. Many of the scholars attending the conference are there to help you grow professionally and academically.
- Admitting you don’t know something is alright. Use that as an opportunity for further discussion or research about your topic.
Talking viewers through your poster:
There are a few different ways of actually presenting your poster to a viewer. One way is to let the viewer read your poster, then start a discussion based their questions or comments. If they don’t seem to have any comments to really start a discussion with, you can further elaborate on your conclusions or talk about the hardest or most interesting part of your research. This approach is good for people who would rather have a conversation than give a presentation.
Another method of poster presentation is having a prepared script of what you would like to say and walk the viewers through your poster. This approach might not work as well with viewers who have read the poster prior to meeting with you. While walking through your research, you can draw attention to specific areas. Often, the viewer may ask a question while you are presenting. Don’t be afraid to let the discussion move away from your script. You need to be sure to know your script well enough to handle these sorts of interruptions. Be sure to not let your speech sound like a practiced speech. Keep the tone conversational. If you have more than a few people viewing your poster at one time, consider this approach.
When viewers come up to your poster, you can always greet them, then ask, “Would you like to read the poster, or have me walk you through it?” This offers you the opportunity to meet the viewer’s expectations and preferences.
Don’t wait to send out emails to the people on your sign-up list until a week later. It’s best to do it the same day, if possible, while you still remember the discussions. Be sure to introduce yourself and your paper again. Take a minute to make the email a little personal. If someone was especially interested in a certain phase or aspect of your research, put where in your paper that information is located. If you would like to elaborate on something, this is the place to do it. Don’t just repeat what’s in your paper, though. Thank them for their time and let them know you enjoyed discussing your research with them.