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Less is more: Advice for keeping your poster concise
When presenting a poster at a conference, it needs to be concise. Not only will a clear, well-designed poster draw people’s attention, but it will be easier to read and ensure your ideas are effectively communicated. Rather than explaining every detail of your research, a poster should attract people’s attention and clearly convey your main points, leading to networking and discussions about your research.
1. Focus on one part of your research
It will be impossible to present everything you have researched, all the methods you have used and all of the results you obtained on one poster. Focus on one part of your research that can be fully explained on the poster using both text and figures.
2. Keep the title short
Your poster will be one of many at a conference. Therefore, as poster titles are often scanned by attendees who are deciding which ones to visit, the title needs to convey the main message of your poster.
3. A picture is worth 1000 words
Images should be the main part of the poster. Use these to draw attention to your poster and keep people’s attention. These can often be used to explain a concept or technique, rather than explaining it using text. For example, a simple image of a cell being patched will tell people that electrophysiology was used, so you don’t need to explain it in the text. Ensure that all figures included add useful information to the poster and are clear to understand.
4. Don’t be afraid of white space
Around 40% of the poster can be blank. White space makes a poster easier to read and, as it will look less daunting, can attract more people to your poster. White space can also be used to help draw attention to the most important points of the poster.
5. Use bullet points to reduce the text
Too much text can make the poster difficult to read. Full sentences aren’t needed; presenting your text using bullet points helps keep your sentences short and your writing concise. It is also more appealing to read bullet points rather than big blocks of text, making it easier for the reader to understand the main points.
It is a good idea to include, in a large font, a short, bullet-pointed summary of the main findings that will help readers to walk away with a better understanding of your work. This is great for people who are reading your poster who aren’t in your field, or if your poster is busy and so some people are unable to discuss your research with you.
6. A short abstract and conclusion
To help you make your abstract and conclusion as short as possible, re-read them on multiple occasions. Again, use bullet points to help reduce the number of words and ensure you get straight-to-the-point.
7. Leave out some sections
Don’t include all of the sections that you would include in a paper; sections like methods, objectives and discussion can be left out, included in other sections, or just the main points of them included as bullet points or figures.
8. Ensure graphs convey a clear message
Simplify graphs and ensure they all have titles. Clearly label your graphs and make your labels more general if necessary so that scientists who aren’t in your field can understand what they are showing. If you are including images that complement your graphs, ensure these are representative. For example, if your graphs show that you have more round cells, include a picture that shows more round cells.
9. Get straight to the point
It can be difficult to explain a concept in the clearest way, especially if it is complicated or if English isn’t your first language. To help you simplify your text and get straight to the point, it can help to:
- Keep your text as short as possible
- Write in bullet points
- Ask a friend or colleague who doesn’t work on your topic to read your writing
10. Keep references to a minimum
Include the main references used in your research, but don’t go overboard and include all references that you read as this will waste valuable space.
For more advice about poster presentations, take a look at our guide for how to make your poster stand out and tips for presenting your scientific poster at a conference.
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