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Creating an Effective Poster

Adapted from work created by Eileen Egan-Lee and Brenda Mori, Centre for Faculty Development, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, St. Michael's, November 2006. Originally developed for use in the Education Scholars Program.

A poster presentation at a conference is a great way to share information about a work that is in progress or completed. It is also a great way to obtain feedback and have a dialogue with others about your project. You may find Part 1 of this tip sheet helpful in thinking about and planning your poster; technical tips in the actual design and printing of your poster are included in Part 2.

Part 1: Planning Your Poster

What Information Should I Include?

Information on a poster tends to follow the headings that would be included in a published article. For example:

  • Introduction (sets up the study —provides brief information about why the study was conducted)
  • Methods
  • Results (key findings)

You are not tied to any of these headings. Are there any other headings that would work well to present your data? For example:

  • Discussion
  • Impact
  • Conclusions
  • Next steps
  • Recommendations

Text and Graphics

The best posters are not too text heavy bullet points are good! Think about the key points that people looking at your poster should walk away knowing about your study. Imagine someone walking around a large room at a conference, with 50+ posters. They are unlikely to stop and spend a good 10 minutes at each one in the room. They should not have to do too much work to figure out the purpose and key findings for your study.

Graphics, flowcharts, tables, charts and pictures are often a good way to present a lot of information in a simple but visually attractive format. They also help to draw people to your poster. Be sure to include all appropriate logos on your poster. Keep in mind that the very top and very bottom of your poster will be difficult to read. If you will be taking your poster to an international event, it is always nice to have a Canadian flag on it.

Use bullets, and keep text to a minimum. Don't crowd information onto the poster.

Keep figures and tables simple.

Handouts

People sometimes provide handouts at poster sessions. This can be a miniature version of your poster on regular sized piece of paper (8.5 x 11") or simply the text from your poster.


Part 2: Technical Tips

Starting Your Poster

Posters are typically created in PowerPoint. If you will be designing your own poster:

  • Open PowerPoint
  • Create a new file
  • On the toolbar, go to "File" then "Page set up." In the "slides sized for" box, choose the drop down box for "custom." To create a poster that is, for example, 4 feet wide and 3 feet tall, you would enter 48 inches wide by 36 inches tall. Refer to the conference's poster guidelines before selecting the size of your poster.

Tip: If you want to be able to see the whole slide when you are constructing it go to view, zoom then choose "Fit." If you are having difficulty reading this than you can make it larger by choosing a higher percentage.

Fonts

Play around with the font size - usually 32-44 size font works well. Fonts without the serif, for example arial, tend to be easy to read. Try to avoid using block capital letters as that can be difficult to read. Letters and numbers should be large enough to be readable from 1.5 m. For example, font size recommendations for Arial font: Title = 72pt; Author and affiliation = 48 pt; Text = 36 pt. Use simple typeface and use bold type for headings.

Choosing a Background

The default background for your PowerPoint slide is plain white. If you would like to play around with different background options, go to "Format" on the toolbar, then "Background." If you click on the drop down box, you will see colour samples and an option for more colours and fill effects. It is fun to see what you can develop.

Use a simple background and colour scheme that does not detract from the information being presented.

Adding Text

To insert text, go to "Insert" on the toolbar, then "Text Box" and drag your mouse where you want to make the text box to go. To move your text box around, click on the frame and move it around with your mouse or by using your cursors. Tip: For finer scale movements, you can use the control key while using your arrow cursor keys and the text box moves in smaller increments.

Table and Charts 

To insert text, go to "Insert" on the toolbar, then "Text Box" and drag your mouse where you want to make the text box to go. To move your text box around, click on the frame and move it around with your mouse or by using your cursors. Tip: For finer scale movements, you can use the control key while using your arrow cursor keys and the text box moves in smaller increments.

Printing Your Poster

Before you print, make sure you proof-read it but also give it to a peer to proof read - you may be too familiar with the text to notice the small things.

You may want to look at a "proof" before you give the go ahead for printing. Colours may come across differently than you anticipated, the margins may be off, or the symbols you used may become some other symbol which completely changes what you meant to say. Some shops will request that you bring the file in an Adobe .pdf format for this reason. If you don't have access to do this, they might charge you to transfer the file.

If you will be taking your poster to several places, it is suggested that you have it laminated or have it printed on vinyl.