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Thursday
Jun092011

Poster presentation course

Yesterday I attended a poster presentation course. I kept hearing about posters and how PhD students normally start out by presenting them at conferences, but I wasn't entirely sure what it meant. Surely they don't just mean you make a poster that shows your work, do they?

Erm. Yes. Yes, they do. A poster is a graphical representation of your work to date. Just like in primary school. 

Unlike primary school, there should be a reasonably clear structure to them. In fact, the information presented should be rather like an exceptionally brief paper, with snappy title, background, methodology, results and conclusions. The order of the names on the poster (and apparently putting only one name on the poster is very bad form - your supervisor's name should go on there at the very least) is critical. The acknowledgements section is important. And don't forget the (brief) references section (ideally less than 10). 

The results section is the most important - that's the bit you can't put any spin on, what you will actually be judged on. Even if the results are preliminary, which many are. The methodology should give an idea of what you are doing, but not spell out every step clearly to prevent intellectual theft (as posters are unpublished and therefore not protected). The conclusions should remind of the problem and the results, and show why the results are interesting, along with indicating the relevance to other published work and what your future work may be. 

Quite like primary school, a bit of polish goes a long way. Of course, what that means has probably changed since I was 10. It's no longer a lovely double-border with a decorative pattern made from joined up letters. Now it ideally means you create a large pdf file and pay someone to colour print it for you. Printing multiple A4 pages and glueing them onto some backing paper is apparently not a good option, and looks like you haven't really prepared. 

There was a link given to studentposters.co.uk for poster templates which may come in handy - apparently starting from a template is an easy way to make sure you get the right size when it's printed out. Also, different conferences have different maximum sizes and may have different requirements for anonymity, so it is really, really important to read the guidelines for the conference. And finally, work out what you want the result of the poster to be before you write it: if you want a job, focus on how your work is relevant for industry. If you want collaborators, structure the information to show where people could help. 

So, all in all a potentially-useful course. A good overview on posters, and what to expect. The venue left a little to be desired, but that building (Fulton - it's brand new, but I don't like it) has some technical issues. I'll leave those for another rant!

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