Guidelines for Poster-Session Presenters


The Poster Session is not a competitive panel but affords presenters an opportunity to present their work to a wide and interested audience.

If you agree to participate in the conference AND a person who was invited to participate in a competitive panel in your paper’s category is unable to participate, then you will be invited to compete in the competitive panel. We recommend that you anticipate this possibility by preparing two versions of your presentation: a brief version to use during the poster session, and a twenty-minute version to give as a member of a competitive panel.

The purpose of this page is to help you prepare for the Poster Session. In addition to reading this page, please review the Guidelines for Panel Presenters page, which will help you prepare a twenty-minute version of your talk so that you can participate in a competitive panel if a person in that panel is unable to participate (for example, due to illness).

How to Design a Poster

Think of your poster as a visual version of your abstract. Some posters include the abstract, but a well designed poster arranges the abstract's information in a more accessible format.

If your paper does not have an abstract, think of your poster as a high-level overview of the details of your project that will best help your audience quickly understand what you researched, why you researched it, what you learned or discovered, and why you think what you learned or discovered matters.

Generally, your poster will be effective if it has the following characteristics:

  • It provides a brief summary of your research
  • It conveys your message visually
  • It is readable from about 4 feet away
  • It is clearly organized

Poster Contents

Posters can vary significantly because of differences in discipline, research methodology, project complexity, aspects of the subject matter researched, etc. Successful posters usually include the following contents:

  1. The Title of Research Project/Paper
  2. Your Name and Affiliation (i.e. your college)
  3. The Research Question
  4. The Thesis or Hypothesis, if your project has one
  5. Background Information/Introduction
  6. Main Findings/Insights
  7. Conclusions/Significance of Work
  8. References (for any sources used on the poster)
  9. Your Contact Information (email address)
  10. Acknowledgments (your mentor, anyone else who helped with your work)


  • Don’t crowd your material; use adequate whitespace to help your audience focus on individual chunks of information
  • Limit the number of fonts and colors
  • Use a consistent font size for all text except titles or headings (larger) and references and acknowledgments (smaller)
  • Use graphs or pictures if they summarize material effectively
  • Provide a title or descriptive phrase for graphs or pictures

How to Present Your Poster

Dress professionally.

Arrive early.

Bring with you — or make arrangements ahead of time for — any equipment you need to display your poster. (The co-directors of the 2019 conference will reach out to registered Poster Session participants in the middle of May to determine how to accommodate poster presentation needs. They should be able to provide flat panels for hanging large, professionally printed posters; tables for tri-fold posters; and easels, if necessary.)

Do not assume that your poster is going to present itself. The poster is simply a tool that aids your presentation of your research: it helps your audience follow you as you discuss your work.

Poster presentations mix elements of lecture and conversation. As a result, you can expect to speak for a few minutes at a time and then to respond to questions from your audience. You can also expect to share your work with several audiences during the Poster Session.

Prepare, in total, three to five minutes of material to discuss with your audiences:

  • A one- to two-minute synopsis of your work
  • A few elaborations of key aspects of your work, each lasting perhaps a minute

Your Faculty Mentor can help you prepare both what to say and how to interact with your audience. They can help you anticipate questions and comments members of your audience are likely to share with you, and they can help you determine how to respond when you are asked a question you are unable to answer.

Contents of this page are adapted from materials shared by Dr. Christine Bowditch and Dr. Betsy Swope.