get it right
Interactive poster, e-poster, video format…are we beginning to see a bit of a revolution in scientific posters? Posters are a great way to build your notoriety and promote your research by informing others of developments in your work and results you have obtained. They are used to help you reach a wider audience, including those who are not necessarily specialists in your field. If you are hoping to instigate a discussion, either in person or online, your poster should bring together various features. Let’s take a look at some of them!
A science poster is neither an article, nor a presentation document. It is a summary of your work. Hence, the challenge is double-sided: you must be both concise and imaginative. The time required to read your poster should be reduced as the concentration level of readers is low. It should make passers-by want to ask questions and open a dialogue with the author of the study. It is a writing exercise with its own codes and challenges. Therefore, how can you create an attractive scientific poster adapted to in-person or online events?
Improve visual appeal
Above all, a science poster must be attractive if you hope to achieve these objectives. Contrary to a spoken presentation, during which the audience is relatively captivated, reading a poster is not imposed. Potential readers are free to roam and stop in front of any poster they choose. All the efforts invested in making it will have been for nothing if you can’t immediately catch their attention.
During science poster sessions, competition with your fellow poster-makers is tough. To stand out, a poster should make people curious and catch their eye. As a matter of fact, at Agent Majeur, we designed a simple test in 8 questions to measure the attractiveness of a science poster.
To draw attention, you need to put some effort into the way your poster looks. An aesthetic poster will have a simple graphic design, be split into sections to make it easier to read and use contrasting colours. A good poster can be read without effort from a distance of around 1.5 metres away in-person or 50 cm online. It will also have as little text as possible and use 2 to 3 good illustrations, which speak for themselves.
Choose a title with impact
Whilst the style may be important, so is the content. In particular, the title must be sufficiently clear. It should also be catchy and punchy. It should summarise the objective, methods and results of the work presented, in no more than 1-2 lines. It is important to have a specific title to help your poster stand out from others on the same topic.
Imagine the following title, “New applications for molecular electrochemistry”. It gives an idea of the subject, but it lacks precision. A better title would be “Using molecular electrochemistry to reveal the secrets of redox reactivity” (Robert and Costentin, 2009). The second title is more explicit about the content of the poster (read more advice about writing a title here) and includes a verb to state the aim or outcomes of the research.
Get to the point
Under the title, the text must highlight the objectives of the project, the methodology used, and the results obtained. Then comes the conclusion. The “methods” and “results” sections are the most important and should take up around 2/3 of the page. To avoid having too much or too little content, bear in mind that a poster should contain about 250-450 words.
It is worth noting that bibliographies are not obligatory on a science poster. However, as an author yourself, having no doubt written articles on the subject you are presenting, it would be in your best interest to mention them. They will help validate the scientific quality of your work.
Lighten your style
You should favour simple sentences and a direct writing style because they make the text easier to understand. The most important elements should appear at the beginning of the sentence. Try using this formula: subject-verb-complement (e.g. “eat your dinner”). Each sentence should be as short as possible. Ideally, no more than 15 words. You should use words that are as precise as possible, but still easy to understand and unpretentious.
Scientific and technical writing is based on efficiency. The total opposite of literary writing. The objective of a poster is achieved if the target audience understands the main message behind the research presented.
Presenting your poster online
The Covid-19 pandemic made it impossible to host big in-person scientific events. It has compelled organisers to rethink poster sessions. Meetings and conferences are now held online, via video-conferencing tools. In this case, a digital gallery brings together the various scientific posters and makes them available to the audience.
The content of a scientific poster for this type of event remains unchanged, apart from the fact that digital posters must be provided electronically in PDF format. Often, participants can make a video to explain their poster and accompany their PDF file. If that is the case, seize this opportunity! These videos last 2 to 4 minutes, and like webinars, these presentations are often recorded beforehand. Their content is very similar to a pitch, they help your audience to understand your work and its significance.
Using interactive screens
Touchscreens have begun to make their way into scientific symposiums and conferences as an interactive form of poster. They can be used to present researchers’ bios, their results and information on their laboratories. In addition, they provide an opportunity to enrich presentations with multimedia content: sound, videos, animation and weblinks.
Installed in a room, interactive screens provide a new way of holding a poster session. Each speaker can do their presentation next to a screen whilst engaging dialogue with participants. It is a more inclusive experience than a series of printed posters. On one of our missions, we designed interactive posters for an award presentation ceremony. In the cocktail area at the event, several touchscreens were made available around the room for guests to enjoy at their leisure.
With screens such as these, the public also gains in autonomy. People can consult each screen for a longer time, find a more diverse range of information and call upon the author of the poster if needed. This means the speaker does not have to stay near their poster, as is often the case in standard sessions. They can usually move to any screen, start a discussion by the buffet table and use the nearest touchscreen available to talk something through. These tools bring in a modern touch, but they also help to enrich the exchanges between researchers by sharing more content, in various formats.
Expanding your network
Generally, on the day of the event, you will be able to participate in a question and answer session, whether it is in-person or online. It is an excellent opportunity to exchange advice and ideas with your peers. In fact, do take advantage of these discussions to expand your address book and your LinkedIn network by taking the contact information of the people you meet and giving them yours.
Printed document or PDF format, interactive screen or video presentation, scientific posters keep being acclaimed. Even if they are reinvented under different formats, their objective is still the same: to present your research in a synthetic way with illustrations and to develop your professional network. A scientific poster is like an ambassador for your work. It represents you and helps you to stay informed on the current scientific developments in your field.
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