Physics-Astronomy Library, University of California, Berkeley
         POSTER PRESENTATIONS: use this guide to create a successful scientific presentation.
                  by Susan Koskinen, formerly Physics-Astronomy Librarian,  adapted from J. Loo. 2010.
1. Purpose of a poster
  2. Prepare content
  3. Design your poster
  4. Construct your poster
  5. Present your poster
  6. References

1. The PURPOSE of a poster presentation = is to create rapid, concise & visual communication of research. (Hoffman, 2010)
         USE An APPEALING DESIGN to draw attention.
        ENGAGE your audience, ~explain your research, ~ask for feedback, ~gather new ideas, ~make research connections
        USE these principles for EVERY step of poster preparation
  RAPID - convey your research quickly and clearly
  CONCISE - express your findings succinctly
  VISUAL - draw your audience in with design, figures, graphs, & illustrations.
See POSTERS on the web:
    Flickr: -
    ePosters: -
    Better Posters:
    C. Purrington:
2. PREPARE CONTENT: Follow a template. (Divan, 2009; Hofmann, 2010)
     Good titles are CLEAR & capture the essence of the research topic, approach, and results.
     Include authors' names, institutions, and contact details.

     State your research question & objectives clearly.  Be brief.
     Provide the topic background - particularly, how your research fits into the context.
     Give an overview and a justification of your experimental methods.

     Explain your experimental procedures with illustrations like flow charts or reaction diagrams.

     Most of your content will be in this section.
     Use photographs, figures, graphs, and tables when possible.

     Summarize the main findings and provide interpretations.

     Offer suggestions for future exploration.

     INCLUDE reference citations to the scientific literature used.
     Here’s a quick guide on preparing citations in the American Chemical Society style:

     Thank others for their research assistance, funding, supervision, or other contributions.

Further information (optional)
     For example, URLs to supplementary materials.

     your audience may review your research after the presentation.

Try printing your poster in miniature.
     The other side of your handout may provide research details and your contact information.

Follow the poster content requirements specified by your scientific meeting or instructor.
Write according to your audience’s level of understanding
Do not exceed size restrictions (e.g., 42 x 48 inches maximum).
Aim for less than 200 words per poster section (Purrington, 2010).

  USE a central message throughout the poster & leave out unrelated details.
  Develop CLEAR understandable language for a general scientific audience.
  Acronyms and abbreviations may need to be defined.
  Avoid long sentences.
  bullet points to emphasize concepts
  tables, figures, flow charts, and graphs
  images or photographs

               Illustrations, photographs, flowcharts, figures, graphs, and tables can explain a lot in a little space.
                Add descriptive titles and legends for visuals
3. DESIGN your poster: Choose a layout
This layout is common at scientific meetings.

Con: Requires a large format printer available at special printing facilities. The cost may exceed $50 or more.
The content is divided across panels that usually fit on letter size paper (8.5 x 11 inches) (Mandoli, 2007).

: Printing letter size poster panels is relatively inexpensive and the printers are readily available.

Con: This layout is less common at professional scientific meetings. 
4.  CONSTRUCT your poster
Oval: 1 DRAFT your design first.
                Presentation software like Microsoft PowerPoint, Keynote, or OpenOffice Impress (free software)
                Print and digital publishing software like Adobe InDesign
                Document preparation systems like LaTeX (free software)

Oval: 3 SIZE: Set the size of the slide or canvas to the actual dimensions of your poster. 
                If you create a smaller poster & print at a larger scale (e.g., 300%), the text & images may become blurry & pixilated.

Oval: 4 CREATE: your poster.
                Graphics programs are helpful for drawing figures and other illustrations.
                Adobe Photoshop or GIMP (free software). & insert your images into the poster.
                Create graphs with spreadsheet applications like Microsoft Excel.
                Download UC Berkeley logos and seals at:
    FOLLOW tips for visual design
  • USE poster design templates: search Google for "poster template" and the software you will use.
  • DEVELOP a logical progression of ideas, text, and visuals
  • LINEAR flow from left to right and from top to bottom.
  • ALIGN text and images neatly in columns.
  • FOLLOW standard patterns: i.e. introduction & methods in the left-hand column, results in the middle, and remaining text in the right-hand column.

  •     FORMAT text for easy reading
    Emphasize text with different styles and sizes.
    Try these settings so that headings stand out in single sheet posters (Hofmann, 2010):
    90 point, boldface
                    Subtitles: 72 point
                    Section headings (Introduction, etc.): 32 to 36 point
                    Other text: ideally 22 to 28 point
    Crowded text is hard to read. Try line spacing at 1.15, 1.25, 1.5, or double spacing.
    Text in formulas, legends, and illustration labels should be sufficiently large.
    Large headings may be easier to read in sans-serif fonts like Arial, Helvetica, and Calibri

    Avoid large blocks of text. Bulleted Lists may be easier to read.
    For graphs, y-axis labels are easier to read when aligned horizontally.

    Remove visual clutter ~~ Leave empty space between sections.
    Remove grid lines in graphs.
    Bright colors and backgrounds may be distracting, use sparingly, and try muted hues.
         EDIT & EVALUATE
  • Print your draft poster to letter size paper. 
  • Share with colleagues for editing extraneous or confusing content.
  • Make sure your work follows your presentation requirements.
  • Here are checklists for evaluating your poster:

    Create a PDF version of your poster that other computer platforms can open, view, and print.
    Find a printing service for single sheet posters.
                 The UC Berkeley College of Chemistry offers poster printing.  Details at:
    Poster printing service is at the Scientific Visualization Center in the Valley Life Sciences Building.
    Earth Sciences & Maps Library has a large scale printer.
  • SET-UP: carefully
  • Use a poster container to avoid crushing.
  • Mount your poster with thumbtacks, pushpins, or tape
  • Place handouts on a table or in an envelope attached to the poster board.
  • Share your business cards as well.
       • GIVE a 1-sentence summary of your research results and their relevance (less than 30 seconds). (Purrington, 2010)
     • PRACTICE a short talk to explain your research (less than 5 minutes).
    PREPARE responses to questions you anticipate.  Why X conditions?  What do the results mean for Y?
     • STAND next to your poster, smile, and make eye contact with visitors.  Let your enthusiasm show.
     • THANK your audience afterwards
     • VISIT other poster presentations at your meeting, and learn from them.
        SHARE & PUBLICIZE your poster online
    After the presentation is over, consider sharing your poster. Post a copy online along with supplementary materials.
    Export your poster as a JPEG or PNG file and upload to a website, blog, Facebook, Flickr, etc.
    Try an online document sharing service like Slideshare.
    Publish your poster in, an online journal of scientific posters.

    An online copy of your poster may serve as a portfolio for job applications or professional reviews.
    When you publish your poster, consider a Creative Commons license, which facilitates sharing while protecting your copyright interests.
    Details at:

    • Divan, A. Communication skills for the biosciences: a graduate guide; Oxford University Press: New York, 2009; pp 238-249.
    • Graphics Department, School of Engineering, University of Guelph. How to create a poster that graphically communicates your message, date unknown. (accessed October 1, 2010).
    • Hess, G. R.; Tosney, K.; Liegel, L. Creating effective poster presentations, 2006. (accessed October 1, 2010).
    • Hofmann, A. H. Scientific writing and communication: papers, proposals, and presentations; Oxford University Press: New York, 2010; pp 499-515.
    The following photos and images are used with permission according to Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike Licensing
    1 by NASA Goddard Photo and Video   
    2 Adaptation of by the Center for Science and Math Education
    2 by Wikipedia
    4 by frozenhaddock
    7 by Colin Purrington
    8 by Presley Perswain
    9 by Nicholas Kreidberg
    10  Adaptation of by Colin Purrington
    11    Clip art from Microsoft Word 2007.
        Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License, October 2010
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