My recent poster presentation at the ASHA Connect Conference was not initially planned that way. The paper I submitted was for a two-hour session. I expressed a willingness to change formats, since it was my first time going through this process and I felt I could benefit from it most by keeping myself as open as possible. I'm glad I did. I wanted to write down the basics of this process for my own future reference, and thought others may find it helpful as well.
The poster format is a unique one, and I quickly realized that I would need to go back to the drawing board to make my presentation better suited for the format.
Here's a quick tip tip for what not to do if you propose a talk but it gets selected as a poster instead:
- Print out the powerpoint slides you had prepared on blank copy paper.
- Tack them to the board and proceed to give a talk in the poster area anyway.
Posters are an underappreciated art, and though they're expensive, they're worth doing well. The format is visual and interactive, and the conversations that are generated are fantastic. You want to respect everyone's time and attention, and also present your information in an engaging and thoughtful way.
To design my poster, I posed the following question to myself: "If someone walked up to and read my poster, without me being there to describe it or talk about it in any way, would they walk away with new and useful information?"
With that in mind, I started writing. I kept my outline in hand and did all the research and wrote extensively. I covered much more ground than I had space for, so the next step was to edit. I wanted the information to be both easy to read and also make sense visually. This meant that I had to remove a lot of details and focus on the "big picture". I also wanted to include some graphics, so I turned to my trusty iPad mini. Using the Paper by 53 app, I drew some simple graphics to accompany my text. Having a digital way to hand-draw images was a great way to create more visual appeal, and helped transfer my personality onto the page. Plus, it was fun!
Finally, I did a lot of researching on how to create a poster, from the layout to the typography used. It's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the information you're trying to convey, and the internet is full of wonderful resources to help guide you through the process. Here are some I found useful:
- NYU Libraries' How to create a Research Poster: Poster Basics: This has a nice overview and also includes samples of well-designed versus poorly-designed posters.
- Penn State's Designing Communications for a Poster Fair: I found this one by clicking on the 'well-designed' poster from NYU Libraries' site above. The parts about flow, white space, use of color, and typography were especially helpful.
One of my professors from undergrad recommended I use PowerPoint to design my poster, I did some searching online to find out how to do so. Basically, I created a new presentation and started with a single blank slide. I changed the dimensions, and then began to slowly copy the text I had written previously into individual text boxes. This allowed me to keep pertinent information in one box, and move it around as I needed to make sure I liked the layout. Becuse of the dimensions, it is necessary to work zoomed in most of the time, so make sure to zoom out (or zoom to fit the screen) periodically in order to make sure everything looks visually appropriate. I also used the grid guides to help with the formatting.
Here are some sites I found helpful with PowerPoint:
- University of Alabama Undergraduate Research: Advice for Making Posters with PowerPoint offers a nice overview of the process.
- Eastern Michigan University's Division of Information Technology has a much more comprehensive guide, though it applies to Office 2010.
At conventions past, I have seen people who travel on planes carrying posters in special travel canisters. I happened to be traveling for work that week anyway, so I opted to wait until I was in town to have my poster printed. I opted to have my poster printed at FedEx Office, and my experience was a bit of a mixed bag. Here's a few things to keep in mind as part of the printing process:
- The file needs to be in PDF format. This was simple enough to export from PowerPoint.
- Be sure to check and re-check your PDF to make sure everything is there. For some reason, my PDF export had some issues being uploaded in their system, so the top part of my poster (the main title) was completely absent once it was printed.
- Once you submit to have your poster printed, request a proof of it. This is a small part of the poster and it is printed to scale so you can make sure that the color, size, and everything else looks like you want it to.
- Turn-around time is usually stated as "next day", so if you wait to print your poster until you arrive, be sure to plan accordingly.
- If you would like to print your poster ahead of time and ship it to your hotel, be sure to do so well in advance. I had my poster shipped back to me after the conference. It cost around $14 (no rush after the fact) and took about a week to arrive. I can't speak from experience on this point, so check with your hotel to see if they can receive mail and hold it for you until you arrive.
- Printing in color is expensive. Depending on the size of your poster, expect to spend around $100 to have your poster printed. I spent an extra $5 for a cardboard case to carry it in, because otherwise it was to going to be placed in a plastic bag.
- Some universities have a discount, so if you are a student or otherwise maintain a relationship with your university, be sure to inquire.
- I lucked out and had a coupon for 20% off print services if I completed a survey online. I did so and the extra savings was welcome. My coupon was from a previous purchase, so it never hurts to ask if you stop in there for other supplies.
I'm glad I kept myself open to a change in session format. The process of creating my poster was instructive, thought-provoking, and fun. The experience of presenting my poster was exciting and engaging, and the conversations I had with people who stopped by were really great. If you're presenting a poster at the upcoming ASHA Convention in Phildelphia, I hope these tips are useful. You can also check out ASHA's Poster Guidelines for additional support.