Lessons learned from a poster presentation

Earlier this month I presented a poster titled “Going It Alone: EAD Implementation for Small Repositories” at the Midwest Archives Conference annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.

Here are 8 quick tips and lessons learned from the experience:

1. Less is more…But be sure to tell a compelling story.

            When you’re putting a poster presentation together, everyone will warn you about using too much text. This is a real problem, and it is one area where I could have done better. On the other hand, I also noticed that some people presenting at the conference barely had any text on their poster. Less is more, but you have to strike a good balance. Think of a poster presentation as a visual representation of a paper presentation. There should be an argument or a story, and the readers should be able to follow your line of thought. If I could do it over again, I’d pare my text down even further, but still try to keep the backbone of the argument and main points.

2. Step into the crowd, grab viewers!

            You can’t be shy! If someone glances at you, say “hi!” and draw them in. I did this a lot during my poster presentation. My topic was technical and I didn’t have any images on my poster, so I had to do some of the work to bring people in. Be the conversation starter. Guide people through your poster.

3. Have plenty of business cards on hand.

            People will take them! Especially if your poster is of the advice-giving type. I had multiple people take cards in case they wanted to follow up with questions or further assistance with Encoded Archival Description. I’d also add, don’t just have the cards, offer them up! Say, “Here, take my card. Don’t hesitate to email me if you have questions about X.”

4. Make other people proof your work.

            I sent my poster around to several people before I printed it, and I got some great feedback about things I wouldn’t have thought of on my own.

5. Proofread yourself…multiple times.

            Before you send your poster for printing, proofread. Proofread again. And again. I can’t say that enough. I made my poster entirely in Photoshop, and then upon conversion to printable file types, I had some formatting problems and a typo that I missed. I had to pay to have the poster printed twice! Make sure everything looks how it should in the file you are sending off to the printer.

6. Do a poster pilot.

            This was my first time presenting a poster, and at first I was nervous that my topic wasn’t poster worthy. So, I decided to write a couple of pieces for Hack Library School about this topic first, as a warm up of sorts. At that point, I felt like I had thought through what I wanted to say and I was confident that I could convert my ideas into a poster. Most poster presentations also require an abstract or summary of the poster, and doing this writing beforehand made writing the abstract simple. You don’t have to publish your ideas to a blog or in a public way. Just jotting down your ideas or making an outline can help you be sure you’ve got a good topic for a poster. Another option is to write a paper about your topic for class or use a topic from a paper you’ve already written for your poster presentation.

7. Look at other posters presentations.

            Do some searching on the internet for examples of poster presentations. Figure out what you like and dislike, what works visually and what doesn’t. Most importantly, be creative!

8. Have fun, tell the story, use creative visuals, and sell it!


For further reading on conference presentations:

Poster Sessions – A Beginner’s Guide

Presenting at Conferences while in Library School


Featured image by Valery Kenski licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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