Tips, Tricks, Wisdom, and a Few Links for Creating a Poster Presentation
This page was a team effort.Thanks to these people for their contributions and collaboration of: David Sepkoski, Associate Professor of History, University of North Carolina Wilmington Ann E. Robinson, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at University of Massachusetts Amherst (see link below for a pdf of her poster) Matthew Hersch, Lecturer in Science, Technology and Society in the Department of History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania Frazier Benya, Program Officer with The National Academy of Engineering Greg Macklem, Society Coordinator for the History of Science Society Melinda Gormley, Assistant Director for Research at the Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values at University of Notre Dame Matthew White, PhD Candidate, University of Florida The Graduate and Early Career Caucus of the History of Science Society thanks them for sharing their experiences.
When thinking of how to present research at the next History of Science Society Meeting, most scholars presume that the best medium to use is the standard oral presentation of a paper in one of the many concurrent sessions held throughout the conference. However, there are other ways to share your research and receive the feedback from your colleagues. One of the increasingly popular ways to do this is by participating in the Poster Sessions typically held on Saturday afternoon of the HSS meeting. A poster creates a great many benefits including more opportunity to talk to colleagues interested in your work, a less formal format, and a another to network and build long term relationships.
Recently, GECC officers contacted recent poster presenters to share their experiences of presenting their research in this format. Here are some of their tips, suggestions, links, and all around wisdom.
Don’t let cost or your lack of artistic or design skill stop you from considering producing a poster. You should be prepared to spend between $50-100. Many universities offer inexpensive large-format printing. Check the library, computer center, and printing services. Some provide free use of poster printers to students. If your university doesn’t, then see whether your department will pay production costs. Online services like Mimeo.com offer digital printing and shipping of large-scale PDF files.
Beyond printing, there aren’t many other costs. Indeed, the entire poster can be created using PowerPoint. You can use a recycled cardboard tube to transport your poster or buy an inexpensive clear plastic tube at an art supply store. You can also mail it to your destination hotel for a few dollars. If your university does not offer poster producing services, try some of the links at the bottom of this page.
How does a poster presentation look on a CV?
Many graduate students and early career scholars are concerned about getting their first job and how to create a CV that reflects an interest in presenting research. But where do poster presentations fit in the traditional paper presentations and even monograph publishing?
It would be a mistake to think that humanities departments do not value posters. Posters get noticed, and represent real scholarship of which you can be proud. And in recent years poster sessions have become more common at humanities conferences.
For someone who is looking to add substance to a CV, a poster is a great way to get exposure at a national meeting like HSS. Posters allow you to interact with people during the poster session, and you’ll probably get more exposure than at a normal paper session with low attendance. They are a good choice for research projects that emphasize visual materials, and they can be the basis for future publications. Matt Hersch at the University of Pennsylvania reported that one of his poster presentations led to an invitation to submit to a respected peer-reviewed journal and, ultimately, a well-received article.
Presenting a paper is a more essential experience, and will probably always count for more on a CV, but that shouldn’t stop you from considering this other option. Listing a poster presentation on your CV will demonstrate the versatility of your presentation skills.
Tips for a Better Poster Presentation
Not sure how to make a poster? Here is some advice from historians who presented posters at an HSS meeting between 2009 and 2011.
- Be colorful! Black, white and grey will not get you noticed. Color is key. It will attract someone’s attention from afar. It will get people to stop and view your poster. Color can convey a message.
- Use images! No one wants to look at a wall of text. Keep the text minimal, and be prepared to elaborate orally on the pictures or diagrams your poster includes.
- Keep it simple! Avoid mixing different fonts or using too many different color schemes—clean and simple is always best.
- Get creative! A poster is usually more compelling when it’s combined with some other kind of visual display, like a computer simulation, short video, etc. A laptop set up in front of the poster itself can be used very effectively and cheaply this way.
- Seek advice! If you have contacts with students or faculty in a biology or physics department, why not ask them about how to prepare a poster? Or try one of the many online resources, such as Colin Purrington’s Designing Conference Posters site (see below)
- You’re already an expert! If you’ve ever created a slide show with PowerPoint, Keynote, or OpenOffice’s Impress (free), then you already know everything you need to know to make a poster. Presentation applications like these can format large slides (48″ by 36″ or bigger). Once you have your template, fill it with images and text no smaller than about 24 points. Save or export your file to PDF for best results, and then take it or send it to be printed.
- Be prepared! Don’t forget pushpins or adhesive strips. Consider offering handouts about your poster and don’t forget to provide your contact information on it. Have your CV and business cards ready to pass out. Make sure people can contact you in the future.
Some links for more information and services
Read about the experiences of Roger Turner in creating his poster on weather cartoons at the 2008 History of Science Society Annual Meeting. This article was originally in the January 2009 Newsletter of the History of Science Society.
(Provided for informational purposes only. Neither HSS nor GECC endorse or guarantee any of the products or services advertised)
Help with design and planning
- Poster Genius is software for Windows and Mac to create scholarly posters. Many of the services listed below will work with Poster Genius documents or you can translate them to PDF. Emphasis is on scientific research, but clever historians of science can likely make the transition.
- Graphic designer Colin Purrington has helpful suggestions for designing a simple scholarly poster, complete with template. This site concentrates on scientific content, but poster formatting is essentially the same.
- Poster and presentation resources from the University of North Carolina. (Excellent list of other resources at other universities)
- Creating Posters for the Humanities and Social Sciences by Marilyn Levine at Eastern Oregon University. (A bit dated)
Internet based printing services that offer some software support and deliver.
- Mimeo.com offers quick digital printing of pdfs and delivers them quickly to your home or conference. Offers overnight shipping for some orders.
- Poster Presentations offers free estimates and free templates for a variety of sizes and formats. They also offer hand out printing and sell a variety of poster accessories such as travel tubes.
- Kinko’s offers digital printing in a variety of formats and sizes. Contacting the store near a conference will cut down on cost and delivery time.
- PhD Posters prints from a variety software packages and offers help with converting files.