Powerful Poster Presentations: Design Carefully

This week, meteorology students are attending the American Meteorological Society’s annual conference in New Orleans. Many of them will be presenting scientific posters that took them a lot of time to design. A crucial step in creating a poster is to consider the layout that will be easy for the audience to understand and to grasp while casually walking by.

To design an effective poster, it’s usually best to arrange the components using columns instead of rows. Often a three-column format is used because this allows more readers at one time.

By following general reading and viewing patterns, generally from left to right, and top to bottom, readers’ expectations will work to allow your poster to be predictable in a good way. In other words, they’ll find the movement from one section to another without having to think much about how to navigate among the sections.

Lead with the most important information.

For example, place the information that sets up the overall content in positions 1 and 2. This could be the introduction and the objectives of the research. Use the middle positions (3 and 4) for results, usually conveyed with large graphics (e.g., tables, illustrations, photos, graphs).  Think of them as your centerpiece; use them to pull in viewers.

Positions 5 and 6 are well suited for the discussion and conclusions. The references and acknowledgements are usually at the bottom of the poster, but can be left, centered, or right depending on the overall layout. If necessary, numbers or arrows may be used to lead the reader through the poster too.

Of course, many layouts are possible. This is just one example. It’s important to remember that designing the layout of your poster is key to clarity and ease with readability. To keep your audience reading, you’ll need to consider content and design as thoroughly as you ponder the question “Am I a man or a Muppet?”

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