Designing a Poster Presentation

Original Editor - Amanda Ager

Top Contributors - Ewa Jaraczewska, Kim Jackson, Amanda Ager and Jess Bell  

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Communicating science through a poster presentation is essential in any clinician’s or researcher’s career.[1] Posters are engaging and can encourage further research into the presented topic. Discussions in front of the poster often initiate scientific collaboration and future projects. This article discusses the process of designing a poster presentation. It can serve as a reference guide in all tasks involving poster presentation.

Before Designing a Poster[edit | edit source]

Step One: Identify a conference[edit | edit source]

Take the time to identify a conference, event or meeting that interests you, where you can showcase your work. Be aware of "scams" or "predatory" conferences and events. Make sure you do your due diligence and research the conference or event. If unsure, ask your colleagues or research supervisors if this is a credible place to showcase your poster.

Step Two: Plan the presentation[edit | edit source]

The first step to preparing a poster for a conference is to know what message you want to convey in your poster. You may wish to report a case study, describe a new programme or report your findings from a systematic review or study. You may have some research findings to report or a research protocol for an intended future project.

Step Three: Write an abstract[edit | edit source]

Many conferences or events require you to present your work initially as an abstract. It will help the organisers judge your presentation's merit and assign a format to your submission (for example, a symposium, guided discussion, podium presentation, poster presentation or e-poster).

An abstract is, in essence, a summary of the work. It will help highlight the most important aspects of the work and help plan the poster presentation. Typically, there are instructions concerning the abstract structure, whether the author should use sub-headings, font type, font size, or word count. The essential quality of the abstract is that it is clear and concise. It should include the most important details concerning the work and avoid its fine details. Included is a limited number of references.

An example of a typical abstract structure:

  • Title: This should be clear, concise, eye-catching, and punchy.
  • Background: This section needs to use only the critical background literature to provide context for the subsequent work reported.
  • Aims/purpose: This needs to give the reader an impression of the aim/purpose of the research and what they should expect to learn from reading the poster.
  • Methods: Key information regarding the methods used/proposed should be highlighted here. Typically, this would include some mention of the participants involved (the sample), equipment and procedures and timescales over which the study took place.
  • Results: This section often presents key results. Statistical support is preferred, but endless lists of mean values and associated p-values should be avoided. Be selective and make sense that the results selected for the presentation fit well with the general story conveyed within the abstract.
  • Conclusion: This section wraps up the story to convey the most influential interpretation of the results and to make any critical suggestions for relevance to the field or further work that needs to be carried out. Avoid finishing with 'further research is now required' as often this is obvious and superfluous to the overall story.
  • Word count of abstract: typically 250 -300 words

You can learn more about writing an abstract here.

Designing a Poster[edit | edit source]

General rules[edit | edit source]

  • Do not overly embellish the poster with formatting and pictures
  • Keep the information to a minimum
  • State key points rather than complete sentences (use bullet points)
  • The poster must be legible from a distance (at a minimum of 1 metre away)
  • Use one-and-a-half or double spacing
  • Avoid italic text or difficult-to-read text

Font[edit | edit source]

  • Font size: The conference or event may specify this; however, generally, for the main body, size 24-48 pts is used for text and size 72-120 pts for titles.
  • Types of the font: The font should be legible, like • Times New Roman • Arial • Garamond • Berkeley UC Davis Medium. Do not use illegible fonts like • Brush Script •. Use the same font throughout your poster. Use a sans serif font (such as Arial), which is much easier to read. It can be effective to use a different typeface for headings and subheadings. Helpful hint: If you print your poster on a standard sheet of paper, you should be able to read all of it - including text in figures - comfortably. If you can't, your text is too small.
  • Suggested Font Sizes by Section: do not use less than 16 pt. Font
  • Title: 72-120 pt.
  • Subtitle: 48-80 pt.
  • Section headers: 36-72 pt.
  • Body text: 24-48 pt.

Word count[edit | edit source]

Refer to the congress or event guidelines for a suggested word count. It is typically provided on their website or in submission guidelines. If the word count is not provided, here is a recommended word count per poster section.

Poster Element Suggested Word Count Other Details
Poster Size -A0(831x1189mm)



Check conference standards for poster size &orientation
Title 8-15 words -Short and draws attention

-Font size: 72-120 pt.

Subtitles 5-10 words -Font size: 48-80 pt.
Authors/Affiliations n/a -Full names (credentials & affiliations of each author)

-Logos of institutions/universities/clinics

Introduction/Background 100 words -Section header:36-72 pt.(applies to all sections)

-Body Text: 24-48 pt.(applies to all sections)

Methods/Objectives 100 words -Bullet format

-Short & precise

Results 100 words -Figure(s) or Table(s):1-2

-Images or graphs, keep captions between 25-100 words

Discussion 100 words -Figure(s) or Table(s): 1-2
References 3-5 references -Keep them brief: author, year, title , and DOI.
Other Total word count of poster:

800-1000 words

-QR code to resources

-Acknowledgments, funding & ethical approval

Logos[edit | edit source]

Remember to advertise your institution and your affiliations. Always include the clinic, university, or funding logos. Use high-quality images. Ask the institution for a high-quality image, preferably without a background. Do not simply cut and paste a logo from the internet. There is a high probability that the image will be poor quality, low-resolution, and pixelated once printed.

Poor-quality logo images make the poster look poor quality.

Colour[edit | edit source]

Stick to one or two colours for the main text; otherwise, the poster may look too busy. It is also vital to check colours in advance where you wish to print your poster, as certain colours may come out differently than expected.

Selecting colours from a colour wheel to produce a harmonious effect can help increase readability. The three primary palettes to look at are: Complimentary, Monochromatic, and Analogous. The choice of colour is not simply about personal preferences but the most professional and best representation of the work.

Complementary Colours[edit | edit source]

Complementary colours are two colours on opposite sides of the colour wheel, for example, yellow and purple, blue and orange, and red and green. Pairs of complementary colours include one cool colour and one warm colour. Simultaneous contrast occurs due to a natural illusion when two complementary colours are placed side by side. As a result, both colours will appear brighter and grab a viewer's attention.

Complementary colour wheel.png

Monochromatic Colours[edit | edit source]

Monochrome means one colour. Monochrome colours are all the varieties of a single hue - including different tints, shades, and tones. A monochromatic colour scheme will range between lighter and darker versions of the base colour or hue. For example, using green as the primary colour and employing various shades of green on the poster to create different sections, shadings and effects. A monochromatic design is perfect for creating visual cohesion.

Monochromatic colour wheel.png

Analogous Colours[edit | edit source]

Analogous colour palettes create incredibly harmonious designs that are easy to look at. Colours on an analogous wheel are next to each other on the wheel, such as blue, blue-green, and green. They usually match well and create comfortable designs. In addition, analogous colour schemes are often found in nature and are harmonious and pleasing to the eye.

Analogous-colour wheel.png

Look at design websites or YouTube videos to learn more about colour theory. Then, take your time to plan your design. Your colour choices will be fundamental to the impact of your poster.

Contrast[edit | edit source]

Use the following elements to build contrast into your poster:

  • Size
  • Position
  • Colour
  • Texture (i.e. dots in your graphs)
  • Shape (of your text boxes, for example)
  • Orientation
  • Images
  • Texture (i.e. dots in your graphs)
  • Shape (of your text boxes, for example)
  • Orientation
  • Images

Printing a Poster[edit | edit source]

The final step is to print the poster. This step includes the following activities and warnings:

  • Be aware of printing timescales.
  • Contact your local printing service to know their turnaround time.
  • Choose the paper: the weight of the paper will determine how expensive the print is and how robust the poster is to travel (the thicker, the more robust). Fabric posters are easier to transport and hang up. Fabric posters can be more expensive than paper posters.
  • Consider lamination: it serves as an additional protective layer to the poster, typically increasing the lifespan of your poster, making it more resistant to rain but heavier to transport and more expensive.
  • Always make your poster "actual size". Do not simply open Powerpoint (or similar software) and make your poster - enter the dimensions and then make it - this makes the design process much easier, and the final print is much better as any images are printed "as seen" rather than being scaled up by ~400%.
  • If possible, send a PDF version of your poster with fonts embedded; if this is not possible, stick to standard fonts. Another common problem is that fonts and text "move around" the design - sending a PDF file can minimise the risk of this happening.

Standard academic poster sizes are A0 (841x1189mm), A1 (594x841mm) and A2 (420x594mm), but posters can be produced to any size up to 1250mm wide and as long as 15 metres.

Once printed, carry the poster in a carry tube (paper) or a small box (fabric). If travelling by air, it should be in your hand luggage. If the conference organisers fail to specify how the poster will be mounted, it is advisable to take adhesive tape, pins/tacks, scissors, or Velcro.

Resources[edit | edit source]

  1. Making an Impact with your Poster (University of Liverpool, 2012)
  2. Selecting images and accessing non-copyright images
  3. Gundogan B, Koshy K, Kurar L, Whitehurst K. How to make an academic poster. Ann Med Surg (Lond). 2016 Sep 6;11:69-71.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Erren TC, Bourne PE. Ten simple rules for a good poster presentation. PLoS Comput Biol. 2007 May;3(5):e102.