How to create a great research poster

Taken from University of Michigan Center for Research and Learning

Your research is only as good as you can present it.  Presenting a poster at a conference is an important way to gain experience presenting research and is a great way to demonstrate your motivation to medicine or your specialty of choice.  (It also looks good on your CV, but you knew that already).  There are a couple steps required to presenting research at a conference


  1. Conduct good quality research
  2. Submit an abstract to the conference of your choice (make sure you know the deadlines, as these are sometimes nearly a year prior to the conference)
  3. Design a high quality poster
  4. Present your poster at conference

In this post I will only touch on #3 and a tiny bit of #4, conducting good research and writing an interesting abstract are topics for another day.

I recently came across a great article which touches on the specifics of poster presentation: formatting, fonts, graphs, colors, sizes, logos, etc.  (link)  The author explains in detail how to grab viewers attention.  I will not go into that much detail, so please see the link for specific information.  I use that article as a reference whenever I work on a new poster.

Click here to go to an indepth article about creating a great research poster

Also, if you are looking for a generic poster template that you can start with, click here.  This is a standard, three column template that is clean and organized. Be sure to customize it so it does not look like a generic template when you are done.

Click here to download a generic poster template in powerpoint.

The most important thing to remember when you are designing your poster is this: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.  Most of these people are not really interested in your research, no one can read every poster at these conferences so it is up to you to grab their attention.  With this in mind, here are my top five recommendations…

  1. Learn from the Experts: peruse award winning posters from previous years at the conference you will be attending.  Often conferences will make these posters available to the public.  There is no better way to learn than to use ideas from those who are already succeeding
  2. Keep it Simple Stupid: No one likes a busy poster, passerbys will simply pass her by.  Keep the format clean with regular sized text (size 20-40 depending on font).  No tiny text and no crazy fonts.
  3. Know the conference standards:  It is really hard to take a poster seriously when it is 4′ by 6′ but needed to be mounted on a 3′ by 5′ presentation area.
  4. Know your Research: You will often be asked to summarize your poster.  Why can’t they just read it themselves?  I have no idea.  Be prepared to summarize quickly or more in depth, depending on what the individual is looking for.
  5. Dress for Success: If you look professional and attractive, you are bound to attract more business. If I see an individual who can not present himself or herself well, I certainly am not going to take the time to figure out if they can present their research well.


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