Seven Suggestions on How to Make an Awesome* Poster

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Seven Suggestions on How to Make an Awesome* Poster

*People’s preferences vary for posters, so make sure you get expert opinions before you print.


Brad R. Conrad, PhD, Directory of Society of Physics Students and Sigma Pi Sigma

A generic poster template with tips.

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1. Tailor your presentation to your audience!

Experts within the field

  • Shorter background
  • Identify field significance
  • Key results
  • Highlight new techniques


  • Stress background
  • Clear presentation
  • Detailed processes & data analysis

General public

  • Strong background
  • Clear motivation
  • Relate to their background
  • Answer a clear question

2. Select a goal for your poster

  • Your poster is a visual guide to reference while you present.
  • The poster should not distract the audience but instead be a tool to transfer information.
  • If the poster is meant to hang in a hallway or lab for a long time, it is OK to include more detail.

3. Purpose

  • Posters are well-suited for presenting a logical argument to a small number of people.
  • Conversations often end up being bidirectional and people will be talking to you, not reading the poster very much.
  • Posters are fantastic for in-depth, technical discussions.
  • Develop a clear, singular message.
  • Identify what you want your audience to take away.

4. Figures & Phrases

  • Figures should be large, clear, and well labeled.
  • People will not read paragraphs of text.
  • Use phrases and bullet points.
  • Keep text to the essentials
  • Include only just enough information for someone to follow along if you are not there.

5. Professionalism

  • Don’t ignore anyone.
  • Let people ask you questions.
  • Don’t speak over them.
  • Never eat while presenting.
  • Don’t have note cards.
  • Thank people for speaking with you.

6. Focal points

  • Motivation – Provide a clear motivation for your research.
  • Make sure you have all the necessary figures You never want to think in the middle of your poster session, “Oh, I wish I had a figure which explained that.”
  • You need to practice your poster explanation several times. Ask both colleagues & non-experts.

7. Design

  • Posters are read left to right, top to bottom.
  • Three column designs are common (see figure).
  • Less is more. Stick to the message.
  • Results and conclusion go on the right side of a poster.
  • Put references and acknowledgments at the bottom.
  • Either make all your own figures (preferred), or cite them appropriately. Avoid plagiarism.
  • Favor graphs over tables.

For more information on preparing an effective presentation, see “Preparing an Effective Presentation," also in this issue.

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