I want to talk a little bit about how to get started. There is a lot of technical aspects of creating a poster, and I just want to give you an overview.
The first thing is just to prepare. Talk to your colleagues and find an existing poster template. Someone has a template that you can use. Do try to figure out if there are specific requirements. Every conference has them listed in a page. Often large institutions have requirements, also.
Maybe you have to use specific icons, or even specific fonts. Some institutions have templates that you have to use. This is stuff that you just have to ask around, and it’s better that you get these types of templates early. These templates will also help you understand which software you might use, which is really the next important decision to make. If you’re starting out, you likely will have years of making posters, and hopefully decades if you choose to be a scientist. So really think about the software you want to use. I’m encouraging everyone to use open source software these days.
I personally shifted over to Inkscape. I’ve been using GIMP for a number of years. Inkscape is a vector format drawing program, which basically means you can scale items. And GIMP is a way to work with images. It’s kind of the equivalent of Photoshop. And just to be clear I really do like the commercial programs. I’m really a PowerPoint fan, I’ve used Illustrator. These are all great. If you have them available in your labs I highly recommend them. However, you don’t need them. The second consideration is if you’re moving labs soon, like maybe you’re an undergraduate and you’re about to go to graduate school, having tools in a format that you can reuse things even after you move I think is really helpful. Like you may be asked to go back in your work.
Quick tips on software
Quick tips on software, pick one, try not to use too many, and really learn the details.
I’ve found many people get stuck at the 11th hour trying to finish a poster and get stuck on formatting. So the more you learn the better it will be for you. Now, the second area that I think you really want to think about before you even get started, is what is going to be in the poster. I am a fan of outlines. Take a second, write an outline. And the outline should be like a story. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. The sections really will follow the abstract. And once again, in COVID times you really want to reduce the amount of information you’re going to talk about. The format will likely be online for a little while yet.
Focus one story, one theme, and it’s the most important theme. And it should lead to a conclusion of what comes next. So what is it that this great gem that it’s gonna allow some new research that maybe impact people? Or shifts to field in a direction, maybe it points to new methods. Knowing what your final point is really important, because as you build your poster, and you build your oral presentation to the poster, you want there to be a great story.
Pick the most important point, start with an outline. And this is something that you could share with your colleagues for feedback. Depending on your relationship with your mentor, or your availability of your mentor, this is the type of preparation work that you could share with them in key moments, maybe at your weekly meeting. I’m thinking about these things.
What do you think? Do you have specific advice for me? Making the poster presentation process interactive as much as possible is a great opportunity to connect with your mentors and your colleagues. So that’s my getting started guide and thank you.