How to create a better research poster in less time (including templates)

How to create a better research poster in less time (including templates)

Every year, at hotels all over the world,
scientists from every field in science flock to these giant academic conferences.
They’re like WOODSTOCK for geeks in that field. Scientists go to these conferences to learn about the new research going on in their field, and to share the work they’re doing with everybody else. And to drink and hang out with friends from other universities who they don’t get to see very often. So it’s like a big, social knowledge update for the whole field. And at most all of these conferences there’s something called a poster session. And poster sessions are where researchers share findings that didn’t fit into bigger sessions or bigger presentations. Scientists take some new research finding some new truth about the world… …and they try to explain it on this giant poster. These poster sessions are one of the main ways that scientists share knowledge with each other. And they have the potential to be
this really great experience… …for both the person presenting the poster, and the person walking around looking at all the posters. But in reality scientists have
mixed feelings about poster sessions. A lot of us go into poster sessions
feeling like, kind of optimistic, and then we come out feeling like disappointed and underwhelmed. And here’s why. First, here’s what it feels like to present a
poster. If you’re going to be the person presenting the poster, you’re first thinking like “oh this will be great.” I’ll put all this work that I’m really
passionate about on this big beautiful poster. And people will walk by it and be
like “oh cool research!” And I’ll be like “oh you think so? Let’s talk about!” And then we’ll have this really engaging conversation we’re like *I* learned things,
and THEY learned things. And other people will walk by and like “oh great research,” and they’ll get to learn what I’m doing. And I’ll feel like I’m getting to share
what I’m doing with the world and with other scientists. And sometimes. Like, very, very rarely; you will get like HALF of that experience.
But that’s the BEST case. Most of the time, you’re standing by your poster all eager… While people just walk by you
and don’t even look at your poster,
as if you don’t exist, while you try to like STARE THEM DOWN out of desperation. Like, “Please, SOMEONE, RESPOND TO MY WORK.” And then the whole hour the poster session goes by and no one has even — not even not just ENGAGED with your poster — but no one has LOOKED at your poster. Then you just take your poster down, and you look at it, and you remember that it cost $100 to print… …and then you throw it away. And then you
think “Maybe my research wasn’t that interesting anyway.” and “That was a complete waste of time” Now, here’s how it feels to ATTEND a poster session. The experience of attending a poster session and walking around trying to learn from
all the posters, can be even worse than it is for the presenter. OK, it’s not WORSE than it is for the presenter. Nothing’s worse than presenting a poster session. But it’s still pretty bad. Again, you start off with very high hopes. You picture yourself walking through and like BREATHING IN all the latest research in your field. Learning stuff you never thought to think about before,
and really just like getting more enlightened as a scientist and getting
all new ideas for the stuff you’re doing. But it never, ever works out that way. In reality, most the time you walk in and
there’s all these presenters standing there
by all their posters and they’re like locking eyes with you and watching you
as you pass because they’re all so bored and desparate for you to engage with
them and like validate their research. And their posters are just like walls of
incomprehensible text that you can’t interpret very quickly. So what you do is
you kind of like avoid the too intense eye contact of the presenters while
trying to quickly and surreptitiously scan the titles of the posters. Trying to
get an idea of one or two you might want to check out. And the title of the poster just sort of gives you a general idea of what the study did. Like, the research question they asked. Not even the answer. It’s kind of abstract and a little too
technical, but if you can get the general idea, then maybe you engage with the
poster, and try to get closer, and try to figure out what they did, and try to LEARN something So you found a poster that you’re kind of interested in and you walk up closer to get a general idea and scan it and read it and try to learn
the core insight from it. But while you’re doing that the desperate
presenter, who’s standing like two feet away from you and staring at you, notices
you looking at their poster. And they’re like “Any questions? Any questions?! Let me know if you have questions!!!” And then you feel like you want to be polite, so you talk to the presenter. And maybe you have a pretty good conversation and you learn about what’s on the poster and you eventually learn that key punchline of
the study after you’ve asked a bunch of follow-up questions. But you end up staying at the poster longer than you need to. Even past the point of learning
what you wanted from it. Because you’re in a conversation! You don’t want to be rude to just cut the presenter off. But meanwhile, like this is taking a lot of
time. You usually have less than an hour to browse all the posters. And that’s if you showed up on time. Which you didn’t. So the minutes are going by while you’re
having this conversation and doing all these social niceties and trying to
figure out a polite way to exit the conversation. And usually after just ONE of these conversations, you realize that time is limited and you’ve got to like
skim harder and avoid eye contact harder So you breeze through the rest of the
posters. Maybe stop at one more. But you’re really, really desperately
skimming now. So you’re forced to adopt a strategy, where you spend a lot of time at one or maybe even two posters… maybe even past the point where you’ve gotten the insight you wanted. And then you’ve used up most of your time, so you have to skip around and breeze through the rest of the posters and barely even read the titles. And then you leave the poster session feeling a little disappointed uneasy, but still trying to convince yourself
that it was productive. Like, “oh I’m super glad I spent 35 minutes talking about that one poster that I wasn’t even super interested in” “That was a good use of my time. It was.” “I’m sure there was nothing on ANY of the other posters that was remotely relevant
to me…” So the point is you may have had one good conversation — or two maybe — but you didn’t really learn as much as you had hoped to learn from the whole
session. And you wonder what insights you might have missed on all those other posters you didn’t have time to get to. So this all kind of sucks for you when
you walk around trying to learn from the posters… And it also sucks when you’re
the presenter trying to make an impact with your poster that nobody’s looking at. But there’s something much more sinister going wrong here… And that’s that when you’re walking around trying to learn from this poster session and you’re only able to interact with one or two posters, you’re MISSING all the insight from the posters you had to breeze by and skim. And these missed insights are all like part of your field you’re supposed to know all of this
stuff. A lot of them probably apply to the scientific problems you’re wrestling
with in some direct or tangential way. And you’re missing them! You’re only getting like one or two points before time runs out and you gotta leave. So not only are poster sessions kind of a lackluster experience for everybody involved, but they’re also really inefficient at transferring knowledge to people walking through the poster sessions. And that means it’s slowing down the learning. It’s slowing down scientific progress. Which is actually holding the human race
back in a non insignificant way. That sounds like hyperbole but I actually
mean it. Maybe the research in your field isn’t very important — and I’m in psychology so I get that — but if you’re studying something that people are
suffering from, like cancer or Alzheimer’s or MECFS Like one of those missed posters could contain some finding you hadn’t thought about that triggers a moment of insight that helps you cure that disease sooner than you would have
if you had missed that poster. And all of these missed insights are happening in mass in EVERY single field of science right now. This isn’t just a design frustration.
This is a serious problem (and a serious opportunity). I think a lot of these problems come down to the way we approach designing academic posters.
So let’s see if we can fix that. Okay here’s how the poster “design process”
works…if you can call it a design process… Six months before the conference
you write an essay talking about your research findings that you want to put on your poster.
And then you submit that to the conference, and then hopefully it gets approved,
and then you’re happy because that means your school will pay
for your travel. And then you forget about it, for like five months. Until about two weeks before the conference. And while you’re already worrying about
everything else you have to do for the conference: …plane tickets, packing things like that…it suddenly hits you.
And you’re like “oh…oh…oh shit shit shit shit… I actually have to CREATE the damn poster.” “Uh… crap.” And then you get like really
idealistic. You’re like “you know what, I’m gonna make this the best poster ever!” So you open a blank PowerPoint file and you get started… And then like an hour later you’re like “uh crap nothing’s done and this is going nowhere and I need to get this done and to the printer by 2:00 tomorrow and I don’t have time to do this perfectionistic crap I just gotta like…I need something
done. Now. That doesn’t make me look stupid.” So you desperately email one of your
senior grad student friends and they’re like “No problem. I got you covered. Here’s the poster design I always use!” “It was handed down to me by Susie. Oh you never got to meet Susie… ” “She was one of the senior students that graduated before you got here I was like four years ago” “Susie was amazing. Anyway, this is the
design I always use. It works for me. Hope it helps.” And you’re like “great great
great it’s perfect.” And what you’re really thinking is like “I don’t have time to be original here” “I’ve just got to get this done and to the
printer and it’s my first year of grad school or whatever” “…and I’m kind of afraid of looking unprofessional” “or looking like I don’t know what I’m doing.
I don’t have really time to think this through.” So what do you do in times of uncertainty? You mimic. You copy somebody
else, and that makes you feel safe. So you open up your friend’s template, and then whatever is on that old, hand-me-down poster design, you copy. Like whatever
they did, you do. If they had their entire introduction paragraph copy-and-pasted into this tiny box in the corner, then that’s what YOU do. You take YOUR entire entire introduction paragraph and you put it in that little box! If they display like their full table of correlation coefficients that don’t all really relate to like what their central points are, that’s what you put in
you put in all your correlation that’s what you put in! You put in all YOUR correlation coefficients. That helps fill up space! And then
what you end up with is this monstrosity of a wall of text poster, with like copy-and-pasted bits of your essay squeezed into these templated old boxes with like
your school’s faded header on top from its 25-year old branding scheme. And your
poster just looks like a wall of mess. And SOME part of you is like “Is this
legible? Like nobody can read this.” But that part’s very quiet. The very much
louder part is like “Good. It looks great. And it looks great because it looks like I did something.” It looks like I spent LONGER on this than the rushed hour that I actually spent on it. Now if you have a little extra time on your hands,
you may be able to listen to that “Let’s make this a little more readable” voice. And if you have that kind of time, maybe you like add a nice graph, or turn one section of text into bullet points or something like that, or add a picture. And
I’ve done this. When I first started my Ph.D program, I tried to take an extra
hour with a poster and improve the usability of it a little bit. So here’s
one of my first posters. I had like a “so what” box, and icons and pictures for everything, but it’s still just a wall of text in the same old format. And then there are these like unicorn posters. These are the posters that you seen ONE
of at every conference if you’re lucky. And they’re beautiful. They’re like
infographics, and they’re designed by either like professional applied firms,
or grad students who WERE designers before coming to grad school… or they
used templates or paid somebody. And these infographic style posters make you feel completely inadequate. You’re like “man, my poster should look like that — THAT’s a good poster.” BUT THEY’RE STILL NOT. They’re still just a wall of
PRETTY things that you can’t interpret very quickly. And they’re cardinal sin is that
they expect people to be up close and reading them. The cardinal sin of every
poster I’ve seen — INCLUDING the posters I’ve designed myself — is that we assume
people are gonna like stand there and read our posters in silence for 10
straight minutes, following the order of the sections we laid out. And when we design them, WE’RE sitting up close to them, reading them in order. So we design them for THAT kind of user experience; for a context that’s really different
from how people actually read posters at poster sessions. Really, the ACCURATE way
to design your poster, based on how they’re actually used, would be to project your PowerPoint file on a wall at full size and walk past it over and over again, and improve the design for the experience of learning while walking by. But none of us do that. Like watch: here are beautiful,
infographic-style posters. They’re gonna move past you at walking speed. Try to read them. Did you catch anything? Besides the title? Did you even catch the title? To learn anything from the infographic format, You have to walk up and spend a
lot of time with it. BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT INFOGRAPHICS ARE DESIGNED FOR. They’re designed to sustain your attention while you’re right up next to it for 5-10 minutes, reading it on your own in silence. Infographics aren’t the right
goal for scientific posters Because we just don’t spend that much time with most posters. if anything, a BILLBOARD is a better design analogy, because THOSE are designed to transmit information as you move past them. So what SHOULD an academic poster look like? I think an ideal academic poster should accomplish three goals… First, we want to maximize the amount of insight transferred to attendees in the poster session. If you’re attending a poster session, we
want to make it easy for you to interact with every poster in some way. So that you could conceivably learn the insight that every single poster in a session has to offer in less than 50 minutes. Second, we want keep the good stuff. We still want to leave time for having good conversations and getting deep insight about any single poster, if you want to. And THIRD, we have to accomplish these goals in a way that is AS LAZY (or lazier) for grad students and scientists to create posters with the new design under time pressure and with no free mental bandwidth. Even if this new approach to
designing posters cures cancer faster, if it’s not easier for scientists to create
than what they’re currently doing it’ll never happen. So we have to make it easy
so that it’s both the RIGHT way to do it and the FAST way to do it. So let’s get started. Okay so let’s get into the right frame of mind here. We’re gonna start things off with one of the most famous quotes in all of design. Here it goes. Perfection is not when you have nothing to add… It’s when you have nothing to
take away. Good designs start with something very very minimal — like a core thing — and they work from there. So that’s what we’re gonna do.
And for that core thing we’re gonna follow the biggest, most reliable rule in all of usability research. You put a lot of effort into what people need to know… and then you include the stuff that’s nice to know last. So here’s a blank academic poster. What is the minimum, need-to-know piece of information that should go on here if we could only put ONE thing on it? Well that’s probably like the main finding of the study right? So we need a finding. I’m gonna use a
real finding for my friend Jacob’s study. Jacob very bravely sent me his poster
and let me use it for the video. THANK YOU JACOB. And you probably can’t tell
from this poster, but Jacob’s study is actually really cool and important. But that coolness and that importance is lost in this traditional academic poster
format. So we’re gonna take this and we’re gonna redesign it. And we’re gonna start by grabbing the main finding — the core takeaway of this study — and putting it on our blank poster. So let’s see… what’s the main finding of this study…what’s the main finding… SEE THIS IS THE PROBLEM I’M TALKING ABOUT. It’s taking me way too damn long to find the main takeaway from this study which is pretty representative of the problem here. And that has NOTHING to do with this poster. EVERY poster in science like this. OK. So after reading this entire poster I think the main finding is this bit right here “We found consistent differential validity for some non-cognitive measures for predicting international student GPA,
specifically with SJ T’s, continuous learning, social responsibility, and
perseverance. So let’s put that on the poster. And then we’re gonna change the
background color. You can use your school’s color if you want to, but I think it would be extra efficient to use colors that prime people’s expectations
about what type of poster they’re about to see. Because they’ll notice the color
first. Like we could use green for empirical studies because they’re the most common, blue for theory, red for methods… and yellow, the most attention-getting color, for that rare and wonderful intervention
study. So this is already better, but it sounds kind of technical to anybody who doesn’t specialize in the sub feel that this relates to, which is selection or hiring decisions. Which is fine for an academic paper where people can go back
and look up terms they don’t know. BUT WE DON’T HAVE THAT KINDA TIME. People are walking by in five seconds. WE GOTTA PUNCH IT IN THEIR BRAIN. And research on usability writing shows that plain language is interpreted faster, and gets people’s attention better. So the most efficient thing we can put on this poster is actually a plain language version of our main finding. So we’re going to say for international students, perseverance and a sense of social responsibility are extra important for predicting first-year GPA. Now this kind of makes sense, right? Nnow you’re getting this whole story popping into your mind. But what if we’re presenting a poster, and somebody comes up and asks us a
question we don’t know the answer to? Like, “give me your full list of
predictors and all the correlations.” What about those figures and tables that give us that sense of safety and the ability to answer questions for that we’re gonna
add something called an ammo bar ammo bar is just gonna be a column on the
right side or whatever side you plan to stand on and you’re gonna copy and paste
all of your miscellaneous figures and tables and stuff that you need for
answering questions into that bar you’re not gonna spend any time worrying about
the design or layout of this section because it’s just for you to use treat
it as your scratch board make it as ugly and as fast as you can it’s just there
so you can point to things when somebody walks up and talks to you now what if
you’re already talking to somebody and you’re showing them things in your ammo
bar and somebody else walks up and wants to learn more about your study but
doesn’t want to interrupt you well for them we’re gonna add a sidebar on the
left we’re gonna call this our silent presenter bar in the silent prisoner bar
you’re gonna do all the stuff you normally do on an academic poster but
you’re gonna worry about the layout of it a little less go ahead and follow the
old intro methods results format copy and paste bits of your essay or add
bullets and graphs if you have time just sort of give people an overview of the
paper as if they were going to be standing there and reading it silently
but in one to four minutes not 10 to 15 these side bars are key to this design
because with the ammo bar and the silent presenter bar together we really have
almost as much information on this new design as we had on the traditional
design it’s just arranged much more efficiently
but what if somebody wants a lot more information a lot more than you can even
put on your poster and doesn’t have time to read it or talk to you these are the
people that sometimes like snap pictures of your poster well for these people
we’re gonna add a QR code that links to your full paper and a copy of the poster
these QR codes look scary but they are stupidly easy to create just Google
create a QR code you’ll do it in a second and every phone can
read them like if you take out your phone right now and take a picture of
this QR code on the screen it’ll automatically know it’s taking a picture
of a QR code and follow the link so this last QR code feature lets you snap a
picture of any poster and instantly get a copy of the whole poster and the paper
so now with this QR code option we’re actually providing an option to get even
more information than traditional designs allow for and doing it in a way
that lets attendees choose how much information they want to get instead of
being flooded in design this is called the principle of progressive disclosure
so here’s our final design now there are more things we could do with this like
if you have a really important graph or an image that needs to go in the center
you could move the QR code over it only needs to be about five inches big to be
read you could also add your own creative flair with images and stuff but
for now let’s look at the design in its simplest form let’s look at a before and
after so in the next screen a few real academic posters are going to move past
you at a walking pace see how much information you can absorb now try these
same posters you just saw translated to the new design now this is gonna be a
little unbelievable and jarring at first because when people see this they don’t
believe that these clear findings came from the posters they just saw but they
did this is how detached current scientific poster design is from
actually communicating what you need to know here we go you absorbed more right you got the gist
of probably every poster if you wanted to know more you could still walk up and
talk or read the silent presenter bar or just scan the QR code and keep walking
so this new design meets our goals it helps transfer insight more
efficiently by leading with the main finding and making it big and obvious
and in plain language you can still walk up and have good conversations with
people and for our third goal and I hope you can tell from looking at it but this
approach is way easier for grad students to create you can create this poster
design in much less time than you’re spending on your current method so let’s
look at the presenter experience now everybody who walks by it looks at your
poster at least because looking at your poster is less effortful and it’s more
rewarding to look which is already an improvement and now people who walk by
can engage with your poster quickly by snapping a QR code which still makes you
feel good if you see somebody do it and you still get those conversations
perhaps even more of them because your hook is better and now look at the
attendee experience you get that feeling of breathing and insight as you walk
past and you have more options as an attendee to choose your level of
engagement with posters you’re interested in you don’t have to get
trapped in a conversation to learn something from a poster and look at how
it could accelerate learning you can conceivably walk into a poster session
with this design and learn something from every single poster instead of just
one or two if every scientist in every field used a design like this instead of
the crappy old wall of text template they’re using right now it can
accelerate insight and discovery and be more fun for everybody the reason I
spent a year of my life making this cartoon instead of publishing papers
like I’m supposed to be doing is because I really think that it everybody uses a
design like this we could accelerate the pace of science we could cure all
diseases slightly sooner and that’s everything to the people suffering from
them I really believe in this design I know it’s jarring ly different than what
you’re used to using but for what it’s worth when actual designers design
posters and billboards their first advice is to keep it simple and be
comfortable with negative space which this design really does also we’re gonna
do a validation study on this new design so if you’re a researcher and you’re up
for participating in a study to help validate this design get in touch with
me send me an email or hit me up on Twitter I’m at Mike Morrison so please
try it for yourself even if you want to hack it up a little and make it your own
no hyegyo’s there are links below to download PowerPoint templates for these
designs including example posters I’m gonna use this design and all my
conferences going forward and lots of people here in my ph.d program are gonna
try it out too so try it and please let me know how it goes for you now will
retweet any poster selfies you send me thanks for watching

100 thoughts on “How to create a better research poster in less time (including templates)

  1. I love this design! But my conference is insisting on portrait-oriented posters… so can you develop a template for this instance? Probably necessary to be read top to bottom. thanks!

  2. I'm sorry but this will likely be very popular, but discourages detailed scientific discussion or presentation of detail. Making big statements as if they are true and literally pushing all the other stuff off to the side promotes over-simplistic and un-critical thinking in favor of basically selling your poster/self. I think maybe a partial version of this is ok, but those last posters are really over the top

  3. Nice work Mike. I am Global Creative Director at Envision Pharma Group and I even learned from this video (good clear message video as well it must be said). I am going to take this concept and try and take it to the next phase where it will be created by an agency (so allowance for more time and creative skills to be applied, but keeping your theory in play). Once we have some developments, i will send over for your thoughts if this is something you wold be interested in?

  4. Excellent. But don't copy and paste from traditional design into the silent presenter bar. That should take a fair amount of careful thought. The QR code is a good strategy. I'd argue that its main function is to make the presenter feel better – it helps her/him feel validated. But few attendees actually follow the links, even if they snap the codes.

  5. Appropriate if you see posters as billboard (see your NPR interview). I guess if you see conferences as selling meetings, than this is appropriate. However if you see conferences as opportunities to discuss science in a rigorous, deep and scholarly manner, than this is terrible.
    But it seems scholarship becomes increasingly less important than "selling science" or "twitter science". So dumbing it down helps. Sign of the times….

  6. These comments contain the highest density of positivity I have ever seen in my life on the internet. You might have done a good job haha

  7. omg this is brilliant!!!! changing my posters from now on!
    greetings from a psychology cientist from brazil! <3

  8. Thank you for putting this out there.  
    This video was a bit slow to get to the point…. Ironic. But still nicely done.
    The ideas are good, especially the QR code, but the Twitter approach to posters seems to go too far.  
    Here's what I tell my students: 
    1. Always end your poster with simple, clear bullet point conclusions in a super-large font that can be read from 5 feet away. I think that captures the main spirit of your video.
    2. When presenting your poster ALWAYS be respectful of your audience's time. Your presentation should take no more than 3 min to go through without questions. Use the extra time for those who might have questions.

  9. Oh look at this. I'm a designer and a friend asked me to make her research group a poster. I really tried to make the best of it with ALL the information they wanted to cram into it. I advised them to be much more concise and even tried to put some interesting graphics on it. In the end they didn't even use my poster but made a text of wall just like the ones in the video. This really makes me feel validated. Hopefully this is gonna help a lot of people.

  10. Bravo, Mike! Thank goodness for your insight,…will add my suggestions to our component organizations!

  11. What he fails to note is that the posters are up for the entire conference.

    So people should spend hours reading all the posters and use the poster session only to meet the presenters

  12. Great! In the spirit of your message: cut this video to 1/3. Also, watch the “like” “kinda” and “sort-of” fillers. Way distracting

  13. 17:59 "Now people walking by can engage in your poster by snapping a OR code, which still makes you feel good…"
    Is that what you call scientific engagement ? Snapping a QR? Or is discussing science and learning something new in a fund scholarly way an outdated scientific engagement ?
    If watching somebody snapping yory QR code makes you feel better than discussing data, methods, and interpretations, you may want to consider whether science is the best filed for you.

  14. Yes, these poster are made faster. But assembling a good poster is useful work because it is an opportunity to THINK about your data. What is most important, what is core, what is the best logical flow. What are the real conclusions that best fit the data? You discuss these with your colleagues and mentor while you make you poster. It is educational and it makes your science better.
    Everybody who has written a scientific paper knows the what this process is: The thinking gets deeper, more focused by writing the project up. Making a good poster is like writing a small paper, or the first step towards it.
    Well if you think that is wasted time, then perhaps science is not the right field for you.
    This whole video so misses the point of why one makes a poster, why one goes to meetings, what science is all about.
    Last not least, the principles are nothing new. Its just blown out of proportions and presented as some new revolutionary way. Adding soem QR and soem twitter nonsense. Maybe because of marketing issues or just out of ignorance.

  15. For a more mature version of how to make a good poster, see, for example, this 7 year old article in Nature.

  16. What is the goal (outcome) of your redesign? (get attention? communicate? stimulate curiosity? etc.)
    Did you test you test the redesign? If so, what were the results?

  17. You literally made my life better. Procrastination + Worry Wort. But I downloaded template and created my poster in so quickly!

  18. The large format poster is a visual medium, so I see both the common wall-of-text problem you presented and your proposed big text solution as equal misapplications of the medium. Show me big maps, process diagrams, CAD drawings, annotated photographs, etc. and bring copies of your paper (or a QR coded link if you prefer) so I can access the text. Also, I disagree with many of the assumptions underlying your thesis, e.g.: a) most presenters are procrastinators and lazy; b) all attendees are procrastinators and lazy (i.e., don't read and select abstracts beforehand); c) the content selection, reduction, and layout process provides no cognitive value to the presenter; and d) findings > the (un)scientific method that generated them.

  19. Pro-tip: Visit the posters when the presenters are not there, so you can look for the key insight. Title, conclusions, introduction, ….

  20. I think you are really misstating the purpose of a poster session for an attendee from the start. The purpose of a poster session should not be, as you state at the beginning, to try and gain knowledge and insight from every single poster. If you were to actually do that, the knowledge you gain would be only superficial and entirely dependent on researchers accurately presenting their findings (which they sometimes fail to do). The purpose of a poster session, in my experience, is to give you a chance to interact with a select few posters and scientists who are researching in fields similar to yours, and get a deeper understanding of what they are doing, how they are doing it, and to see their findings before they make it into a publication. By making all the graphs and data really small and shoving it to one side of the poster, you are essentially saying "don't look too closely at what I've done, none of the underlying data is that important, what's important is my big conclusion that may or may not be correct". That's the exact wrong solution. A better solution to the current problems with poster sessions is for presenters to do a better job of creating titles for their posters that summarizes their work. That is actually what you do with several of the posters, where the "key point" that you put in the middle of the poster should actually be the title of the poster from the get go.

  21. A wise psych professor told me 25 years ago “you can never have too few words on a poster” and I’ve always stuck to that. So I’ve been using minimal words plus QR codes for a while now, it’s definitely the way to go. I hardly ever stop at a wall-of-text poster and can never believe that people really still do that!

    I like this idea but have two fears: now everyone uses the same template and it becomes hard to stand out (possible); and the other I have already seen on your RTs, which is people are making the side bars too big (splitting into thirds instead of narrow bands at the side) – this seems to defeat the purpose and makes it look like a wall-of-text with engineering issues 😉

    The practice definitely is long overdue a shake-up though and if this even gets people thinking twice about their design your job is done.

  22. Not a very good example of how to present your idea in video. The first 10 minutes are a waste of time.
    The new design itself wastes a lot of space. I think it is also ugly, or at least not attractive.

  23. We ran a poster event based on @MikeMorisson design in Toronto, Canada at an Academic Health Science Centre, all 47 posters used the design. Over 200 people engaged the posters, we had 67 attendees complete our exit survey and 68% preferred this new poster design event over the traditional research poster event.

    Here is a short video of the event:

    Thanks Mike for leading this great work!

  24. Thank you for this!! Of course, I stumble on the article about this when I'm at a conference, where of course I'm presenting a poster! I'll be using your template in the future I'm sure! My strategy thus far is to write a title that explains why what I'm presenting matters, I do use a QR code, and I bold key sentences so a person could just read those and get the gist of the whole thing in like ten sentences. I do have some experience and background with marketing communications so I really appreciate the wisdom of this approach. Much needed!! Thank you for a solid dose of much needed common sense Mike!!!!

  25. This video is like the posters we dont like. It is too long and contains too much unnecessary information

  26. This is similar to a chalk talk. I see the point but where is the data? I don't want to read conclusions and statements without being able to judge the quality of the data. I prefer to look at 2-5 good and interesting posters and discuss in detail than just inhaling conclusion punchlines.

  27. Title: I disagree, just make the title the actual conclusion.

    See how it worked? The main problem is that the title is not the actual conclusion.  If the title of each paper had been the conclusion, there would be no problem. Think of a better title before submitting your abstract. 🙂

    When I walk by posters, I read the titles and decide whether to stop.

    If it's an interesting poster, there will be several people crowding the poster, and the details on the left will be too small to read unless you crowd each other out.  QR codes are good, but not true that all phones understand QR codes without an app. (my iPhone 6 doesn't).

  28. The title is supposed to be used as sending the primary message about the work. The content of the poster is needed in the main body of the design so that 1) you can have a detailed information about the research and 2) the poster should be stand-alone sufficient so that the content and conclusions can be gleaned without the presenter being present. The problem is not with the poster, the problem is with scientist being able to distil their work quickly enough to give the main conclusion. This is difficult because presenters that are extroverts will interact with attendees differently than introverts. This style of poster design, while it means well, is not effective for communicating science and should not be adopted. Also, the actual reality of a poster session, as depicted in the video, is grossly exaggerated. The best part of a poster session is going on a random walk and discovering something new and exciting, with or without the presenter being present.

  29. Great thinking Mike! The posters shown at conferences have been a monolithic tradition that everyone feels the need to conform to, like an unspoken rule about how they should look. I hope the idea catches on because I expect your design to really work.

  30. Now think the same about a researcher, with the book shelves at home. Qrcodes for shelves and collections. Then connect the collections to the internet on one site and share, connecting with other shelves of other researchers. Then just create applications for the shelves and collections: classroom, research, business. Right, we created a networked university … As they were imagined before the first industrial revolution: a network of researchers integrated with social life. The little science era. We even created a platform and a concept to implement: socioexpography.

  31. The problem to me seems to be the fact that professionals are relying on conferences to stay up to date with the research. It seems they should be reading the published research in journals at home/work. What is presented at conferences like that is probably a tiny fraction of all the research anyway. For example, dozens of new microbiome papers are published each day. If you relied on going to a conference once a month/year you'd miss so much. This video subtly points out one of the biggest problems I see – professionals are not up to date with the scientific literature.

  32. I agree with some of the previous "posters". The video could use some editing. Love the poster format, not the video! The mantra CUT CUT CUT applies to video too.

  33. Applied it, thanks 😛 Gonna love the reactions of elderly researchers "WTF is that rectangle with pixels at the bottom??"

  34. My Professor replied to me when I shared this video to her: "Thanks for sharing…..saw this earlier, knew it made ripples… I wondered what impact it would have on poster sessions. I was at a poster session on Saturday evening–I saw several QR codes, but definitely none going so far as this in design. I heartily agree that titles should be informative, and I'd love to see those improve! However I disagree with this person's assertion about what the "point" is of attending a session. I hear he's disappointed that he isn't "learning" 60 things in 60 minutes. Doesn't sound like critical examination to me, just grazing, which misses a lot of the value of a poster session (or oral presentation)…both form of pre-publication presentations allow constructive feedback to be exchanged in both directions. Deep communication and extended dialogue between small numbers of people at small numbers of posters is often highly productive. When we feel overwhelmed, the abstract book is helpful. I usually scan it, pick about five posters and feel very satisfied to get to some of those! I wish you all happy poster making and I hope you enjoy your poster session. Enjoy those few powerful conversations!"

  35. "Maybe the research in your field isn't really important – and I'm in Psychology, so I get that…"
    As a fellow psychologist I can agree whole heartedly.

  36. Mike, I enjoyed this video so much! I can fully relate to your experience of feeling completely lost during poster sessions and getting nothing out of them. I think it is related to the fact that unlike some have suggested, I have never prepared for the session very well. I feel I can't really read through 100 abstracts and make any meaningful selection based on them. Even reading through the non-informative general jargon titles (like the ones I make myself) is difficult. I'm sure some people can do it, perhaps the more experienced, or the better 😉 But for me and you and many others, the solutions seems to be wandering around the posters and look for something cool. And for us, your solution is really cool! I doubt I will ever see too many too simplified posters, so that I would start demanding for more details. But perhaps that will happen. I'm waiting for it! 🙂

  37. As a graphic designer who has assisted in the creation of many academic posters this is the saddest suggestion I have ever seen. While, I am primarily against the idea of QR codes when there is new technology available. You can still present a well designed infographic poster and provide a QR code for someone who wants to remember it – but it should never in a million years be the center of the poster. Such a waist of paper. If you go off this logic we should just eliminate poster sessions all together. What is sad is people will think this is a good idea because you made a video and put it on YouTube and people don't know any better.

  38. This is a good idea for a poster. However, I can add a big conclusive image to the big title, if your field is about imaging. For example, the difference between control and treatment for cancer or a new technique for neuroimaging. I am just worried if some people would think that I won't spend time at that poster thinking that there is no much data proving the concept. Yes, we need to make it simple, and Yes, we need to give people something to validate our work.

  39. This new design revolutionizes how information is shared at a Poster Session. This will be a huge asset to all of my Conferences!

  40. 1. Why not provide a DOI (if the research has been published) and/or a URL shortener link redirecting to wherever the paper is hosted? QR codes just do the same thing a DOI or URL does, but bigger, uglier, and with more hardware and software restrictions.

    2. I'd love a sort of compromise design between this and the classic wall of text where the abstract is the largest element — good abstracts should say something about the results/conclusions anyway, so they should be able to communicate at least as much about the "take home" finding as your example of a new poster format. And focusing on your conclusions *would*, I agree, provide a much better signal to the browsing audience about whether this research is relevant to them. But, if anything, the example simplified finding you used might go too far in the other direction, too vague to be judged quickly as to relevance.

    3. There really should be more prominence of the authors' names and the institution you're presenting on behalf of. Posters are typically up for far longer than just the block of time you're standing there hoping to explain it, and if people see your poster when you're not there and they have questions and don't quickly find out whom to contact about them, that also doesn't help them.

  41. I like this idea, it is well thought out, and I love the redesign. However, not everyone is going to do this redesign. There are other solutions to not wasting time at a poster session. For example, you could read the abstracts and titles from the conference booklet BEFORE going to the session. This way you can pick out the posters you actually want to hear about first. You can also reframe the purpose of your attendance at a poster session. After all, it isn't just about the data or getting some insight into a "cure", it's also about meeting new people doing research that you are interested in and building bonds that might lead to a fruitful career.

  42. Wow and I’m in 6th grade trying to find a vid for a rough draft I mean I guess I could use this later in life thanks for the help

  43. Wow! Thank you for a year of work. This would be one of your main achievements in life, as it would benefit humanity. I am going to use it. You have just set the standard

  44. Thank you for the great work to inform researchers at how to be better at communicating information through posters! Appreciate your effort and all the best with the study 😊

  45. I am going over your video again and again while I am designing my poster for the upcoming APHA. It is definitely off the main stream, far more easier and less time consuming than the traditional forms. Thanks

  46. Thank you Mike! This is a great format to get the message across in quickly. I will use it for my upcoming poster presentations.

  47. Dear Mike, Thanks for an excellent presentation. I am currently designing my poster in this way. I will surely tag you in the event I submit selfies on Instagram or Twitter.

  48. I was nearly in tears at least twice – laughing. Thanks for some levity along with the reality. As someone who started as the presenter (the first 3-5 years) and is now the attendee and even a poster session judge (for the next >10 years), ALL OF THIS IS TRUE. The new format would force presenters to know their details (rather than read them to the attendee) and give those essential bits to stimulate discussion, while also giving that walk-pace highlight that an attendee will really appreciate. The QR-code linkages to the details are highly appreciated.

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