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Presentation Poster Design Guide

Poster & Oral Presentation Workshop Video

How to Design A Poster & Oral Presentation (54:40 min)


What is a Research Poster

A research poster is a graphically based approach to presenting research. Think of it as a sort of as a visual abstract for your project. Your poster should try to tell a story!

  • Posters are widely used in the academic community, and most conferences include poster presentations in their program. 
  • In presenting your research with a poster, you should aim to use the poster as a means for generating active discussion of the research.
  • Limit the text to about one-fourth of the poster space, and use "visuals" (graphs, photographs, schematics, maps, etc.) to tell your "story."
  •  The poster is usually a mixture of a brief text mixed with tables, graphs, pictures, and other presentation formats. 
  • At a conference, the researcher stands by the poster display while other participants can come and view the presentation and interact with the author.

The Principles of Good Poster Design

Grabbing Attention
  • Give your poster a title that will draw attention and summarize your project
  • Important information should be largest (text hierarchy)
  • Often the title is largest, then your name (or group names) and affiliations
  • Title should be readable from approximately 10 feet away (letters approx. 1.5 inches tall)
  • San serif fonts (like Arial, Helvetica) are easier to read far away (think of the font used on highway signs)
  • Serif fonts (like Times New Roman) are easier to read in block or body text
  • If you are printing out slides, boxes, figures, or images, add dark borders as they will help provide contrast against a lighter background

Organizing Information

  • Common organization for scientific posters: Introduction, Materials / Methods (if applicable), Results, Conclusions, Literature Cited, Acknowledgements, Further Information)
  • It can be helpful to sketch out how your information will be organized / will flow throughout the poster

Overall Advice

  • Poster should generally be 300-800 words
  • Keep your body text as brief as possible and use lists of sentences rather than blocks of text
  • Light / neutral colored backgrounds with dark text are easiest to read
  • Use bright colors sparingly
  • Use images, graphics, charts, figures that support your ideas. (Captions as needed)
  • Use no more than 3 fonts total
  • Review specific event details of the conference or event you are presenting at for poster requirements and suggestions
  • If you are printing power point slides to stick to your poster, be careful of the glue you use. The best adhesives are rubber cement or spray adhesive (especially designed for paper) to adhere text pages, title banners and other paper materials to the poster backing. White glue (Elmer's glue), paste, mucilage, glue sticks, craft glue etc. will not work as well. They either do not adhere nicely (as in the case of glue sticks) or they cause the paper and even the poster board to shrink, wrinkle and generally look terrible.

More information: Preparing your Poster for the Fitchburg State Undergraduate Research Conference

Tools to Use

There are plenty of ways to create your poster, here are a few of our favorites:

PowerPoint: You might already have experience with PowerPoint as a presentation tool, so you shouldn't be surprised to learn that it is among the easiest ways to create a poster for a presentation too! Use this template to get started on a standard sized 48" x 36" tri-fold poster.

Google Slides: Don't have PowerPoint? No worries! Google Slides comes free with your Google account and is another easy platform to use to create a great poster

Canva: Canva is a free design website that allows you to create posters, handouts, infographics, and more. Create a free account and start designing! When you're done with the design, easily export to PDF or JPEG files. Another free infographic tool is Piktochart.

*When you're using any of these platforms, start by making sure that your page dimensions are appropriate for when you're ready to print. In Slides, go to File > Page Setup and in PowerPoint, go to Slide Size on the Design tab. Also, make sure that your dimensions are in INCHES NOT PIXELS.

You can use Microsoft WORD and EXCEL (or web-based alternatives from Google) to make individual pages or boxes as part of a larger poster design.