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Poster Session Tips


Poster Session Tips


  • Use a large table or a whiteboard to plan poster to scale.  Consider a poster design that assembles from several smaller sections for easy transport.  Place your title in top center of the poster area, then arrange other information in columns from top to bottom, left to right or in a counterclockwise circle.  Consider numbering the sections and/or adding arrows or pointers to navigate the viewer through your poster.  (See examples of placement, numbering and arrows, right.)
  • Print draft copies of poster sections, tape them in place, and solicit feedback before finalizing your poster. Test your arrangement by seeing if viewers "get it" without your explanation. 

    Tip: Look for people not familiar with your project as good test subjects.

  • Don't overload your poster.   About 40% of the poster area should be white space.  The design of your poster can make or break the poster session.  Viewers scan your poster and decide within the first 10-30 seconds whether or not to stay.
  • Use spacing and sizing to convey meaning. Separate sections that are not related, and position related sections closer together.  Vary shapes and sizes of objects on your poster.  Try using larger and more interesting shapes for information to which you'd like to call attention.



  • Select a central message or theme that reflects the proposal or abstract you submitted. What message you want visitors to take back with them to their colleagues?  As you work, make this message obvious without you having to be present to explain it.  This message can also help you select a title.
  • Select a title with a short, catchy message.  Try either asking or answering a question.  Be careful with long titles that need to use a colon, jargon-heavy titles, and titles that are cute for the sake of cuteness.  Include poster authors' first and last names, but you can omit middle initials and titles to save space.  If you are presenting outside your institution, include institution and department name, but the city and state can be omitted.
  • Keep text limited to 20% of the poster area.  Poster sessions convey "the big picture", literally.  After deciding on your poster, viewers will only spend about 3-5 minutes with you.  Select the most important information; save the rest for a handout.  Use short sentences and bullet points.  Break into smaller sections or break up sections with graphics if needed.  Keep sections to about 10 lines long or less. 
  • Remove anything that doesn't support your main message.  Rephrase or delete to remove more text.  Don't repeat the proposal or abstract you submitted.  It's probably available in print elsewhere.  You can summarize instead.
  • Write in "user-friendly language".  Avoid jargon, acronyms, or abbreviations.  Remember that your audience is your peers.
  • Provide background information in creative ways.  Use a pictorial glossary, a tutorial, samples, an other visual aids to supplement the textual information.



  • Left-justify your poster text for easier viewing.
  • Use 1.5 or double-spacing between lines of text.
  • Select a single sans-serif font for use throughout your poster.  Make sure it is supported by your printer.  Common sans-serif fonts include: Arial, Helvetica, Geneva, and Verdana.
  • Emphasize your text with bold, underline, or color sparingly.  Avoid italics and ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.
  • Use font size to make your text visible and establish an information hierarchy.  See the table below for guidelines:


Font (pt)

Size (in)

Distance Viewable (ft)




from 15-20' away




from 6-10' away




from 6-10' away




from 6-10' away




from 6' away

Small Text
(Captions, Acknowledgements, etc.)





Graphics & Color

  • Don't be afraid to make graphics large.  Graphics should comprise 40% of your poster area.  Vary sizes, making the most important graphics larger.
  • Use color and graphics to facilitate reading and understanding.  Avoid colors that distract.  Overly bright, too many, mismatched, or inconsistent can take away from your message.  Dark text on a light background is the easiest to read.  Select a subtle background for your poster.  (Be wary of a picture background.)
  • Align objects on your poster without using printed borders that call attention away from information. Use a matte finish for poster and poster objects to minimize glare.
  • Add quality images to your poster.  Consider cropping and editing your images to focus on your subject, improve the quality of the images, or recolor the image to match the poster color scheme.  Save an image as 180 to 200 dpi, RPG or TIF file.  To place your images on your poster, choose Import or Insert for best quality.  (Copying and pasting can reduce image quality.)
  • Let your graphs and charts speak for themselves.  Simplify data.  Each graph or chart should convey one message.  Use that message as the caption below it.  Removing nonessential data from a table is good, using a chart or graph is better, but making your graph a pictorial representation of the data is best.  (See examples, right, or check out John Meier's "One Librarian, Many Jobs" Poster.)
  • Remove legends and "figure" labels.  Place labels on the bars and lines directly.  Thicken lines on graphs so they are viewable from 6-10 feet.
  • Consider what extras might add extra dimension to your poster session.  Ask yourself, "What additional items could I include with my poster: a laptop slideshow? samples? handouts?"



  • Check printing and shipping deadlines.  Then allow yourself 1-2 weeks for poster preparation and two rounds of printing.  Review your poster with peers thoroughly after first print.
  • Prepare for the worst.  Sketch or photograph the final layout of your poster before packing it.  Label poster with the following to help identify it: your name, address, and telephone; your hotel name, address, and room number; your conference name, date, session number, and room number.  Consider shipping a copy of the poster to your destination (as a backup or alternative to) checking your poster on a flight.  Have several back-up copies (Web, CD/DVD, laptop, etc.) of your poster for emergency printing.
  • Make a checklist of what you need.  You may want to bring some of the following items with you: handouts, business cards, a sign-up sheet for viewers, a laptop, extra tape, pins.  You may want to bring a camera as well to take pictures of other good examples of posters.
  • Treat your session like an open house.  Be available during your session, but don't stand in the viewers' way!