It's that time of year again, when #ASHGTrainees have received their acceptance emails to present their research at the ASHG Annual Meeting, and PowerPoint slides all over the globe are scaled to thirty-four by forty-four inches. A poster presentation can be a great way to get feedback on your research and build meaningful connections with other researchers, but whether this year's meeting will be your first or you're a poster hall veteran, the sheer number of posters presented at ASHG can be intimidating. Luckily, you're not alone and there are a ton of resources available to help you get the most out of your poster session. Over the years, I've kept an eye out for journal articles and blogs on the topic, and I've put together some basic tips and tricks to help your poster stand out.
Before you add text and figures, having a solid design will help your poster be both visually appealing and memorable.
Like most conferences, ASHG has guidelines for the size and format of your poster. It might seem obvious, but it's important to check the rules before you start; there's nothing worse than having to reformat all of your work at the last minute.
Creative use of shapes. Credit: adic.info
Usually, the most vital information is within the results section. I've found that allocating two-thirds of my design space to results, and the remaining third to background, methods, conclusions, and acknowledgments has been the most impactful.
Poster template from PosterSessions.com, modified by Kathryn Vaillancourt, BSc.
You can also use color to emphasize your work, but be careful not to let too many colors or uncoordinated color choices detract from your results. Stick to two or three hues, and take a note from color theory to make sure they work well together (see below for examples; ColorBrewer or Paletton can help). Finally, make sure to leave plenty of white space on your poster to help direct the reader's attention, and consider avoiding color combinations that might exclude readers with color-blindness, such as red and green.
Now that you've decided on the design of your poster, it's time to add the most important part—your science! Although it can be tempting to include every detail, remember that a conference poster is very different than a research paper; it should act as a visual aid rather than a stand-alone manuscript. This means that you'll inevitably have to leave out some of your data, but it's better than having an overly cluttered and confusing message.
In my experience, the most effective posters follow the "3 x 3 rule", which means that a person should be able to read and understand it in three minutes, at three feet away. The best posters use flow diagrams or illustrations to illustrate major concepts, instead of lengthy paragraphs. Of course, it's impossible to have a poster with no words at all, but try to use short, simple statements to keep your reader's attention.
Now that your results are front and center, there are just a few more details to consider before you send it off to print:
Credit: Giovanni Dall’Olio via BetterPosters.com
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