How (not to) present a poster at a scientific conference

Ok, so you are presenting a poster at a scientific conference. You’ve done the research, prepared and printed the poster and pinned it to the board, the poster session is approaching and you really want some feedback on your results and ideas. How do you maximise the number of people you talk to?

1. The Guard

Stand next to your poster at attention and wait. This signals readiness and a willing to discuss any aspects of your work. Do not make eye contact with approaching colleagues but as soon as they stop, pounce. This attentiveness is appreciated by all scientists, especially senior group leaders.

2. The Lure

Put some sweets in a paper cup pinned to the board and pretend to read your neighbour’s poster. Wait for someone to take one, then pounce. A weaker variant is to provide copies of your poster pinned to the board (tip: make sure they are FIRMLY attached – it buys you a few more seconds).

3. The Fake Crowd

Bribe your friends or colleagues to stand around your poster and talk loudly. Ask them to point and gesticulate wildly to indicate interest and controversy. This will naturally attract people.

4. The Suspiciously Quiet Poster

Not everyone will be attracted by the fake crowd. Try alternating it with the suspciously quiet poster. Go and hide by looking at the poster pinned to the back of the board. Watch for feet appearing at your poster and, well you guessed it, pounce.

Congratulations! You are now equipped to thrive in the cut-and-thrust world of the poster session. Especially if you don’t do any of these suggestions…..

By Philip Fowler

Philip W Fowler is a computational biophysicist studying antimicrobial resistance working at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

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