Successful Poster Sessions: Some Guidelines1
The International Studies Association recognizes poster sessions as an important element of our Annual Convention. Done effectively, posters can provide a political scientist with much more feedback than s/he would receive during a traditional panel session. An alternative method to panels for disseminating and evaluating research, poster sessions are a visual and concise method of presenting one's work. Though they are relatively new to political science, poster sessions have long been utilized at professional meetings by a number of other academic and professional organizations (e.g. American Medical Association, American Statistical Association, American Psychology Association).
As other convention delegates come into the Registration Foyer (a PDF file of the floor plan is available here) and look over your presentation, you have the opportunity to engage in a much more detailed discussion of your research, the methodology and your findings than you might otherwise in a traditional panel format. While you do not make a formal delivery of your paper, you will be able to engage in a more informal and more in depth discussion of your work. You are expected to post your paper to the new online archive. You may also find it convenient to bring a few copies of your paper to distribute during your poster session and for the delegates at large. The number of copies you bring is up to you.
Since poster sessions are a relatively new venue for many presenters, the International Studies Association has compiled some guidelines for successful sessions to help you prepare for optimum visibility and interaction with the viewers. We hope that these general guidelines better enables you to develop a poster session that will take advantage of its increased visibility and opportunities for interaction with other scholars. ISA will provide the following for each session:
q Poster board -- 8' long x 4' tall
q Draped table -- 6' long for handouts
Presenters should begin displaying their posters 15 minutes before their scheduled section so that meeting attendees who cannot attend a poster session because of a scheduling conflict may still have time to see it. Presenters are not required to remain with their poster during this time.
From the onset, you should note several things to avoid:
· DO NOT mount the text of your paper as the poster! Instead, have copies of your paper at your table for viewers to take.
· DO NOT use less than 16 font for any text you mount. Most viewers will be at least three feet away from your poster.
· DO NOT be absent from your scheduled poster time! The whole idea of a poster session is to create additional opportunities for you to interact with other interested scholars!
A survey was conducted by the American Psychology Association at their 1993 meeting regarding poster sessions. They found that the "… most commonly noted distracting mannerism was involvement of the presenter in conversation unrelated to the poster" (Welch & Waehler, 1996: 43). They also found that overzealous presenters, those who were arrogant, uninviting, and not available for questions were also unpleasant (43). What particularly impressed the respondents were:
[v]isual presentation of the poster was the most commonly endorsed category (41%), with preference given for large print within the body of the report, high-quality graphics, use of color, and a large title. Effectiveness with which the ideas were communicated was the second most commonly endorsed category (37%). Among important communication aspects of the poster were brevity, clarity of writing, supportive graphs and charts, and highlighted main points (43-44).
Below are particular points to consider when putting your poster together:
Ø Divide the contents of your poster into appropriate sections. For instance -- title of paper, author, institutional affiliation; abstract; methodology; data; results; conclusions. Be sure to include each section on a separate sheet(s) of paper.
Ø Use larger (than 16 font) lettering for the poster's title, author and institutional affiliation. Make the lettering at least one inch high.
Ø Avoid fonts that are script or difficult to read.
Ø If hand lettering is required, use a black felt-tip pen (Sharpie).
Ø Be concise with your written material. Save elaborative points for discussion/interaction with viewers. For conclusions, focus on a central finding that lends itself to informal discussion.
Ø Use graphs, charts and/or tables (color if possible) to show results. Graphics help make your poster interesting.
Ø A neutral poster or matte board is more amenable to the eye than a bright colored background. A splash of color here and there, perhaps highlighting central finding(s) or provocative results, will make your poster "stand out" from the crowd.
Ø A mailing tube or portfolio case is recommended for transporting your poster.
Ø Have a notepad handy when presenting at your poster session. It may be helpful in elaborating on your findings, or for taking names & addresses of people interested in your research.
Here are two websites that are excellent sources of helpful information for producing effective posters. They provide visual examples as well:
Email us your feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org
 Much of this information was gathered from David R. White & John A. Garcia's article, "Poster Sessions and the APSA Convention: Developments and Guidelines" and Garcia's website: www.u.arizona.edu/~jag/poster.html
 Welch, Andrea A. & Charles A. Waehler. 1996. "Preferences about Poster Presentations." Teaching of Psychology, vol. 23, no. 1 (February), pp. 42-44.
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