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How to Design a Poster

Students can elect to present in one of two ways:

  • a traditional poster OR
  • a slide presentation on their personal device.

Requirements for All Presentations

Title and authors

  • Title should match what was submitted during registration
  • List presenting author(s) first

Author contributions

  • Design and creation of the poster/digital presentation should be primarily the work of the presenting author(s)
  • All authors listed must be informed of their authorship and given an opportunity to review and approve
  • Each poster/presentation must include an Author Contribution Statement modeled after the example below:

Example (authors are Donald Duck, Harry Potter, and Minnie Mouse)

Author Contribution Statement

DD:  Designed the poster, generated data in Figures 2, 3, and 5

HP:  Contributed to the design of the experiments, generated data in Figure 4

MM:  Oversaw the project design and execution, provided funding

Missed the Poster Workshop? Click below to watch a recording!

Poster Workshop Recording

Slide Presentations

A slide presentation should supplement and complement the presenter’s verbal presentation. The presentation should include an overview of all required elements and should not be used to go “in-depth”. This is a brief presentation (5-7 minutes) that attendees can ask questions about following the presentation. 

Poster Presentations


Poster boards are 3′ tall x 4′ wide (36 x 48 inches). Your poster must not exceed these dimensions. You will be provided with push pins to hang your poster.

A poster should be complete and self-supporting so that different viewers may read at their leisure. The author should only need to supplement or discuss particular points raised during inquiry. Remember that several people of varying degrees of interest and experience may be viewing your poster at once. Therefore, you will want to make your points as complete and brief as possible.  Consider your audience! You should assume that you will be presenting your work to interested, smart people, but people who are not experts in your research area.

Most posters are prepared in one of two ways:

  • Printed as a single, large, sheet. Posters produced in this manner look very professional and are perfectly acceptable for this poster session.  However, it should be noted that producing this form of poster is in no way required, and is the more expensive option.  If you opt to produce this type of poster, the associated expenses will be your and/or your research mentor’s responsibility.
  • As a series of 8.5″ by 11″ inch PowerPoint slides, which are then printed out on standard sheets of paper.  These sheets of paper can then be readily attached to the supplied poster board with push-pins.  This style of poster is perfectly acceptable for the poster session and is very commonly used.

With either mode of production, the most effective use of the available space is usually to use a grid plan arranged in columns. This arrangement prevents viewers from having to cross back and forth in front of each other.

Overall Poster and Slide Appearance

Make it understandable and easy to follow. Your poster or slides should be:

  • Clear
  • Concise (bullet points, numbered lists, etc.)
  • Simple
  • Large fonts so people can read the poster at a distance
  • Figures or tables instead of text


The contents of the poster or slides should convey:

  • The problem (what is your question?)
  • Significance (why should anyone care?)
  • How your experiment/approach addresses the problem (what is your strategy and/or objective?)
  • The methods/experiments/tasks performed (what did you actually do?)
  • The results obtained (what did you actually find?)
  • The conclusions (what do you think it all means?)
  • Future directions (where do you go from here?)

Know your message

  • What is the one thing you want your audience to learn from your project?
  • Reinforce this message throughout the presentation
  • If it doesn’t support your message…leave it out!

Presentation Tips

  • Know your field of study
    • Read or re-read some relevant literature
  • Know your audience (students, faculty, staff)
  • If you don’t know an answer to a question, it is all right to say  “I don’t know…” or “I’m not sure about that…” or “I’ll have to look that up…”
  • Don’t disappear!!!
    • Be present at your designated presentation time (at the very minimum!!)
    • Be prepared not to leave for a while
  • Wear comfortable shoes … you’ll be standing for a couple of hours
  • Take a bathroom break beforehand
  • Have a bottle of water handy!
  • Don’t ignore people at your poster/presentation
    • Don’t spend too much time with one person at the expense of others
  • Do give people space
    • Let them look your poster over
    • Let them ask you a question first, or after a few minutes ask them if they have any questions
    • Have a prepared a 5-min summary for those who would like a “run-through” of your poster or presentation
    • Start with the statement of “big picture”…i.e., why did you do this study
    • Remember you are not the only one presenting at the meeting…people have many posters and presentations to see
    • If someone is very interested … you will know

Miscellaneous Advice

  • Plan ahead; make several small deadlines to meet your final deadline
    • Your poster or slides should undergo several revisions and should be approved by your PI
    • Ask lab members for comments/suggestions
    • Print out a draft copy or smaller version of the poster or presentation to spot errors and judge visual aspects

If you would like to enter the poster competition….

  • Indicate interest in participating when you register for the Research Fair.
  • You will receive a link to InfoReady that will allow you to submit your poster.
  • Submissions for judging are due at 11:59pm on March 17, 2024. No exceptions will be made.
  • The poster will be judged in the subject category that you choose when registering for the Research Fair:
    • Basic and Natural Sciences
    • Clinical and Translational Research
    • Engineering
    • Public Health, Epidemiology, and Health Sciences
    • Social, Behavioral, Educational Sciences, and Humanities
    • Computer Science, Data Science, Mathematics

Submission Information

  • Whether you are presenting a printed poster or slides on your personal device at the Research Fair on November 9th, you must submit a single page for judging.
  • Utilize the 36 x 48 inch poster format.
  • After making your poster/slide, save the file as a pdf.
  • Make sure that the resolution is high enough for judges to zoom in without causing the image/text to become pixelated.
  • Remember that your poster must stand on its own – your poster will be scored and prizes will be selected prior to the Research Fair.

See the “Requirements for all presentations” information. Posters that do not include an Author Contribution Statement will receive a point deduction.