Vanderbilt Research Fair


Poster and/or Slide Preparation

Students can elect to present in one of two ways: a traditional poster OR a slide presentation on their personal device. 

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 that attendees can ask questions about following the presentation. 

Students who wish to present using a slide presentation MUST have approval from their principal investigator.

Poster Presentations:

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.  Also, as you prepare your poster, please do consider your audience.  You should assume that you will be presenting your work to interested, smart people, but people who may not know much about your research area coming in.

Poster boards are 3′ tall x 4′ wide. Thus, the maximum size of your poster will be 3′ tall x 4′ wide. When you mount your poster you will be attaching it directly to the surface of the provided poster board with push-pins. Accordingly the paper on which your poster is produced should be relatively thin and light.

Most posters are prepared in one of two ways:

  • 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 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 “spiel” 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