Guidelines for Poster Presenters
- Templates vs. Custom Design
- Poster Message
- Design and Layout
- Writing: Style Guides
- Working with Images
- Image Resolution
- Poster Display
- At the Conference: Talking with Attendees
All posters will be displayed as PDFs on the Undergraduate Conference website.
The virtual conference space Gather.Town will be utilized for an online poster session held during the conference day in order to enable discussions between poster presenters and attendees. Poster presenters must be on hand during the session to discuss their poster and answer questions. Poster presenters may also record and submit a short video of up to five minutes to accompany their poster.
This year, posters will be displayed digitally only (not printed).
All of the templates provided below are horizontal in format. If you design your own poster, you may choose vertical or horizontal format. The most common orientation in the U.S., Asia and Australia is horizontal. The most common in Europe is vertical.
If something goes awry and you have to change the aspect ratio of your poster after you’ve finished, refer to this page-size converter:
There are many options for software. The most common choice is Microsoft PowerPoint. Others include InDesign, Photoshop, etc.
The instructions below are written for the version of PowerPoint found on all Whitman computer lab computers. This version saves a file with the “.pptx” file extension. Do not switch from PC to Mac, or .ppt to .pptx; stay with one format the entire time.
Templates vs. Custom Design
Start from scratch or begin with one of the templates available here. Templates provide a structure with which to begin; all can be customized. If you are new to posters, templates are highly recommended. Your poster will still be distinctive. You can easily change the color scheme, layout, and fonts within the templates. The templates are set up for you to replace text and image placeholders with your own information. They use default fonts and layouts that give a pleasant finished product, with or without customizing.
If you start from scratch, any of the tutorials on the following websites are highly recommended.
To use a template, click on the image to download it to your computer. It will be a PowerPoint file. Name and save it on your computer.
The file will be a single PowerPoint slide with boxes of text and image placeholders. Simply replace the text and placeholders with your own text and images. Click on the background to change its color. Read the rest of the tutorial here before you begin.
A poster is a graphic display of your work. It is a signature of your research. The best posters make one and only one point. What do you want viewers to learn? They should be able to identify immediately your Big Question.
Design and Layout
There are no hard-and-fast rules for the sections in a poster. Here is a suggested list:
- Title (with names of authors and affiliations)
- Contact information (including QR code)
Study examples. (Search “scientific poster examples” on the Internet.) Note that poster content is arranged in columns on an invisible grid. Draw a storyboard; sketch out a possible arrangement of the sections, showing boxes for titles, text and graphics.
Put your research objective (the Big Question) in a prominent place. Typically, that place is the upper left of a poster, where a reader’s eyes will land first.
Use graphics to convey most information. If you can’t explain your research graphically, you don’t have a poster. Keep text to a minimum. A typical poster contains about 1,000 words, or 250 per section. Let the graphics do the talking. Captions must convey much information. Give titles to graphs that explain what the viewer should understand from the graph.
Keep all elements of a section close to one another, and place captions close to their graphics. Leave space between sections so that the viewer can make sense of the graphics and their corresponding captions.
One design guideline proven to be effective is a sans-serif font for titles and headings, and serif fonts for text and captions. Use the same sans-serif font for titles and headings, and use the same serif font for text and captions. Text should be justified (aligned) left. Use italics or bold for emphasis. Do not underline or use all caps.
An example of effective font choice and size:
Title = 100 pt bold sans serif font (Ariel)
Section Headings = 48 pt bold sans serif font (Ariel)
Body Text = 28 pt serif font (Times New Roman)
Captions = 24 pt serif font (Times New Roman)
Dark text on a light background is easiest to read. If you have a very dark background, use large, bold white text. Avoid color-on-color, especially bright hues. Keep backgrounds simple. If you want to use a photo, choose “Watermark” to make it light and unobtrusive. Choose a simple color scheme with only two or three related colors. Change colors on graphs and figures in a way that they complement the background color.
Writing: Style Guides
Follow the WUC style guide for punctuation and formatting of your proposal and program note. Use style guides from your discipline for the text of the poster.
Keep the poster title to fewer than 12 words. Put important words first. Leave out unnecessary words. For example, “Investigation of Threshold Characteristics of Materials Fracture Under Impact Loads Produced by Pulsed Magnetic Fields” can be shortened to “Threshold Fractures Produced by Pulsed Magnetic Fields.” Keep your title formal; be wary of making claims that the data doesn’t support. It is customary in the title section to put a logo from your institution and any other institution where you worked; the conference at which the poster is presented; and any sponsoring agency. (See Downloads for selected logos.) Full names of the authors and their affiliated institutions are listed directly below the title.
Objective / Introduction
Give context for your work by stating what’s already known about the topic. Then show how your question fits into that framework and seeks to expand or explain some aspect of it.
Keep the methods section minimal. Consider using a graphic of the steps or a bulleted list.
Organize the data. A table is much better than a list, but use a bulleted list if appropriate. Don’t forget to put units on everything. Results sections typically have very little text.
Explicitly state what you found in your research. Note its significance. Focus on the larger picture. Directly address the question you proposed in the introduction, using the same terminology and phrasing. Graphs work particularly well here. Recommend how your results might be used, and explain how they’ve added to the knowledge base in your field. Indicate how they answer a vexing problem; evaluate how well the results answered your question; show how they lead to other areas of study; give an idea of what new questions they open up. Never indicate that further study is required unless you have a specific plan for the next step.
Keep your list of references short (three to five entries). Use small type (16 pt) if the list must be long. Use whatever style guide your field normally uses for references. (Check with your adviser for a journal as an example.)
Acknowledge the people who contributed directly to the work. Thank your adviser. Acknowledge any funding you received. If you worked off-campus, acknowledge that group. Keep the section to 50 words.
Contact Information Section
Include your full name and address. Use Whitman’s address, not your personal address. Whitman College, 345 Boyer Avenue, Walla Walla, WA 99362. Phone numbers for Whitman’s division offices: Div I: 509.527.5798; Div II: 509.527.5148; Div III: 509.527.5098. Provide the URL of your department’s home page if you do not have one of your own.
A QR (Quick Response) code is often put in the lower right-hand corner of the poster with other contact information. You do not have to use a QR code, but it adds a level of professionalism to your work.
A QR code allows your audience to scan your poster with a smartphone or tablet in order to receive more information. The code can open a text document, website, video, e-mail address, phone number, map page or WiFi connection. You can link to the Whitman home page as your default or generate a code to your department's webpage. The QR code above links to the Whitman College home page: http://www.whitman.edu. A jpg image of this QR code can be found in the Downloads section.
To generate a new QR code, go to: http://www.qr-code-generator.com. Enter the URL to which you want to link. It will generate a .jpg image of the QR code that you can download. It is not a high-resolution image, so keep it relatively small. Leave plenty of white space around it.
More information about QR codes: http://researchexplainer.com/2012/04/03/use-qr-codes-to-amplify-your-work/
Working with Images
Use .tiff, .jpg or .png images. Do not use PICT or EPS.
Graphs, Charts and Tables
While it is possible to create graphs and charts directly within PowerPoint, the process is restrictive and quirky. Use Excel to create graphs and charts.
Inserting Graphs from Excel
While it is possible to simply highlight the graph in your spreadsheet and copy and paste it into your poster, the process is rife with hazards. Instead, convert your graph into an image file (a “.png” file) first, then insert the .png file into the poster. This is a secure way to put images in your poster. (Here’s why: If you insert a graph by the “cut-and-paste” or “Insert Object” route, the graph will still be live. This means it is still linked to the Excel workbook. If you break that link, it rebels.)
How to make a .png file from an Excel graph:
- Open Excel and enlarge your graph until it fills the entire screen (10-15 columns wide). If you have multiple graphs in your workbook, enlarge all of them.
- Choose "Save as Web Page." (Trust this.) You should already have a dedicated folder for all poster images; save graph(s) into that folder.
- An .htm file will appear, along with a folder with every chart in the entire workbook saved as separate .png files. You won’t use the .htm file, but keep it.
- Rename each .png file so you know what it is.
- Now insert the .png file into your poster by “Insert → photo → picture from file.”
Do not use “Insert → Object → Microsoft Excel Graph.” While this seems like the logical choice, it leads directly back to inserting a live graph and all the problems of being linked to an Excel workbook.
Don’t worry that you won’t be able to change your graph. You can always go back to your Excel workbook, change the graph and make a new .png file to insert.
Illustrations and Photos
You should have a folder with photos of your project or images you’ve found from other sources. Crisp, sharp images are crucial. See tips below to create high-quality image files. (Warning: most online images aren't suitable in quality for a large poster.)
Images should be ~300 dpi (dots per inch). Anything less will appear fuzzy; anything larger will make the file size unwieldy. See Image Resolution section below.
Inserting an Image
Insert-picture-from-file to bring the image into PowerPoint.
Creating an Image File by Scanning Hard Copies
If you only have a hard copy of your illustration, you need to scan it to make an electronic file. Scanners are found in the Multimedia Development Lab.
- Scan as a TIFF file, not as a .jpg.
- Scan at 220-300 dpi. See Image Resolution section below.
Using Images Found Online
- Check to be sure that the image falls under fair-use copyright rules. Typically, an image used to illustrate an educational poster is considered fair use. Provide attribution. If you need more information, contact Penrose Library for help. https://libguides.whitman.edu/c.php?g=831845&p=5938711#VII.C
- Online images are low resolution. Although the image initially appears crisp on your computer screen, it will not be sharp when inserted and resized in your poster file. Many sites, especially microscope image databases, provide the option for higher resolution images. Choose 220 dpi or slightly higher. See Image Resolution section below.
Sources for Copyright-Free Images
- https://www.google.com/advanced_image_search?hl=en&fg=1 (set usage rights to Creative Commons licenses)
The quality of a poster image is determined by size and dpi (“dots per inch”) at that size. The resolution of an image is fixed when it is created.
To determine the quality of an image in poster size:
Use the zoom button in PowerPoint to enlarge to 100%. If the picture looks fuzzy, it will also look fuzzy in your final product.
Right click (control+click on a Mac) on the image file, “Get info”, then “More info.” Look at “dimensions.” The first number reflects pixels in width; the second is the height. Divide the first number by 96. The quotient is the largest width (in inches) to which the image be expanded while remaining crisp.
- Open the image (double click on a Mac) and choose “Adjust Size” from the “Tools” menu.
- Uncheck “Resample image.”
- Type in the size of the image as it will appear in your poster file.
- The new resolution should be 96 dpi or greater.
Double-click on image and choose “Adjust Size” from the “Tools” menu.
The image will be clear only up to 4.86" x 4.86” and fuzzy at any larger size.
Image placeholder (as it appears on a computer screen). See ruler to measure size in the finished poster.
To be certain that the image won't work in enlarged size, uncheck “Resample image” and type in “8” for the width.
The resolution at this size will only be ~58 dpi, well short of the required 96 dpi.
After determining that an image will be sharp in enlarged format, insert it into the placeholder. Use the resizing handle on a corner of the image and hold down the shift key while you click-and-drag. This enlarges the image proportionally, without distortion.
Posters will be displayed on the Whitman Undergraduate Conference website in the days leading up to the event, and the virtual conference space Gather.Town will be utilized for an online poster session held during the conference day. You are required to attend your poster in the virtual setting during the timefame specifically set for the poster session. However, presenters may also enter the virtual conference space and and chat with visitors at any point during the daylong event. You will receive instructions on how to navigate within the virtual session environment.
PDF files of posters will be due to the Conference Planning Committee before the date of the conference (deadline to be announced). Files can be stored in Google Drive and emailed to Administrative Assistant Jenny Stratton (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you choose, you may record and submit a short video of up to five minutes to introduce attendees to your research in case they visit while you are not available to speak with them directly. Videos should be completed by the same deadline as listed above.
Arrive at the virtual poster session early, ready to greet visitors and present your poster.
At the Conference: Talking with Attendees
Picture yourself with your poster. Someone arrives and says, “So, tell me about your research.” What do you say?
Practice your “elevator pitch,” a concise, focused, one-minute summary of your work and why it is important.
Also practice an expanded (five-minute) response that includes: the Big Question, the data you sought, the results you found, the conclusions you drew.