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Career Tips

Poster presentations that pop

by Brought to you by ACS Careers
August 5, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 32


A person giving a poster presentation.
Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN
Preparation makes perfect when giving a poster presentation.

With the fall ACS national meeting right around the corner, the time has come to put your poster presentation together. While the abstract was submitted months ago, you were waiting to create the poster until you had as much data as possible. Now you need to do it.

Try a template. First, find out if the meeting provides a poster template, usually a PowerPoint file that you can, or even must, use. If nothing is provided, borrow a starter file from a colleague who attended the meeting (or a similar meeting) previously. It’s much easier to edit an existing file than to create a new one, but make sure the poster size, font size, and other parameters match the conference requirements. Also, make sure to check with your institution about the color and size of the logo if you are going to use it.

If you use an existing file, make sure you understand it. For example, some templates are half-sized, which makes them easier to edit, but you then must print them at double size.

Create the content. In addition to the abstract, decide what other sections you need and the order in which to place them. A poster is not the place for long, textual discourses. Instead, use just enough text to explain the work, and use most of your limited space for insightful figures and images that tell a compelling story.

If you (or another author) will be standing by the poster the entire time, you can get by with little explanatory text. If the poster needs to stand on its own, you will need to include more background and text.

Figure out the figures. The figures are probably the most important part of your poster. Think about which figures and diagrams will explain the problem you are trying to solve, and clearly report the data you have collected. Make sure they are labeled well and are large enough to read. Remember that you will be telling the story of your research, so think about what visual aids will be useful.

Print the poster. Nowadays, most posters are printed as a single large sheet. This makes setup simple: You just need a few pins around the edges. But transportation can be an issue, and tubes are a must.

Another option is to print your poster at a business center at the conference. If you do this, allow plenty of time to reprint if something is missing or wrong. Finally, some printers can print on fabrics, which fold nicely and fit into a suitcase, but that can be more expensive.

No matter how you’re going to print the final version, printing a rough draft is a necessity. Post it on the wall, and practice presenting it. You will almost always find some errors and improvements this way.

Pack the peripherals. Bring and attach either business cards or a handout with key data for people to take, especially if you are not going to be with the poster the entire time it’s on display.


Preparing poster presentations takes work, so give yourself plenty of time to review and revise. Then enjoy getting out there and sharing your research!

Get involved in the discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published the first week of every month in C&EN. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns in the Career Development section of the ACS Network (


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