Presenting a Research Poster

You’ve been working hard on your research these last few semesters. The data has been collected, sorted, and analyzed. So what do you do with the findings? Maybe you’ll write an article down the road or present your findings at a disciplinary conference.

By practicing how to speak about your research at the university level, you’ll be ready to speak with others about your research at conferences, when you interview at other universities, or when you interview for a job. Below are some helpful tips to help prepare you to talk to others about your research.

Welcoming attendees

  • Stay close to your poster, just off to the side. This gives passers-by the chance to step in and look at an interesting graph.
  • Smile and greet everyone who walks by. Look them in the eyes and ask if you can share more about your research.
  • “Prepare a brief oral synopsis of the purpose, findings, and implications of your work to say to interested parties as they pause to read your poster,” writes Jane E. Miller in Preparing and Presenting Effective Research Posters. Your synopsis (keep it to three sentences!) briefly covers three topics: What you’re researching, your findings, and their significance. You’re simply giving your audience a taste of your research—piquing their interest so they’ll want to hear more!

Talking more about your research

  • Keep the big picture in mind. When you’re working in the lab or reading in the archives, you’re focused on the small (and exciting!) parts of your research that will help you develop your conclusion based on your results. You may have just left the bench or your desk to come present your poster, so your mind may be focused on the details. Remember that your audience doesn’t have the background to be excited about the details yet! Focus on the big picture so your audience can understand the significance of your research first.
  • Remember that attendees are not all experts in your field. How might you speak with a professor or colleague from another department?
  • Welcome others who step up to read your poster. When possible, position your body and make eye contact with a newcomer so that he or she feels like part of the conversation. Remember that you’re the link between your poster and the person who’s interested in your story.

Interacting with visitors

  • Have a handout with additional supporting materials or key information from your poster. Include the project title, your name and departmental affiliation, and your professional email address so that those interested can contact you with further questions or comments after the session.
  • Welcome feedback from attendees. If they ask a question that’s tangential to your research, be open and friendly. Chances are good that the question is an attempt to relate to your research. Scott W. Plunkett, professor of psychology at California State University, Northridge, cautions presenters to stay clear of statements like, “My research isn’t about that.” Instead, say “Hmm  . . . interesting. Could you tell me more about why you think this?” Or say, “That is interesting. I hadn’t thought of that. I will definitely consider that.”

Preparation

  • Dress professionally. For the Spring Graduate Research Poster Session, business casual (nice slacks or a skirt, a button down shirt or blouse) will help you look and feel professional. Wear comfortable shoes; you’ll be standing for quite some time.
  • Practice beforehand. Become comfortable with your topic and have short answers prepared that allow you to have a conversation with attendees who stop to learn more about your work.

The Graduate Studies staff and faculty look forward to seeing you at the Spring Research Fair!

 

Sources:

Block, Steven M. (1996) “Do’s and Don’ts of Poster Presentation” In Biophysical Journal.
Miller, Jane E. (2007) “Preparing and Presenting Effective Research Posters” In Health Services Research.
Plunkett, Scott W. “Tips on Poster Presentations at Professional Conference.”