Virtual conferences have enabled researchers to communicate and share their work online during the pandemic, leading us to wonder whether online meetings could now become the norm? We asked Jamie Cockcroft, a third year PGR student from Psychology to share his top tips on how to design an effective poster presentation for an online conference. Jamie’s research explores how our memories are used to help guide future behaviour. He recently presented his work at the Experimental Psychology Society’s (EPS) 2021 Online Conference, where he was awarded the President’s Commendation for Student Posters.
Think about the conclusion first!
Before you dive into design mode, think about what your poster will conclude. It may seem counterintuitive to think about the conclusion before you’ve even started, but by doing so you can more effectively identify key pieces of information needed to reach that conclusion.
Text is not your friend…
Text is not your friend in the realm of posters. Yes, it is good to have some text, but try to keep it to a minimum. If you can make a point using a picture or figure, do so (see below for my example). A picture is worth a thousand words!
Think about the ordering of your information (or boxes on your poster). Make sure they are ordered in a way that helps the reader follow your points, rather than requiring a search mission where viewers have to guess the order of points themselves.
You need to make sure your poster is visually inviting. To do this, pick a colour scheme that works. You don’t need to be an artist for this, you can Google “colour schemes” and find many examples. By making the poster look “pretty”, you invite people in.
Microsoft PowerPoint, CorelDRAW or Inkscape are software packages I have used previously. The former is much more “user friendly” if you are familiar with PowerPoint, but CorelDRAW and Inkscape do give you more freedom when designing your poster.
Now how about actually presenting the poster?
I used Prezi for my recent poster presentation as it allowed me to zoom in and out of different areas of my poster whilst recording the video. However, I wish I knew about PowerPoint’s “zoom” feature. I’ve discovered it is extremely simple to use and would have done the job without the “Prezi” sticker on my poster!
What to say…
Some conferences will give you a time limit on your video. At the EPS conference this was 3 minutes and 15 seconds (and yes… those 15 seconds were helpful!). Try to consider that when putting together a script for your walkthrough. Identify key points that need to be made and if there are parts you can skip over. If you do skip material, inform the audience of this in the video and offer to take questions at a later point or during the Q&A Session.
Capturing the Video
I’ve heard of a multitude of ways people capture their video, from screen capture software (e.g. OBS Studio), all the way to Zoom recording. All of these are viable ways of capturing a video of your poster walkthrough. However, try to avoid using a built-in computer microphone. I used the microphone on my AirPods and found the audio to be much better quality.
I added subtitles to my video, simply because I know my accent could have reduced the accessibility of my poster. However, do be aware that this can be a time-consuming process and will depend on the software you use. If you do decide to do this, you will need to watch yourself back numerous times, so I suggest 1.5x speed as it is drastically less painful!
For reference, my video walkthrough can be found here. I have also created a Padlet with some extra resources that may expand on points I have made and give you further ideas about how to approach a poster. Not logged into Padlet before? Go to https://uniofyork.padlet.org/, click ‘login with Google’ (first option), use University credentials – then try the link again.