Poster presentations

Browse through our advice and resources to help you produce effective posters and present them.

Student presenting their work at a research conference

Visual communication

Because University courses focus on communication through the written word, it is easy to overlook the importance of other ways to get your message across.

Visual aspects of your communication are relevant to all forms of work, from the font you use and how you layout text on the page to the use of graphs, figures and diagrams.

Images and illustrations can be used in many forms of written work and oral communication, and help you to get your ideas across to an audience in a way that is more immediate and impactful than is possible through text alone. 

It is important to think hard about how best to convey your information to your audience and to weigh up the relative advantages of text, visuals and other forms of media.

Posters are a great way to present data and information in a clear and accessible way to allow audiences to get a quick overview of a complex research project. They are commonly used as a way to communicate work at conferences and other events, providing an accessible window into a complex research area. 

301 Recommends: 

Have a look at this interactive example of a research poster to find out more about the principles of good poster design.

Our Research Posters workshop will explore the specific challenges of designing and disseminating research at poster presentations. It will introduce the principles of good poster design, including opportunities to engage critically with research posters, to develop your own key messages and to plan and prepare for the presentation itself.

Working with text and layout

The key thing to remember is that regardless of whether it is to be printed, projected, or displayed on a website - text is intended to be read!

Your choice of font, text size, line length and layout should always help to guide your reader through the text and make it as easy as possible to find and understand the information.

Your design should always be guided by your content, so first ask yourself what are the main messages that you would like to get across. 

You don't need to become an accomplished graphic designer to improve the presentation of your text. There are some simple principles that you can follow to ensure that you make life as easy as possible for your reader:

  • Use headings and subheadings for your sections
  • Use bullet points where possible to convey more complex information
  • Use a single font if possible and keep the use of different font sizes to a minumum
  • Use text that is readable from at least two metres - that is probably bigger than you think!
  • Don't justify your text; although it may look neater, it is often more difficult to read
  • White space is your friend, so avoid the temptation to fill every spare inch!

When you have a draft of your poster ready, try the A4 text: if you can read your poster when it is printed at A4, then it will probably work OK when it is reproduced at A1.

Use of images and other visual material

It is often claimed that 'a picture paints a thousand words', but only if you use the right image in the right place. Images – photographs, illustrations, charts, figures, diagrams, screenshots, animations and much more – can add detail and depth to an argument.

Images can convey complex information in a relatively accessible way, so long as they are clear and well integrated into your overall design, and offer audiences a different way of engaging with your ideas.

Just like the words that you choose, it is essential to think carefully about any images that you use in your work. Pay particular attention to the following questions:

  • What does this image add to my argument or discussion?
  • Is it presented in such a way that it does what I need it to do?
  • Will it be clear enough for the audience to be able to see it, and get from it what I want?
  • Do I need to include extra information to ensure my audience can make sense of what they are looking at?
  • Does it have a caption and is it explained in the text of my poster?

How should I reference my image?

You will need to reference images, to make sure their sources are fairly acknowledged.

There are a number of places that you can go to find images that are in the public domain. You can find some recommended image databases here

Image referencing can also work a little differently from other sources, so be sure to check the Library referencing pages here

Posters and presenting screencast

For more information and ideas on putting together your research poster and presenting it on the day, watch our screencast.

Top tips and resources

  • Know your audience: how familiar with viewers be with jargon and terminology?
  • Identify your key message and make sure it is clear from the structure of your poster.
  • Have a clear narrative and make sure that your structure guides the viewer through it in a logical way.
  • Keep it as concise as possible!
  • And finally, make the most of the opportunity to tell your story in a visual way.

Useful resources

University of Sheffield Library - Communicating with Infographics Tutorial

Think Ahead: Poster Presentations - videos and resources

Scribd - Design and Layout

The Summer Skills Spark: 5 weeks to ignite your research skills promo image

The Summer Skills Spark: 5 weeks to ignite your research skills

Are you working on a dissertation or research project this summer? 

The Summer Skills Spark offers workshops to support you through every step of the process. You'll have opportunities to plan your projects, develop your research skills, explore dissemination techniques, and consider a future career in research. 

Collaboration between 301 Academic Skills Centre, the University Library, Digital Learning, and the Careers and Employability Service.

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