Simon Reichel shares his experience as winner of the poster prize for the Open Electronics session at the SEB 2021 Annual Conference

Simon recently won the poster prize for the Open Electronics session at the SEB 2021 Annual Conference. Here he shares his top tips for producing/presenting a poster.

For the design of my poster, I was focusing on two main ideas. Firstly, I wanted to have a poster that breaks the rules of the default “paragraph-box” layout. Secondly, I wanted my poster to be clear and concise, focusing on the main aspects/results of my work, without providing too much “fluff”.

Most of the posters I have seen at conferences tend to drown me in information right away, which keeps me from approaching and interacting with them. If a poster can deliver a key message in the short moment of curiosity, it is more likely to keep my attention. Thus, I wanted the center of my poster to be dominated by a nice large figure. This figure forms the central piece around which the full story unfolds. From the figure, the eye is immediately drawn to the title, and from there around a circle through the main points of the poster. I tried to keep the complexity (figures, wording etc) fairly low, to keep the content accessible to biologists from all disciplines.

The poster was presented in the ‘Open Electronics’ session at the annual conference of the Society of Experimental Biology, and thus I was expecting biologists with curiosity, but with limited professional background in programming. Therefore, I tried to deliver the thought process of a software developer (the new bit for the audience) when applied to experimental design (the familiar bit for the audience). By linking something familiar with something new, we can teach more easily, and the material will become easier to understand.

Some notes on the actual “crafting” of the poster:

  • I have had good success with LaTeX for posters before, but for the idea I had in mind, LaTeX could not help.
  • I took the opportunity to learn a new software (Inkscape) to make this work. I did not start from scratch entirely, but downloaded a template to get started.
  • There are some great tutorials on the use of Inkscape for researchers (e.g. Inkscape Tutorial), which I followed to learn how to use the software.
  • Inkscape can seem intimidating at first, but once the core principles are understood the advanced techniques are only a quick search online away.
  • I can only highlight the importance of free and open software for research, and I advocate the use of Open-Source Software for many reasons (have a chat with me at some point, if you dare :D).

After the poster was created, I practiced the presentation by talking through the poster a few times. I think everyone has different strategies for presenting, so what works for me does not necessarily work for everyone:

  • I prefer doing my presentation without notes, and I imagine explaining everything to a friend (and the audience usually is your friend). That takes away much of the pressure, and a few sentences in, I usually drop the nervousness.
  • As I have spent some thought on the flow of the poster, I can always link back to the poster at hand, in case I get lost in my argument.
  • With online presentations in particular, it is difficult to get reactions from the audience, and talking at a camera without knowledge about who is listening can be daunting. For these situations, it becomes even more important to get into the right headspace (talking to a friend, telling a science story to parents, etc).

I hope my unstructured thoughts on this matter bear some useful bits for your own posters! Good luck with your own presentations!

All the best,

Simon Reichel, SWBio DTP Student