Presenting a poster of your thesis at a conference is an excellent opportunity to display your own work and meet people who are interested in what you have done. All the time and effort that you have put into your thesis should be reflected in the quality of your poster. It is very easy to tell what is a good poster and what is a poor poster while comparing them at a conference. Here are some informal guidelines to help you create a “good poster” that really represents the effort and dedication you have put toward your thesis.
Titles are the first thing that people see, and they very often base their decision to stop at a poster on the title. The title of your thesis should be large and presented across the top of the poster. This should be presented on one piece of paper (not several taped together) and should include your name, your advisor’s name, and University of Massachusetts Amherst. The campus seal can be placed on this banner. The best type of paper to use for this is 44" X 8". If you place your request in time, it can be printed at Commonwealth Honors College; contact Roland Packard (email) for details.
The best program for designing slides is Microsoft PowerPoint. This program is available on lab computers in the psychology department, but also are most likely on the computer in your research lab. Start to play with it at least two weeks before you have to present the poster. You will see that, in addition to standard templates, you can manipulate many features of the program including colors, graphics, fonts, and overall design. Remember that this is going to be printed, so do not use a dark background as it will not print evenly and most likely will not print true to color. Ask for feedback from your advisor, any grad students in the lab, and anyone whom you think will have a good eye for judging design. Avoid humorous clip art!!
Each section of your poster should be clearly labeled at the top and the sections should go in order across the board. Any graphs on the poster should correspond with the section of the thesis that they are next to. All graphs should be clearly presented and explained and it should be easy to understand what the graphs demonstrate.
Once people read the title of your poster, the next thing they read is your abstract. If your abstract is not clear, concise, and thorough, then you might lose people. Position your abstract where many people can see it, possibly at the upper left side of the board or on both sides of the board. Make sure that your abstract completely describes your thesis but is brief at the same time.
Appearance counts for your poster. Often people may unknowingly judge your poster on appearance alone. You have worked so hard on your thesis over the year, why not show how much effort you have put into your project by presenting it proudly?
The font should be large enough for people to read while standing a few feet away and looking over someone’s shoulder. The type should be in a dark color with a light or white background (easiest to read). Your written and graph pages should be presented on matte board that is cut to fit the exact size of the each page with a one-inch border (consider using UMass maroon!). Glue the paper to the matte board with spray-on rubber cement but be aware that when you spray the page, it must be put on right away without hesitation. Finally, choose colors for your paper and matte board that complement each other and are not flashy, distracting, or clashing.
What to Avoid
Avoid anything that makes your poster look like you didn’t put time into making it. Examples are: Elmer’s glue (creates bubbles behind the paper), staples, and tape. Also, please do not use “methods”-style posters. What will pass in a methods class will not be looked upon fondly at a convention.
Bring extra copies of your thesis to distribute to people who take an interest in your poster. Have email cards available so people don’t need to copy down your email when you run out of copies. And, most importantly, stand by your poster, answer questions, and talk about your thesis! Be sure to have someone take your picture in front of the poster so you can show it off proudly to family, friends, and your advisor when you return home.