Making an academic poster presentation
An academic poster is a summary of your research, scholarly,
or creative project in a visually engaging way. It must be academically sound,
highlighting the context of your work (through photographs, maps, etc.), your
methods, and results (with graphs, charts, photographs, etc.).
The poster should be able to stand on its own as a clear,
logical presentation of your work, without any explanation from you.
To do a poster presentation, you should prepare an “elevator
speech” – a one to two-minute summary of your project that you could deliver to anyone during
a typical elevator ride. Don’t
wait for viewers to ask a question; say, “Would you like to hear about my
research in about two minutes or less?” This frees them from having to read and
figure it all out themselves. Then offer to answer questions. If you don’t know an answer, admit it,
speculate with the person, or ask what s/he thinks. Be sure to check to see if your
listener understands the technical aspects of your explanation and if what
you’re saying makes sense.
Be sure to speak loudly enough to be heard, slow enough that
you think your are speaking too slowly, and without fillers like “um,” “uh,”
“like,” “you know,” and “okay.”
It helps to practice on your friends and family first!
A good poster will
- Meet the guidelines for the specific event
- Match the audience knowledge base and interests
- Focus your message – what is the one thing you want
people to remember?
- Convey your message visually
- Be readable from about 4 - 6 feet away
- Be clearly organized
Posters typically include many of the sections listed below (starred
items are required).
- Collaborators (including you) and their
- Background/literature review
- Research question/s*
- Materials, approach, process, or methods*
- Results/conclusion* (in humanities: main argument,
insight, and significance of work)
- Future directions, especially if this is a work in
- Contact information*
Poster design tips
For a few quick hints, check out this Poster Presentation Seminar slide show
from Rachel Dueck, NAU Marketing Creative Coordinator. For additional information, consider the following tips when designing your poster.
- Most students use Microsoft PowerPoint to design
posters. Be sure to begin by
setting the page size to your final poster size. More sophisticated programs such as
Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, or Photoshop are other design options.
- Use large text (your text should be at least 18-24 pt;
headings 30-60 pt; title >72pt.)
- Do not use more than 2-3 font styles total
- Use fonts that are easy to read (such as Times New
Roman, Garamond, and Arial)
- Avoid jagged edges: left-justify text within text boxes
or fully justify blocks of text
- Avoid too much text (no more than 800 words max) and
undefined technical jargon (depending upon your potential audience)
- Choose colors carefully and pay attention to contrast. If in doubt, dark print on light
background is best. Remember – some colorblind people cannot distinguish
between red and green.
- Organize and align your content with columns, sections,
headings, and blocks of text
- White space is important to increase visual appeal and
readability (this is the “empty” space between sections, columns,
headings, blocks of text, and graphics).
- Selectively incorporate charts, graphs, photographs, key
quotations from primary sources, maps, and other graphics that support the
theme of your poster. It is best to
avoid using tables of data.
- Avoid fuzzy images; make sure all graphics are high-resolution
(at least 300ppi) and easily visible
- Include the NAU
- Edit your poster carefully for typographic or
grammatical mistakes and image quality before the final print-out (use the
Not all of the posters on these sites
meet high quality standards.
Poster preparation resources