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!

Norton 2012 Hooper Symposium Poster
Rebecca Norton presents her 2012 Hooper Undergraduate Research Award project

 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

Poster content

Posters typically include many of the sections listed below (starred items are required).

  • Title*
  • Collaborators (including you) and their institutional affiliations
  • Abstract
  • 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 progress
  • Acknowledgements*
  • 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 logo 
  • Edit your poster carefully for typographic or grammatical mistakes and image quality before the final print-out (use the print-preview function)


Watch Video: Effective Research Posters

Video Accessibility Instructions:

These video instructions are located directy above a YouTube video. Hit the DOWN arrow key until you hear the words FLASH START. Once the screen reader is inside the FLASH OBJECT, hit the TAB key about 7 times until you hear PLAY BUTTON a second time. Hit the Spacebar key to play the video. You can then hit the Spacebar key again to pause the video. Feel free to hit TAB and TAB+SHIFT to listen to all the buttons in the FLASH OBJECT. Sometimes the PLAY button and the PAUSE button will be listed as an UNLABLED BUTTON.



Not all of the posters on these sites meet high quality standards.


Poster preparation resources


Check your poster