Templates for conference posters

Below are several templates (3 landscape, 2 portrait) that can be used to make a meeting poster. Just download, adjust the dimensions (if you need to), and start typing. You can, of course, also change background color, text box color, font, etc. The templates are just starting points that can save you a few hours of fussing over the basics like column widths.

1. Here’s a horizontal template (Powerpoint, OpenOffice that gives a lot of central, visible space to the results and demotes unimportant sections (Literature cited, Acknowledgements, Further information) to the bottom portion of the poster that is harder to read. If you’d like to see an example of this layout, please look here

Horizontal (landscape) poster template

2. If you prefer a more traditional layout (just columns) but still like the big central area for results, use this (Powerpoint). Note that any content near the bottom part of the Materials and methods and Results sections will be harder for tall people to read (because they’ll need to bend their necks).  If you don’t like tall people, choose this template.

Horizontal (landscape) poster template

3. The third option is the four-column approach (the most traditional). Here’s the file to download: poster-template-horizontal-3-purrington.ppt.

Horizontal (landscape) poster template

4. If you need a portrait-style poster template, you can give this a try. Template has little dots near the bottom to indicate that Literature cited and Acknowledgements should be read last. You can delete those dots if they offend your sensibilities. I’ve also indicated with the “logos” graphic that logos can/should go at the bottom. Here’s the file to download: poster-template-vertical-1-purrington.ppt (Powerpoint), poster-template-vertical-2-purrington.odg (OpenOffice Draw).

Portrait template for conference poster

5. If you prefer a portrait-style template with a big results area, use this (Powerpoint) template. As with other templates, put the logos at the bottom of the poster. Or don’t include them at all. 

Vertical (portrait) conference poster template

Research posters that are tall have bottom areas that are hard to read
[No, these are not robots heating up metal rods with ray blasts ]
Note: I tend to dislike portrait posters because a lot of the poster is below your field of vision (example) so you’d need to stoop to fully read. If you are in charge of a poster session, please read my plea about this problem.

Your poster doesn’t need to look like any of the templates above. Unlike a manuscript, a poster can adopt a variety of layouts depending on the form of charts and photographs. Indeed, you probably don’t want your poster to look like every other poster in the room (that would be boring).There are also thousands of other templates on the internet, but I dislike most of them because they are too busy and don’t have white space. The University at Buffalo’s templates are exceptions. But don’t be constrained by templates. As long as you maintain sufficient white space and provide clear cues to your readers about how they should travel through your poster elements, you can and should get creative. Here are some I like: example 1example 2, example 3.

Software recommendations

Although the vast majority conference posters on the planet are produced with Microsoft Powerpoint, you’ll end up with a better-looking poster if you use a page-layout application such as QuarkXPress, InDesign (great poster instructions), LaTeX (templates; instructions; example), or Scribus (instructions). These programs allow control of text wrapping around images, automatic text flow among associated text blocks, and much more. You can also make posters with graphics software such as Illustrator, CorelDRAW, FreehandOmnigraffle, and Inkscape. There’s also PosterGenius for those who need a program that will make a lot of the design decisions for you.

If you’re crafty, a handmade poster is far superior to anything that you could make with a poster printer. Plus you’d be the highlight of a meeting. 

Embrace the rough draft process

Getting feedback on a scientific poster by Post-Its.

The most important part of producing a great poster is to embrace the rough draft process. At least a month before the meeting, bribe people to critique your poster when you are not present. (If you are present they will say, “Looks good!”) Ask them to leave all their suggestions on small Post-Its that you provide for them, prompting them to comment on content, word count, idea flow, figure clarity, font size, spelling, etc. Note that you can print a miniature version of your poster on letter-sized for friends — they’ll be able to read the text well enough to make comments, except if friends are old and can’t read fine print anymore (senescence, etc.). If you have access to a projector, display your poster on a large screen and ask people to Post-Its onto the screen (again, you should be someplace else).

Another way to solicit comments is to convert your poster to a JPG and post it to a Flickr group in which members share critiques. Of course, that might be a long wait, since those “others” are complete slugs. So you might need to send a message to your friends with the URL, or make a Twitter appeal (“Dear peeps, please help make my poster suck less. Comments appreciated.”) Internet-based poster feedback is especially good if you have no friends to look at physical, real-world poster drafts.

Poster design overview • Section contents • DOs and DON’Ts • Bad example
Templates • Printing • Poster additions • Presenting • Resources


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