Pretty in pink conference poster

Making conference posters stand out

Your poster is yours, so you should feel free to add objects to increase the effectiveness of your message. Doing so will dramatically increase the number of people visiting and remembering you and your poster.

1. Add hidden panels

If you have information that only some viewers might find interesting, use a hidden panel approach (zoos and museums do this a lot). Just print your interesting extras onto your poster, but cover the area with a hinged piece of poster board onto which you have glued something else.Hidden panel on conference poster

2. Add 3D images

If you have three dimensional data or complex molecular structures (examples; more examples), make 3D images. There are software programs that can generate stereoscopic images that are viewable with cheap 3-D glasses. Here are directions on making your own stereoscopic setup for about $19.98 (before taxes) using Legos and two novelty key-chain cameras. Have a pouch near the figure so that viewers can help themselves to glasses even when you have abandoned your poster. Attach glasses with string if you think somebody will walk off with them.3D glasses

3. Add objects

If your topic is related to a thing or object, attach it. E.g., if you study sexual dimorphism in freakishly large beetles, glue them onto the poster so people can gawk. It’s so much better than a photograph, and certainly better than simply stating they are freakishly large. If your thing is fragile, just put it into clear protective container and then attach the container. Use 3M removable tape if you want to minimize damage to underlying poster paper. Neodymium magnets are even slicker — just attach a magnet to your thing, and affix a second magnet onto the back of the poster. Note that researchers of large things can always use miniaturized version made by a 3D printer (example). Attaching an object will increase visitor traffic by at least 20% (I’m making that up, but I’m sure it’s measurable).Box of cigarettes attached to academic poster

4. Add doodles

Use removable tape to add a transparency sheet over a graph or photograph if you want to make non-permanent doodles with Dry-Erase markers. You can then doodle on critical parts of your poster, then erase.

5. Add slideshows and movies

If you wish to show movies or photographs, attach an iPad (at right; another example) or equivalent. Here’s a video showing how to attach. If the movies and photographs look OK on smaller screens, use an old iPod or iPhone. You can also buy cheap digital photo frames at Targét. Note: provide headphones if audio is banned in session room (common). And if your media presentation is critical to the poster, put it online and then provide the QR code (for URL) on the spot underneath the iPad so that viewers can still see the movie even when you remove the iPad (so people don’t steal it when you’re away from your poster).iPad on conference poster

6. Add sound

If your topic is related to sound, attach a sound device that contains your sound (bird calls, engine rattle, etc.). A cheap “sound postcard” will often do the trick if you don’t want to risk your iPad. Just fill the picture frame with an illustration of the sound-generating organ or machine, and indicate where on the photograph the viewer should press to activate the sound.Photograph by Colin Purrington

7. Add virtual reality content

Add virtual-reality content (and VR goggles) if you need a way to enhance the poster-viewing experience in some way. There are some great examples over at SeriousGeoGames (scroll down for poster pics).

8. Add odors

If your topic is related to olfaction, try to get the odor onto your poster somehow. Microencapsulation is one way to make scratch-n-sniff areas, but if you work on a common odor there might be a scented ink that you can just buy. E.g., you might go for the smell of fresh cut grass if your poster is on effects of grazing. You can also buy odor sample bags to trap smells for later use (just attach them to your poster with instructions on how to extract a whiff).


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