Creating an Effective Poster Presentation

Creating an Effective Poster Presentation

This module will cover the guidelines for creating an effective poster presentation for sharing research findings.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the purpose of a poster presentation and when it can be used effectively
  • Describe the layout commonly used for posters
  • List the formatting guidelines used in designing and creating the poster
  • Describe the process and steps used to create the poster using PowerPoint


Poster presentations are an excellent way for researchers to share findings and display their work. The researcher is typically available to give a short presentation and answer any questions, while the poster serves as a visual aid and a communication tool.  Preparation of an effective poster is critical to the poster presentation's success. The purpose of the poster is to serve as a summary and an advertisement of the work that supplements the researcher's presentation.  The poster could be thought of as an illustrated version of the abstract with visual displays of data and small blocks of text that explain the project and support the data.  An effective poster can engage colleagues, start conversations, help foster collaborations and help researchers network.  During a poster presentation session, the audience will be looking for a clear snapshot of the project so a good poster is focused on single message, uses graphics and images to tell the story, and is well-organized and sequenced.  An ineffective poster often has a main point that is hard to find, text that is too small, poor graphics, poor organization and other problems. The research and the results will only appear to be as interesting and noteworthy as the quality of the poster.  Therefore, while posters can be an important way to disseminate research findings, they must be prepared correctly. There are many guidelines for developing a quality poster in the resources on this page, as well as samples of good posters.  Many researchers use PowerPoint to create their posters for presentation.  Please see the instructions for creating a poster using PowerPoint that can be found in the Resource Links on this page.  Following is a condensed list of general tips that are helpful in creating an effective poster. 

  • Spend time planning and laying out the format of the poster so that it is organized, focused, and information flows in a logical way. Posters are often divided into sections similar to a research paper.  Use headings to help the readers find sections.
  • The title is important and will draw the audience in.   It should be short, focused and compelling.  Be sure the title is not too long and it should be large enough to read from some distance.  In general though, the title should not exceed the width of the poster.
  • The content of all the sections should be concise.  Graphics, data, charts, and other analyses should be the focus and small sections of text should supplement those. The content should tell readers why the work matters, the results, recommendations and implications.  Do not focus too much on methods in a poster presentation.
  • The text size should be large enough to read from one to two meters.  Pick a font that is easy to read.  This is not the time to get to get too creative.  Strive for a consistent, clean, readable look.
  • Do not overdo color.  In general, dark letters on a light back ground are the easiest to read.  Avoid overly bright colors and the use of too many different colors.  Both are distracting to readers.  Some color makes the poster more attractive and interesting but be careful not to overdo it.
  • Layout is critical. The flow of information should go from top to bottom and left to right. Readers will lose interest so do not make them jump all over the poster to get the story.
  • Give credit!  Put the names of all authors and institutional affiliations just below the title.  And don't forget to include a references section!
  • Prepare a summary handout so that people will remember the highlights of your work.  Be sure to include full contact information in the handout.

The following YouTube video provides additional information on the basic guidelines of how to design an effective poster presentation.


Suggested Readings

Block, S. M. (1996). Do's and don't's of poster presentation. Biophysical Journal, 71(6), 3527.
MacIntosh-Murray, A. (2007). Poster presentations as a genre in knowledge communication: A case study of forms, norms, and values. Science communication, 28(3), 347-376.
Miracle, V. A., & King, K. C. (1994). Presenting research: Effective paper presentations and impressive poster presentations. Applied Nursing Research, 7(3), 147-151.
Rowe, N., & Ilic, D. (2009). What impact do posters have on academic knowledge transfer? A pilot survey on author attitudes and experiences. BMC medical education, 9(1), 71.
Taggart, H. M., & Arslanian, C. (2000). Creating an effective poster presentation. Orthopaedic Nursing, 19(3), 47-49.

Viewed 7,878 times