Poster flop

I gave my first fancy poster yesterday, at MathBio3.

I was hoping to use the experience as an opportunity to talk about how great poster sessions can be, and to refer to Terry Speed’s old IMS bulletin column in praise of poster sessions [pdf], and then to go on to discuss how, for me, the interpersonal interactions at poster sessions are rather awkward. (For example, if you look at someone’s poster for a while, with the presenter standing there watching you, are you obliged to ask a question, or can you slink off?)

However, other than two people I knew and lassoed over, I had just one person look at my poster. (He was nice enough to ask me to explain it.)

What went wrong? Here are some possibilities:

  • There is some design flaw in my poster
  • I’m scary to look at
  • My poster was in a bad location (at the end rather than the middle)
  • It was 5:30pm and people just wanted to drink
  • I’m a loser

I’m going to conclude location.

As at many conferences, the posters were not treated well.

  • The poster abstracts were not distributed (not even titles were given)
  • The poster session was at the end of the day (not last, but next-to-last)
  • The poster session was only 1 hour long, and it started 20 min late (the talks went over time)

They did have 10/30 poster presenters give a 1 minute introduction to their poster, right before the session. That worked very well (for those 10 people).

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4 Responses to “Poster flop”

  1. Galin Says:

    “It was 5:30pm and people just wanted to drink”

    I hate to admit it, but this is all I think of at poster sessions.

  2. Jeff Leek Says:

    I agree with Galin, the timing of poster sessions can make it hard for folks to concentrate. They are usually held after a long day of talks and people are pretty well zoned out. I think it would be cool if posters were held in the morning, before all the talks happened. It would also be cool if there was some kind of incentive for people to look at lots of posters, say some way they could vote for the best posters, etc.

    At the end of a long day, I am usually drawn to posters that have: (1) a clear story to tell, (2) few equations, (3) limited text in bullet point format, and (4) clear and arresting images. Probably because my attention span is wrecked. I see a lot of posters at poster sessions that look like someone copied and pasted the text of their paper into “poster format”. Even when the formatting is pretty, I don’t want to read long blocks of text (which is awkward, particularly if the author is standing there). One really cool thing I saw on one poster was a section, “Questions for discussion” where they teed up some questions for me to ask. It got the conversation going.

  3. Alexandra Nones Says:

    You are not that scary to look at. –alex

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