21 Sep 2022

The Evolution of the Scientific Poster: Hybrid Edition

Tamar Schlekat and Trudy Watson-Leung, SETAC

Before COVID, there was general sentiment from scientists interested in innovative science communication that the traditional posters were not conducive to scientific exchange. Most scientific conference goers likely agreed that the traditional poster session could be improved. Mike Morrison, frustrated with the traditional science poster, had just started what was being referred to as a Graphic Design Revolution for Scientific Conference Posters. Morrison’s main recommendations were to showcase the conclusion boldly in the middle of the poster, use the side bars for supporting information and data, and refer the poster viewer to supplemental material online. The idea challenged conference goers, including the authors, to think critically about their poster design. Many SETAC meeting attendees took up the challenge and used Morrison’s ideas in their posters right before COVID shut us all in.

When COVID forced us to adopt virtual meetings, we quickly learned that posters designed to be hung on large boards are not legible viewed on a screen, no matter how large. A few industrious people tried the enhanced poster design, PDFs with interactive capabilities, that the SETAC meeting platform accommodated. Available functions include interactive slides that zoom into specific content on your poster, with optional video and audio syncing. Many presenters chose to narrate their poster in accompanying short videos or audio files. Those options worked well for a virtual conference.

Now that we recognize the benefits of incorporating virtual components even as we return to in-person events, the hybrid conference format brings new challenges to poster presenters. Virtual meeting attendees will only be able to see what is posted online, but the in-person audience will be able to engage with presenters on site, then follow-up for more details by going to the virtual poster. How can a presenter prepare both an in-person and an online version of their poster that best showcases their work? What’s the best way to design a poster to attract someone to truly interact with the presenter rather than “read” a poster? We at SETAC have been thinking about that for quite some time and have some new and novel ideas.

Download a copy of the poster template.
  • For the virtual component, upload a short presentation (a few narrated slides; less than 200 MB) or prepare an enhanced poster. Attach a PDF of detailed information, methods, data tables, tool or model outputs, and even full manuscripts, if you wish.
  • For the in-person component, keep it simple! Make it attractive and catchy, and reference your online content for details. This should make it much easier for you to present an overview of your work to poster visitors and have them get the main point of the work without getting bogged down in details. Feel free to make use of the poster PowerPoint template we developed for all presenters.
  • For both formats, keep in mind accessibility considerations.

Tips for keeping your printed poster simple:

  • Put the conclusion at the top where it can be easily read. Keep in mind that the hall can get crowded, and sometimes people are assessing your poster from far away or through a crowd to know if they should stop to learn more.
  • Include pictures, infographics and a graphical abstract.
  • Be clear and concise in all statements; avoid long narratives and make use of lists.
  • Minimize the number of fonts used, choose a color scheme, and resist the temptation to overload the poster with data tables (refer to How to design an effective scientific poster).

There are many free online tools available to help. YouTube is full of training videos about how to record a poster presentation, and there are many ways to do so.

Authors’ contact: [email protected]