Wherever scientists gather, there is sure to be a poster session. You may see them at major scientific symposia, as well as your university’s departmental retreat.
To keep things interesting, a lot of conference organizers will host a poster competition. Entrants will have a chance to present their poster to a judge, who will score each one on the scientific content, clarity, and style.
Some poster contests offer cash awards, but either way, it makes a great line on your CV.
This week, we share an insider’s guide on how to craft your poster and take home the big prize.
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We’re chatting once again with Dr. Zen Faulkes of the Better Posters substack. Dr. Zen has presented posters AND acted as a judge in competitions. He’s even written a book on the subject – Better Posters: Plan, Design, and Present an Academic Poster.
We start the conversation by exploring the benefits of entering a poster competition.
Aside from the modest cash prizes, it can look great on a CV, especially if you’re early in your training. You may not have a lot of papers yet, so having a poster award shows that someone has reviewed your science favorably.
The good news is that a winning strategy doesn’t have to be mysterious. Many poster competitions will share their score sheets or rubrics so that you can know exactly how the judges will be assessing your work. Just type ‘score sheet’ and the name of your conference into Google and you’re likely to get a hit.
Often, the judging criteria center around how clearly you’ve shared your hypothesis, methods, and results. For example, here are a few point-worthy items on a representative score sheet:
- Concise background information
- Clearly stated objective or hypothesis
- Concise explanation of experimental procedures
- Conclusions clearly support or refute objectives and/or hypothesis
These criteria are grouped under headings, and the point totals are right there for you to exploit and gamify. For example, the previous rubric only assigns 10 points out of 100 to “Student Interaction”, while this competition gives a full 30 points to the presentation.
They’re different ball-games, and you need to learn to play by the rules you’re given.
We discuss many more topics of poster design and presentation including how to craft a title, how to engage your audience, and why you should always ask for colleagues to review your work before presenting at the competition.