How to make a good conference poster (Part 2)

At the start of May, after I had been to the biggest conference for geoscientists in Europe (EGU), I wrote this post about “How to make a good conference poster“. I had been quite disappointed with the quality of posters at the conference and thought some guidelines would be good. Now it would be quite hypocritical if I only criticized the work of others and never showed a poster I created. So here I want to give a short insight into all the work that goes into creating a poster and how my workflow looks like!

Target audience,  content & size

The poster I am making is for the International Conference on Greenhouse Gas Technologies (GHGT), the biggest conference on greenhouse gas mitigation technologies, particular for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). The audience my poster has to target will be quite technical but also range from chemical engineers who do carbon capture over reservoir engineers to policy makers. The session I am presenting in is focused on geomechanics so I am allowed to make it quite specific. I do not have much of a choice regarding the actual information on the poster, in order to get a poster slot one has to submit an abstract in January and an extended abstract (or conference paper) in September (the conference itself is in October). So I had to try to put all the information I put into a 8 page abstract onto a poster… One of the requirements from the conference organisers was Portrait Orientation, I favour landscape, but that makes it just a bit more of a challenge!

Outline

As I suggested in my other post, sketching the outline of your poster by hand is great and gives you good ideas! I started by putting boxes with different headings on a piece of paper, trying to get a feeling of how much space I could give each section. Thanks to my extended abstract I already knew roughly what kind/how many images I wanted to put on the poster, and the headings I wanted were 1. Introduction, 2. Study Area, 3. Results, 4. Results, 5. Discussion & Outlook (pretty standard).

Version 1

First sketch of the poster. The final outcome looks very (!) different. You can see five boxes with headings, a title and some rough ideas of images I want to put in. I am very sorry about my handwriting (no, I am not ;)). You can see that I marked thirds on the long side of the page and the middle on the top. This was done after I put the boxes on and was supposed to improve the next draft.

For my next sketch I used an A3 page instead of an A4 to get a better idea of the actual space I had to fill:

Version 2

Sketch No.2: The shape of the poster is still about the same, boxes seem clearer defined, the first heading is a question, and, most important of all, I added a sketch of myself in the bottom right corner!

At this point I still was not too happy with it and I started thinking about what I could do to make my poster better. It is about fault sealing and why it is important to study faults near to possible CO2 storage sites. Suddenly I had the great idea to put a fault on my poster:

20140923_094842

Idea for a new outline. The arrows indicate that I changed my mind about the location of the title and authors after I drew them, the table was added much later and has nothing to do with the layout.

Using CorelDraw

At this point I thought I was ready to start on a digital version of the poster where I put preliminary versions of the images and the boxes on (using CorelDraw):

20140923_100943

First digital version of the poster: The idea of the fault has been transferred from the hand sketches as have the boxes and the headings. Most of the text is either just for filling space or copied from the abstract. Images are mainly preliminary. On the top left you can see the distances between boxes and text I was going to use.

I was kind of happy with the layout and started filling in all the boxes. Because I had written an extended abstract I had a lot of text to play around and this is the poster that resulted from that:

Poster Version 1

First semi-finished version of the poster. What? You say there is too much text?! Really? But I put so much effort into the text!

As you can see it now looks like one of those posters I like to complain about: Way too much text! This is the danger when you take a paper and try to make it into a poster. I kind of liked the way it looked but after some discussions with other PhD students I started to change it because less is more! Cutting down text also means more space for images and that is after all what posters are about:

Poster Version 2

Version with much less text & bigger images.

Final version

I took a quick survey in my office and some did not realize that the black thing in the middle was supposed to be a fault! Most of them are researching climate, fossils or similar things (e.g. geophysics *shrugs*) so they might not represent my target audience but I changed the boxes to follow the fault and finalized all images. I also changed the colour of the title & author boxes, maybe to simulate water filled reservoirs (?). Here is the (probably) final version of the poster:

Poster Version 3

Final (?) version of the poster: Colourful, clear images & text that gets to the point.

Comparing my poster with the requirements of a good poster (this post) shows that: (1) Ratio of text to images to white space is ok, (2) Font sizes and text spacing is good (3) Picture of the author and contact information is on it, (4) All images have a caption and (5) the title (hopefully) attracts an audience!
Making a good poster takes time. I like to work on posters for a day, then do something else the next day to give ideas time to settle and the start again. I spent approximately 10h on the poster, most of which I used to create the images:

Corel Time

Time I used Corel Draw in the last days. From Rescuetime.com .

If you have any ideas/comments on how to impove it, please comment on this post (or email me). After the conference I will also upload a high quality version of the poster for all that are interested…
I hope you enjoyed this post, I certainly enjoyed making the poster! I probably will blog from the conference, so if you are interested in climate change mitigation, stay tuned 🙂

EDIT: Thanks to loads of feedback I have changed the poster a bit more and now it seems to satisfy most, and more importantly me!

Poster Version 4

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