The Genomic Repairman is currently a Ph.D. student who escaped from the deep south, and studies DNA damage and repair through biochemical and genetic approaches. He intends to use pine away about his scientific interests and rant about the things (and there are lots of them) that annoy him.
My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.
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Sorry for the infrequency of my posts as of late, I'm trying to get some last minute experiments done and make a poster for a conference that I'm leaving for at the end of the week. This activity has brought to mind some tips to help those less experienced in art of poster making.
1st Commandment: Thou shalt not use Comic Sans MS font or thou shalt be put to death by stoning. Seriously, I've seen some of you do it before. Not only does it look ghastly, it also looks like my 6 year old cousin did your poster for you, I mean why not just draw it all out in crayons?
2nd Commandment: Bullet points of text good, giant paragraphs of text bad. WTF are you doing with the great American novel printed onto a poster. Use small snippets of text for a variety of reasons: you are standing by the damn thing so you can explain it, people have short attention span, etc. There is a saying as far as poster about ink. Ink is valuable, don't waste ink on text, use it up on figures and data (not too much data, see next commandment).
3rd Commandment: This is thy poster, not thy thesis. You don't have to try and jam every single piece of data that you have collected into your poster. The poster is meant to be a short term vignette of what you have been working on that flows in a linear fashion. Nobody is going to stare at your poster for hours when you have 12 eight panel figures of confocal data. Its too much and too hard to see.
4th Commandment: Thou shalt have enough data. Don't show up with a poster that has one or two figures and nothing else. We know you are trying to hide you lack of data and just made your figures grossly enlarged to eat up space.
5th Commandment: Goeth easy on the eyes. I don't want to have some pseudo-orgasmic epileptic seizure of the visual cortex because you went all fucking technicolor rainbow with your color spectrum. I'm not going to wear 3D glasses to look at your poster.
6th Commandment: Have two forms of a walk-through of your poster. Long form where you can take your time and explain in detail to those with severe interest in you work. And a short form that just hits the highlights in less than a minute for a busy PI who is just trolling the hall to find free drinks.
7th Commandment: Have thy references. Look if you reference a paper in your poster, bring a hardcopy of each with you and just leave it on the ground. If someone is arguing a point with you that way you can yank the journal shot them the figure and tell em to eat crow. Oh and have about no more than 10 references in your poster.
8th Commandment: Honor thy helpers and collaborators. These guys either helped you out in the lab or sent you reagents to help you out. Please make a short mention of them in your poster. I always make a short blurb in my acknowledgements section to folks in my lab for ongoing support or discussion. Oh and acknowledge any funding that made this project or presentation happen (training grant, etc).
9th Commandment: Thou shalt have thumb tacks and thou shalt share them. Self explanatory and builds good karma. Don't be underprepared or be an asshole.
10th Commandment: The Lord giveth you two hands. One to point with and one to drink with. As I have said before, booze makes everything better
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There is no reason to have anywhere close to 10 references on a poster except to fill up space. I don't think I've ever had more than 5 on a poster, usually 2 or 3 will suffice because The Lord hath given us a bounty of review articles.
BB some of our field specific stuff is so new that review articles do not exist for it, so you must cite some stuff. And I actually believe in giving credit to those who really did the work, not the guy who wrote the review article. Plus, my references section is in a much smaller font than the rest of the poster.
The problem is refs on a poster are damn near useless. Most people don't even look at them. I'm not standing by a poster to write down all the relevant refs, and chances are pretty good I've got nothing to write them on. Refs on a poster don't count toward anyone's h-index. If you think refs really are necessary, then I would say have multiple copies of a separate list pinned next to the poster; there are better ways to use the space, IMO.
Oh, and commandment #0, get thee over to Better Posters blog :)
Ref's are debatable and I do try to make them really tiny, but I always try to reference stuff in any presentation whether poster or talk. Its kind of a sticking point for me. Better Posters is an awesome blog and always great for the first timer or someone wanting to enhance their posters.
Dude, your preview pic is a perfect example of what not to do on a poster--what the hell is it?
And on the refs, making anything really tiny goes against #5--"Goeth easy on the eyes." That goes for font sizes as well as colors.
After seeing a freaking a tie dyed theme background on a poster one time I swear it gave me a migraine headache.
The Better Posters blog is good for EVERYONE. Most people think their posters are great, but they usually make me want to rip my eyes out.
ahh... you need to remember "don't do fancy colour one and fonts in fancy colour almost one" ... it's funny (not really) how many posters/presentations I've seen the last couple of years with novel colour combinations which most of them SUCKS to read from a distance. Have people never focused on the "contrast between fonts and background?".
Oh, and the font size.... but that goes with "remove large chunks of text and replace with bullet points" , which usually means you can increase font size to 'readable even from 2-3 feet away'.
This is thy poster, not thy thesis. You don't have to try and jam every single piece of data that you have collected into your poster.
Ugh - that is the worst! This goes for 10-minute (or less) conference talks too. If people want to know more about your thesis work, they'll ask!
I've never thought to actually bring hard copies of my references. That's a really good idea. I'll have to keep it in mind next time!
I never include references on my posters. Though I am going to break a few commandments this year for my tri-society meeting presentation. Thanks to a craptastic collaboration, I'll have half a poster dedicated to text, with the other half figures. I'm also moving to a 42" by 42" format, down from the 80" by 36" format I used to use. I love it when collaborators stone wall me, forcing me to scramble at the last minute.
TJ, why don't you usually include your references? I thought that was standard protocol.
I never add references except maybe for the methods.
But the key thing is this: never use font sizes smaller than 18 points. You should be able to read the poster from 5-6 feet away.
Re: readability of posters, one tip I recall from Doctor Zen's Better Posters blog is the arm-length test: Print the poster on a standard 8x11 sheet then hold it at arm's length. If you can read it, then font-sizes should be suitable for the full-size poster.
That's a really good tip, BB.
I always add references, but I'm very picky about the ones I choose. I usually end up with about 5-7 that really sum up why I'm doing the things I am.
Yeah, I never include refs either on a poster. Its a poster. Only Becca's ruler-enemy is going to write down references to look up later.
I've also never included references on a poster. My background section is usually maybe 2-3 sentences max.
Dude - 3D posters, come on now, that would be kinda cool!!! This is a great reference piece for grad students. Another pet peeve of mine was people who showed up to conferences with 9 bits of A4 paper printed out and stuck them up on the wall - it just looks so incredibly crappy and everyone else made the effort. Though typically it was people who had some last minute crisis printing their poster. I can remember a few close calls myself, the IT tech people at our printing facility were a bunch of morons and would head to the pub at 4pm everyday despite being open until 5pm, so there'd be a huge queue of posters waiting to print and a bunch of very PO'd looking grad students/postdocs waiting for their precious conference cargo! Fortunately I always managed to get them done in the nick of time, but mostly because I'm stupidly organised and started about 3 weeks early!
I can't WAIT to see what Science Enemy has up her sleeve at SfN this year. Regardless, I never put references on my posters. Posters are for conversations, not reading! They should only have the most basic background and methods, and very clear figures. People can (and should!) ask questions if they want more detail.
Good stuff, which I've shred over at the Better Posters blog. (And thanks to those who mentioned it in the comments!)
My own thoughts on references: http://betterposters.blogspot.com/2009/05/references-on-posters.html
Also relevant, I think: http://betterposters.blogspot.com/2009/09/containment.html
Ooops! Shared, not shred!
Thanks Doctor Zen for posting that. I'm a big fan of your blog and thanks for the great advice.
I think shred is rather apt. You could rebrand yourself as the POSTER SHREDDER
Ha! Will you be accompanied by 4 amphibians with martial art skills?
A reference soon to be lost as our generation is getting older.
Nice one Nikki! Or possibly a disembodied brain from dimension X or an intellectually challenged rhino or warthog!
Genomic Repairman said:
A reference soon to be lost as our generation is getting older.
I'll be sure my kids see the old movies, if only for the Vanilla Ice performance! Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go!
LOL! My brother used to watch it about 3 times a week. We were big on the TMNT in my house.
2 3 bits.
1) If I feel the need to mention a reference on the poster, I just do it in the context of my bullet points. Such as: " Smith et al (Journal of Things, 2010) showed that by doing x, y happened" I agree that full references are not very useful on a poster.
2) Bringing copies of your own paper that's relevant to the poster is a great idea.
3) My opinion is to not have a canned walk through of your poster. Just know you material and have a conversation. Whenever I'm viewing a poster, I'm going to be asking questions and interrupting your mini-speech, which will annoy you because you'll have to backup a sentence or two to get back in the groove.
I apologize and am duly humbled.
I don't so much as want a canned talk, as I want people to have an idea of how to do a cogent walkthrough of their poster. I have seen folks who print it up and then have a difficult time talking about it because they haven't given any thought on how to convey it in words as they have merely focused on getting ink to paper. Also you you need to have a few short highlights and quick presentation for those that don't have a lot of time. How many times has a PI or judge come up to a poster and said, "I'm pressed for time but think your abstract is interesting, what can you tell me?" And you have to be prepared for that.
I think it is also important to spell all the words in the title correctly. How did no one else here notice "presenations"?
Haha - nice catch, GertyZ! I'm gonna plead that I clicked through from Twitter, so I skipped the title here, since I already knew what it was about.
Good Catch Gerty. PI's have a keen eye and you caught me as I tried to punch out this post during a busy day and did not check my spelling.
Dude! I need to send this to my graduate advisor....a perpetual pack rat! Making a poster with her was like getting electrolysis...soooo painful!
You've had electrolysis? WTF!