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How to Prepare for a Poster Session

This guide provides information to help you become prepared for a successful poster session.

What is a poster session?

An Overview of Poster Sessions

A poster session is a venue in which researchers have the opportunity to share their work with a wide audience in the form of a poster presentation. Poster sessions are often held during conference, professional meetings, or during research days or symposia events. They generally take place in large rooms, and allow for a large number of researchers to present their work during a single session. Presenters often stand by their posters while attendees walk through the room and speak to researchers about their work. 

Image by David Eppstein - CC BY-SA 3.0.


Goals of a Poster Session

To get the most out of a poster session, it is beneficial to think about what your goals are a head of time - what do you hope to get out of the session? While individuals may have their own personal goals, poster session presenters should also adopt the following aims. 

  1. Get people interested in your research.
  2. Receive feedback to improve your work.
  3. Network - find future collaborators, advisors, or job opporutnities.


Components of a Poster Session

While the name "poster session" suggests that posters are the primary focus during poster sessions, posters make up only one component of a successful poster presentation. It's helpful to think of a poster presentation as consisting of three components:

  1. A presentation
  2. A poster
  3. A handout

To learn about the different roles of these three components, visit the Components of a Poster Presentation page

General Tips for Success

Dress professionally and comfortably: If you have doubts about standards of dress in your discipline, ask your advisor, mentor, or colleagues for advice. Wear something that is professional, but that also helps you feel confident. Wear comfortable shoes, you will be on your feet for an extended period of time. 

Arrive early: This gives you time to familiarize yourself with the venue, find the nearest restroom, water fountain, coffee shop, and settle in and get comfortable. Introduce yourself to the other presenters and talk to them about their research. 

Bring push pins, a black marker, and white out: Some events require presenters to bring materials (such as push pins) to mount their posters to the display stands. You can also bring white out and a black marker in case you notice any last minute typos on your poster. 

Practice your presentation: Prepare and practice a 1-2 minute oral presentation of your research prior to the event. Talk through your presentation aloud to practice your timing and enunciation. 

Stand near your poster: Make sure you are present to speak to attendees and answer their questions. 

Make eye contact and address all attendees: You may have more than one person come to look at your poster at once. Make sure you make eye contact with everyone, don't just focus on one person. 

Don't leave early: While the crowd may dwindle later in the session, it's a professional responsibility to stay by your poster for the duration of the event.