Presenting a Poster…with Style!

With the National Meeting in San Diego right around the corner and a whole host of Regional Meetings fast approaching, many of you are probably presenting a poster or thinking of presenting a research poster.  While there are a few individuals out there who relish in publicly speaking to others, glossophobia, or the fear of speaking in public, ranks as the #2 most common fear after fear of flying: ahead of fear of bears, spiders, clowns, the dark, and even death.

This woman hates speaking in public MORE THAN THIS

That last category is why Jerry Seinfeld commented that “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

But whether you’re a natural entertainer or shaking in your boots at the thought of presenting a paper, the key is preparation.  We’ve recently published an article about preparing for a poster session (see page 16) and we can’t recommend this webinar by Dr. Brent Znosko highly enough (more info on the webinar at the bottom of this post, but he gave us many of these tips!).  Here are a few simple tips to help you prepare for that presentation you’re planning to ace at your next meeting:

3 weeks before the meeting:

  1. Know your research- its one thing to know what you’re doing in a lab, its another thing entirely to be an expert in your work.  Be honest with yourself: do you really understand why you did what you did?  Do you understand the science behind your work?  If not, now is the time to look at the work you’ve done and really “get” what you’ve done.  And if you are not able to understand conceptually what you’ve been working on, find someone who can help you get to that place.  Because people will know if you’re faking.

  2. Prepare an “elevator speech” for your project- You should have a prepared, 1 minute statement about your research, what you did, and why it is important that can be understood by someone familiar with your area of chemistry.  One minute isn’t much, so cut out most of the detail and get straight to the point.  Make sure you don’t have to point at your poster while you speak except maybe to reference a graph or diagram: both your statement and the poster should speak for itself.  Practice your speech for friends, family, adviser, and lab co-workers.
  3. Get some business cards printed up.  You can get 250 of these custom printed at Staples for $6.  Most businesses will expect you to have these, believe it or not.  Why do you need them?  Read on!
  4. Have a backup copy of your poster on a flash drive-Because you never know where your poster might end up.  To put it another way:

    At the Meeting

  5. Dress professionally: whether you like it or not, people will draw conclusions on you based on how you are dressed.  Also, keep in mind visitors may be evaluating you for a job or for graduate school.  Dress appropriately for a presentation.  That said, wear comfy shoes; you may be standing on concrete for an hour or more.
  6. Arrive early and know your space- give yourself at least 30 minutes to arrive, setup, and take a deep breath and relax.  Your poster should be up and ready to go at least 15 minutes before the poster session starts.  After setting up, walk your space to get a feel for it, then get something to eat or drink and finish it before the session starts.  And if you have to go to the bathroom, trust us: go now.
  7. Greeting visitors- When a visitor arrives, stay calm.  Say hello, and if the person looks interested in speaking, introduce yourself, ask your visitor’s name, and hand them a business card.  Be sure to ask your visitor for one as well.  Note who they are, what they do, and ask them their involvement in your topic.  Take 30 seconds to learn your audience before you start speaking and adjust your elevator speech accordingly.  Try not to talk over the head of a layperson or give extraneous information to the head of a field!
  8. Present!  If you’ve worked hard up and prepared, this should be the easiest part!

    Shown: Science!

This is a brief introduction to presenting a poster, and there is quite a bit more to cover in terms of poster design, elevator speeches, and  presentation details.  To learn what to include in your poster, how to present, and common dos and don’ts, attend Dr. Znosko’s webinair March 6th from 2-3, EST.

Do you have any presentation tips or horror stories?  Funny presentation moments?  Share them below, we’d love to hear about them!


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