Presenting a Poster: The Do’s and Don’ts

Independence Hall National Historic Park Philadelphia

Independence Hall National Historic Park Philadelphia

As the end of August approaches, so does the 252nd ACS National Meeting in Philadelphia! For many of you reading this right now, you will be presenting your research, and for a few of you, you’ll be presenting for the first time.

Here at ACS, we want your poster presentation experience to be both fun and rewarding. Therefore, we talked with Dr. Brent Znosko, Professor of Chemistry at Saint Louis University, about presenting undergraduate research, and he provided the following advice.

  1. Know your research: Although you may have done all of the bench work, do you understand the mechanisms and background of your research? If not, now is the time to dig into the literature and to seek help from your advisor to understand the reasoning behind each of your laboratory steps and the larger picture of your project.
  2. Prepare your elevator speech: A 60-second summary of what you did, why you did it, and your results.
  3. Practice, practice, practice: You should practice your “elevator speech” to yourself, lab mates, friends, and family. It can be helpful to present to people without a chemistry background. For example, a group of middle school students were touring our new science building, and their teacher asked me about my research. To explain my work with protein affinity tags, I talked about eating a bowl of Lucky Charms. Whenever you eat a bowl of Lucky Charms, all you really want are the marshmallows; this is analogous to my research because we want to pick out specific proteins from a mixture. Bazinga!The kids understood my research! Practice your elevator speech to others, and you will be prepared for whoever walks up to your poster.
  4. Designing your poster: The key to a great poster is a single, cohesive story summarizing your research project by showing the key results that support your conclusion and demonstrate the originality of your work. (See the February 2012 issue of )
  5. Dressing for success: Potential employers and graduate school recruiters come by the poster sessions, so you want to look professional and confident. For both men and women, I suggest going for solid colors for tops and black or blue for pants—a conservative and classic look.

For men, black pants/slacks, a button-down shirt (long sleeve), and a tie is ideal. Also, nice brown or black shoes are important—ditch the sneakers for today.

poster sessionFor women, the best combinations are black pants/skirt with a nice shirt (short sleeve or long sleeve) or a dress that is close to knee length. It’s important to wear nothing that is too clingy. You want your work to be on display, not your figure. Also, low heels (no taller than 2 inches) or flats are best. You will be standing up and walking all day.

  1. Print business cards: Now that you have practiced and look you the part, you should be prepared to share your contact information. You can get 250 cards custom printed at Staples for $6!

To make sure you’re ready to go, here’s an ACS National Meeting Poster Presenter checklist:

  • Notecards to practice your speech
  • Poster (seems obvious, but double check!)
  • Flash drive that contains a copy of your poster file
  • Printed materials (your poster number, confirmation, etc.)
  • Hotel and flight itineraries
  • Appropriate outfit
  • Business cards and a portfolio with copies of your resume
  • Pen and a notebook (who knows when inspiration could strike!)

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