What should you know to create a poster that stands out from hundreds of boring ones and generates leads

Conference Poster That Performs

Date: 23.09.2017 Document Version: v 0.11 (main ideas, added our poster and further reading section) Authors & Editors: Roman Gurinovich, Vasili Puntus, Yuliya Buinitskaya

Table of Contents

Main Schema of How Poster Performs Ingredients of The Well Done Poster Goal Target, Problem, Solution Content Content Checklist Visual Composition Figures and Colors Fonts Call To Action (CTA) Title Our Case Conclusion Further Reading

"How are we going to explain that to people?" - I was asking myself, while Yuliya continued: "Soldiers run with light to the generals to tell them about inflammation. If they succeed, the war will begin. Own citizens, neurons, will be damaged too." - It was her third attempt to explain neuroinflammation to me. "And did our algorithm find this reasoning chain?" "Yes, 2/3 of the paths makes sense from biomedicine perspective, not all are the revelation, but some of them are quite intriguing." "Wow! And how we are going to explain AI reasoning through millions of texts to the people in Basel?"

  • Yuliya took a pause to articulate: "Just speak their language."

We were working on the first version of the sci.AI cogitation algorithm and going to present it during poster session at upcoming Basel Life conference.

Ingredients of The Well Done Poster

  • Great Research;
  • Goal;
  • Targets, their Problem and your Solution (TPS);
  • Figure that explains your method, experiment, and result;
  • Title that contains hypothesis and question simultaneously;
  • Pencil and a lot of A4 blank paper.



  • Key Goal of any poster: facilitate further learning about your research and your team. "Where can I read their full paper? How did they achieve such amazing results? Can I fork their algorithm for my research? How can I have kids with that smart guy?" - your visitor should ask himself.
  • The more complicated goal is to achieve measurable behavioral change, what you expect your target to do after seeing your poster. Fill in the blanks: "After seeing my poster, I would like my visitors to < apply my formula in their calculations. In general, describe behavioral change of your targets > that can be measured as < closing 2 contracts, winning 2 Nobel Prizes in 30 years and 1M bucks in 5 years >"

Target, Problem, Solution (TPS)

It is all about your audience. Try to imagine yourself in their shoes. What format of your findings will be valuable and clear for them?

Target Problem Solution
Academic Researchers Too many papers to read and follow the latest findings Extract key facts and show relevant only and linked to own research
3 targets max


Keep all the components of scientific methods and distill them to beautiful figure, title and 3-5 sentences:

  • Observation
  • Question
  • Method
  • Experiment
  • Analysis

Communicating that research follows Rigorous and FAIR principles also helps to build trust. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rigour https://www.force11.org/fairprinciples

R: will be detalized later

Content Checklist

  • [ ] Does it speak language that is clear to your targets?
  • [ ] Does it solve problem of your target?
  • [ ] Is solution valuable and competitive?

Visual Composition

Figures and Colors

The Figure should tell the whole story.

Figure Checklist

  • [ ] Top-down or left-right directed. Avoid loops, feedbacks, chaos and backpropagation. Reader should scan the poster. Reduce cognitive load to absolute minimum.
  • [ ] Focus is on the main character
  • [ ] When possible, use single, bright, monolithic element. Ideally - main character of your story.

Material design palettes are ok for majority of STEM disciplines. https://www.materialpalette.com/


~ 180 pt for the Title ~ 100 pt for the Key Points

If there is other text on the poster - you still have room for improvements. Remember, reduce cognitive load to absolute minimum.

Call To Action (CTA) Fonts

Unless max goal is Certificate of Attendance, in all other cases, communicate very clearly what you would like your listeners to do.

graph LR
cta1[Call Me +1-734-692-347]
cta2[Cite Me and Make Me Famous]
cta3[Validate My Formula]
cta4[Give Me Grant]
cta5[Make Contract with Our Laboratory To Do Further Research]


Exactly. The last item in the list: only now you have prototype of the poster and can realistically select the name. (Most likely you submitted abstract million years ago and would to change the title now. It is not allowed usually. So just change it: audience is more important that some bureaucracy)

Title Checklist

  • [ ] Wow!
  • [ ] Based on specific Examples
  • [ ] Intriguing
  • [ ] Intuitive
  • [ ] Relevant to the Target
  • [ ] Essence of the hypothesis and question

My favorite title example is "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers".

Compositions Examples

will be detalized later

Bonus. Tools

We've used:

  • 0.4 and 1mm Fineliners from Stabilo, pencil and A4 blank papers.
  • iPad application Paper
  • Local installation of the https://www.draw.io/

So, What The Conference Poster Is?

will be detalized later

Our Case

We redone more than 10 versions: focus on semantic technology, focus on huge graph, focus on UI etc. And then reread TPS: it is really problematic for researchers to keep up to date with the latest findings. Moreover, how to link potentially relevant results from the other disciplines? So we focused on providing key facts that are linked to the own work of the researcher. And all that done with crazy cartoon experiment.

R: as of Sep 9, two days before conference, we are not sure if the poster will be allowed to hung out with the other venerable works. Too many rules are pushed into the background. Keeping posted.

We'll put our Basel poster here after the end of the conference.

Subscribe to our newsletter


Remember, that typical guideline "We suggest you design your poster layout as follows: Title, author, address (on the upper edge, across the width of the whole poster), Introduction and Purpose, Methods, Results, Conclusions" is given without marketing component in mind. When you are on the competitive market, there is only one rule: Rules are meant to be broken.

Could you name all our rules that we actually broken in own poster in comments? 😉

Further Reading

  1. Carly Melissa Tribull; Sequential Science: A Guide to Communication Through Comics, Annals of the Entomological Society of America, Volume 110, Issue 5, 1 September 2017, Pages 457–466, https://doi.org/10.1093/aesa/sax046 Absolutely brilliant idea to visualize main idea in comics format.

    poster that performs
  2. Erren, T. C., & Bourne, P. E. (2007). Ten Simple Rules for a Good Poster Presentation. PLoS Computational Biology, 3(5), e102. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.0030102


Leave a Comment

Cookie Settings