By Kris Slawinski
Brainstorm for an idea for your abstract with a co-trainer, medical director or faculty co-worker, based on a project you are working on. Categories usually include innovations, issues and skills in medical education, or research, either in progress or just completed.
With input from your co-presenter(s), write up the abstract to submit for the selection process, based on the instructions included in the Call for Submissions. Basic guidelines typically include:
- An introduction with background explaining why the innovation or research was implemented: what was the need or problem that called for this action or investigation?
- The methods you used for implementation: changes to the curriculum, course or instructional materials, surveys used or data gathered, and the means by which it was collected.
- What your results were.
- A conclusion/summary that reiterates why the implementation was made, what it accomplished, and what you learned from it and/or what your plans for modifications or changes are.
- Compose your poster text in a word processing program first. Is it concise? Comprehensible? Have you included all your salient points, without complicating your message?
- Start thinking about how you want it to look visually—in columns, left side versus right side, title, colors and shading, etc. You’ve seen plenty of posters at the conferences and you know what grabs your attention, versus being too busy or too plain.
- What kinds of visual aids—charts, graphics, photos, arrows, etc—do you need?
- Don’t forget to include the names of all presenters, your school(s) and logos, the name of the conference as well as location and date. Check all names for spelling.
- Don’t forget a title!
Who is paying for it?
- Do you have a budget for a slick production, or do you need to do a simple PowerPoint presentation set of slides? PowerPoint will allow you to design a presentation and print it out, each cell to an individual page, on plain or colored copy paper. You can then post the individual pages in the logical order (top to bottom, L to R) to convey your message.
- Likewise, you can use a word processing program to print out individual pages, and post those.
- Remember that people will be reading your poster from about 3-5 feet away, so font size of the text should be 22 or larger. You generally have about 3 x 4 1/2 feet of board to mount your poster to, so keep your text to no more than 16 sheets of paper.
- Tape or pin your prototype to a vertical surface to proof it, checking for size and visual accessibility.
If you have a budget to cover printing costs, check with colleagues and faculty for AV recommendations. Especially with universities, the different schools may have an in-house AV service–or there may be an office supply/printer vendor nearby–so pricing and turn-around times may differ and be more competitive. Phone around to ask:
- What form you’ll need to pay for the poster publication, or what other kinds of payment are acceptable.
- Length of time needed for first proof.
- Length of time needed for final product. Try to give yourself at least two weeks before the conference in case of unforeseen complications (especially if shipping your poster ahead to the hotel), however, two day turnarounds (at a higher cost) are becoming more common.
- How to format the information you need to give them. Do they need a CD with a hand-made mockup, or do they have an electronic template they can email you that you simply plug all your information into?
When you get the proof back, check it carefully! The vendor is not responsible for typos, grammatical errors, or content placement errors if you sign off on the proof.
Make sure you pack:
- Push pins to secure your poster (inquire beforehand what else you may need).
- Business cards.
- Comfortable shoes to wear as you attend your poster and answer questions from curious colleagues about your project.
- Note pad to jot down comments, contact names, parties interested in future collaboration, other posters you saw that interested you, etc.
When you return home, add the poster presentation to your CV, and think creatively about;
- Your next poster topic.
- A workshop topic.
- A paper topic.
- How to turn your poster into a workshop or a poster.
- Who to collaborate with on your next poster.
- Where to apply to get funding to finance your time, materials, research effort.