By Amy Sexton, Kaplan University Writing Center Tutor
Active professional development and scholarship are extremely important for educators, and conferences can provide an excellent avenue for both. As a virtual employee, I find it especially refreshing to attend physical conferences and interact face-to-face with colleagues in my field. I recently had the opportunity to present at a poster session at the Georgia International Conference on Information Literacy in Savannah, GA. As a writing tutor, I constantly help students with tasks related to information literacy, so I wanted to attend and present at this conference. I have presented workshops and traditional presentations at conferences before, but I had never presented a poster presentation, so that is what I proposed. I wanted to broaden my horizons and try something new and different. Designing and making the poster and then presenting to a group of educators was interesting and fruitful and resulted in numerous takeaways, including practical suggestions for designing and producing posters and thoughtful reflections.
Designing and Creating a Poster: Prior to this conference, my experience with primarily visual communication had been limited to PowerPoint presentations and the occasional bulletin board, so I needed assistance with poster design. I found the following sites and articles helpful:
Creating Effective Poster Presentations – This site contains comprehensive links that cover important elements from planning to presenting the poster (Hess, Tosny, & Liegel, 2015).
How to Distinguish a Good Poster Design from a Bad One – This article gives helpful guidelines and pictures of good, bad, and ugly poster designs. As a visual learner, I appreciated seeing examples (“How to Distinguish”, n.d.).
Free Research Poster PowerPoint Templates – While I did not use a template, I found it helpful to see templates and examples (“Free Research Poster”, 2015). I would definitely use a template if I had arranged to have my poster printed (see below).
When I created my poster, I first wrote a PowerPoint presentation and then printed the slides and arranged them on a 36X48 trifold poster board. I used adhesive tabs to attach the slides to the poster. This worked well, and I was happy with my poster design, but, as always, hindsight and reflection have helped me pinpoint some things I may have done differently. I share these here in hopes that they may be helpful to others who may not be very familiar with poster design and creation.
One reason that I did not use a template was I realized that doing so would require a special printer to print the larger PowerPoint slides. I do not have a special printer, so I would have had to arrange for a printing company to print my poster. The starting price for printing a poster the size of mine is $45 at PosterPresentations.com (“Price Guide”, 2015), and a quick Internet search suggests that this is a typical price. While this may seem expensive, to compare, it is approximately the same amount that I spent preparing my poster. Also, if I had flown to the conference rather than driven, as many conference attendees do, having the poster printed and shipped to the hotel or conference site would have been necessary. Obviously, having a poster printed would be an extra step that would need to be factored into the planning process.
Conference Reflections: Preparing the poster, traveling with it, and setting it up at the conference went smoothly, but, once I was in the room and presenting with colleagues, I noticed that many of the other presenters had a related, tangible action that they discussed with conference participants, such as a study, project, or course revision. The presenters to my left talked about an ongoing traveling librarian program at their university; the presenter on my right detailed the successes of implementing an information literacy component using Web 2.0 technologies into a library research course. While my project had good ideas and research, I have not yet implemented any of my findings (other than to publish an article on this blog: Exploring and Preventing Plagiarism in a Digital Age), so I am now thinking about ways that I can use the knowledge I gained from my research in my daily work and future presentations.
Overall, proposing and presenting this presentation was a worth-while and fun professional learning experience. Perhaps best of all, it was something new and unfamiliar, which forced me to step, metaphorically, into the shoes of our students as each and every course they begin is likely new and unfamiliar to them.
Free research poster PowerPoint templates. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.posterpresentations.com/html/free_poster_templates.html
Hess, G., Tosney, K. & Liegel, L. (2015). Creating effective poster presentations: An effective poster. Retrieved from http://www.ncsu.edu/project/posters/index.html
How to distinguish a good poster design from a bad one. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nuigalway.ie/remedi/poster/media/Posters_Good_and_bad.pdf
Price guide: Products and services. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.posterpresentations.com/html/price_guide.html