What is a poster?

A guide to preparing posters 
What is a poster? 
A poster is “an experiential learning activity that stimulates curiosity and interest, 
encourages exploration and integration of concepts and provides students with a novel way 
of demonstrating understanding” (Handron, 1994, in Bracher, Cantrell & Wilkie, 1998). 
Posters are often used to display complex ideas in a concise manner to an audience 
consisting of multiple people. Conferences, for instance, often allow delegates to submit and 
present posters, instead of giving formal presentations or talks. In conferences, the posters 
are displayed throughout the entire conference in a communal area of the conference 
location (e.g. in the reception hall) – the audience can view them at their leisure, while 
specific times are usually dedicated to poster presentations, whereby the poster designers 
will stand next to their poster and interact with any audience member who shows an interest 
in the poster. The main aim here is to draw in an audience and have good discussions with 
them about the topic of the poster – this is a great way to showcase someone’s work and 
gain useful contacts at the same time. 
Posters can be designed for any purpose, e.g. to replace an academic paper or essay. A 
paper or essay presents all the information the author wants to present, while a poster uses 
visual aids to present only the most important information. 
Posters: 

 
 
 
Develop your communication and creativity skills; 
Are a creative alternative to the traditional essay, report or paper; 
Encourage you to thoroughly investigate the topic; 
Enable your peers to also learn from your research (without them having to read a 
entire essay!) (Berry & Houston, 1995); 
Engage visual learners (Summers, 2005)

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What does a good poster look like? 
This depends upon the field and audience. O’Neill and Jennings (2012, pp. 5ff) provide a 
good overview of the various uses of posters in different contexts. It is obviously important to 
carefully consider the brief you are given – in this case, the assessment requirements. 
Needs to be eye-catching; you need to understand where different material is on your 
poster, i.e. you should not be searching when presenting. 
Effective poster design tips 
1. The message 
Your poster needs to be understood at a glance, i.e. it needs to be clear and concise 
and present the most important information in an accessible and visually appealing 
manner. It is a good idea to write an abstract (in sentence or bullet point format), 
which includes all the main points your poster needs to cover. Do not overcomplicate 
things and make sure you stick with the topic. 
The poster has to convey the message, so consider also whether you can use nonverbal means (e.g. font, graphics, pictures, etc.) to do so. 
Your poster will certainly contain some text. This can be sentences or bullet points or 
a combination of both. The amount of text required will depend upon what you want 
to convey – if large amounts of text are needed, consider using Serif fonts (e.g. 
Times New Roman) as they tend to increase readability of long texts. 
2. The title and section headers 
a. The title of the poster will (most likely) be the most eye-catching part of your 
poster and it will be one of the ‘hooks’ that draws people towards your poster. 
Make sure it is succinct, catchy, clear and visible (this may mean it needs to 
be large and/or colourful). 
As a rule of thumb, the title should be at least 5 times bigger than the body 
font. Be conscious of the fact that some fonts are easier to read than others – 
Sans Serif fonts like Arial or Verdana are usually easiest to read as titles. 
b. Section headers are also important. Make sure they are also catchy and 
concise and use them to guide the viewer thru the poster. 
3. The design 
a. Start by considering if you want your poster to be portrait or landscape. If 
presenting at conferences, the organisers may have specific requirements 
that you have to follow. In MGMT20140, there is no prescribed orientation of 
the poster – you choose! 
b. It is a good idea to sketch out the poster on an A4 page. Use your abstract to 
identify keywords or themes that you need to consider on the poster; and do 
not forget to include separate sections with your contact details and the 
references you used. Depending on how many keywords or themes there are, 
you can sub-divide the page accordingly and start sketching the location of 
each theme or section. I usually use post-it notes to show the various 
sections of the poster as I can move these around while deciding upon the 
best suitable layout. Also remember that not all sections have to be the same 
size – it completely depends upon the content of each section; in fact, it may 
look better if sections differ in size as it is more eye-catching. 
c. Once you have chosen the layout, you may want to consider whether your 
sections need to be viewed in some sort of logical order – sequencing of 
sections can be done by using numbering, arrows, paths, graphics, etc. 
d. Remember that posters are VISUAL displays, rather than a large page full of 
text. Make sure you include visual aids – graphics, photos, diagrams, etc. The 
rule of thumb is this: ‘Use less text and more visuals BUT the poster must 
remain self-explanatory’ 
e. Visuals that you have created yourself can be used for any poster 
presentation. Visuals that you have taken from another source (e.g. web, 
book, etc.) must not be used for published posters unless you have the 
copyright owner’s permission. For MGMT20140, the rules are less stringent 
because the poster is meant for assessment purposes only – you do not have 
to seek copyright permission unless you choose to publish the poster 
elsewhere afterwards. However, you have to reference the source of any 
visuals on your poster. 
f. The use of colours affects the visual effect a poster can have. You can evoke 
various feelings with colours (e.g. warmth vs cold colours, etc.) but bear in 
mind that over-use of colours can hinder your message from getting across. 
Also remember that a large portion of the general population suffers from 
colour deficiency. Make use of colour wheels to identify contrasting and 
complementary colours and consider the level of contrast between 
background and content. 
4. Other hints and tips 
a. Consider transparency settings, especially when using texture and images as 
background 
b. Consider describing images/graphs in words if they are completely not selfexplanatory 
c. Check how the poster will look on a projector screen (you can always ask the 
unit co-ordinator the week before submission…) 
Some poster examples: have a look to see what you think makes a good/bad poster 

http://sites.ieee.org/pcs/files/2014/09/Screen-Shot-2014-09-18-at-7.58.40-PM.pngTopic of the poster: ‘Coffee’.
This poster was presented at a 
conference for doctoral students 
in 2005. Its purpose was to 
summarise (on A3) your unit co 
ordinator’s proposed doctoral 
research.
This is a template for a research 
poster, which is meant to detail 
completed research projects.
http://www.ce.memphis.edu/1112/projects/poster_stuff/posters.htmThis is an alternative template for 
research posters.
http://sites.ieee.org/pcs/files/2014/09/Screen-Shot-2014-09-18-at-7.59.08-PM.pngA poster detailing a new product
idea.
You can find more ideas and posters on Google images if looking for ‘Poster 
Presentation’ – get inspired but remember to follow YOUR MGMT20140 assessment 
requirements and do NOT copy someone else’s poster!

Further Resources 

A very good website with additional tips of how to create posters: 
https://www.ncsu.edu/project/posters/ 
A comparison between an effective and a less effective poster: 
https://www.ncsu.edu/project/posters/DefineMessageAlternatives.html 
This site contains various poster ideas and templates but be aware they are for 
SCIENTIFIC posters and may not be fully suitable for MGMT20140’s requirements:

http://www.ce.memphis.edu/1112/projects/poster_stuff/posters.htm 
References 
Berry, J. & Houston, K. (1995) ‘Students Using Posters as a Means of Communication and 
Assessment’, Educational Studies in Mathematics, 29 (1). 
Bracher, L., Cantrell, J. & Wilkie, K. (1998) ‘The process of poster presentation: a valuable 
learning experience’, Medical Teacher, 20 (6), pp. 552-557. 
Hess, G.R., Tosney, K. & Liegel, L. (2014) ‘Creating Effective Poster Presentations’, 
available at: http://www.ncsu.edu/project/posters. 
O’Neill, G. & Jennings, D. (2012) ‘ASSESSMENT. The Use of Posters for Assessment: A 
Guide for Staff’, available at: http://www.ucd.ie/t4cms/UCDTLA0039.pdf. 
Summers, K. (2005) ‘Student assessment using poster presentations’, Paediatric Nursing, 
17 (8), pp. 24-26. 

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