I gave a presentation about conference posters today. I talked about many of the tips that I often talk about on this blog: the importance of an entry point, using grids for layout, the advantages of Microsoft Publisher, and no effin’ Comic Sans.
At the end, someone commented that my presentation was all about marketing. It was true that I repeatedly reminded students that nobody has to stop and read their posters.
I said, “It’s about beauty. It’s about elegance. What is the highest compliment that a mathematician can pay to a mathematical proof? That it is elegant. Yes, it’s true that I am assuming that your science is sound. But it isn’t worth a damn if nobody reads it.”
I also had a little l’esprit de l’escalier on what a well-designed poster says about its creator. It shows that you understand what is important. A poster almost always demands you leave stuff out, which means you have to make decisions about what to include, exclude, and emphasize. Thus, you can only arrive at a beautiful, well-made poster if you have a deep understanding of the research you are presenting on it.
A well-made poster shows mastery of the material, not just tricks to grab attention.
It’s a little surprising to me that while this blog has been going for four years, this is only the second time I’ve given a talk about posters. And I also caught myself saying, “Let anarchy reign!” for a second time (regarding requests to include needless logos or abstracts).