18 August 2011

Take me home tonight

What is the one thing you want people to remember a day after they’ve walked away from your poster?

Don’t have an answer?

I don’t do it regularly enough myself. I thought about my last talk, and I didn’t ask that question before hand. In retrospect, it was probably one of the reasons I thought I could have done better on the talk.

If you don’t know the answer to this question, how do you think someone unfamiliar with your work is going to remember anything about it?

You do have an answer? That’s great! But do you have anything on your poster that says it?

Why not make a section on your poster and label it, “Take home message”?

Many posters, because they are so heavily influenced by the standard scientific IMRAD manuscript format, end with a Discussion section. Discussion sections can include a lot of different things, including why this study advances our knowledge, limitations of the study, suggestions for future directions, and much more.

Too. Much. Stuff.

Why not replace the Discussion section entirely with a Take Home Message?

If you do include a take home message, remember that it is one take home message and not many take home messages. I saw a poster recently that has three paragraphs worth of take home message, which defeats the purpose of telling the viewer what you consider important.

Don’t make your viewer guess what they should remember. Tell them outright.

Related posts

Breaking the hourglass for headings that holler 

Photo by lordog on Flickr; used under a Creative Commons license.


Carl Wonders said...

Great idea, but shouldn't the *title* of the poster serve as the take-home point? (not that it does in most cases...)

Mike Taylor said...

"Great idea, but shouldn't the *title* of the poster serve as the take-home point? (not that it does in most cases...)"

Excellent point. I really like titles (whether of papers or posters) that make a statement rather than asking a question or just stating the subject. For example, I had a paper out earlier this year called "The long necks of sauropods did not evolve primarily through sexual selection", and another in 2009 entitled "Electronic publication of nomenclatural acts is inevitable, and will be accepted by the taxonomic community with or without the endorsement of the Code".