27 October 2011

Poster versus talk, listening edition

Many informal surveys have asked whether people like to give talks or posters, and talks are clear winner. I wanted to know, though, if the proportions for listening to a presentation were any different. So back in May, I started a poll on this (now removed). These are the results (click to enlarge):

Because this is a poster blog, you might think that posters would be favoured more here than in other polls, but no! Even the readers of this blog tend to prefer giving talks by almost a 2 to 1 margin. I don't know why, but I sort of expected posters might do better when people were on the receiving end of the information, because of the chance to talk to the presenter personally, ask more questions, have more interaction.

Nope. The proportion of people favouring posters actually dropped from about a third to about a quarter.

It’s sad that this form of communication is so common in academia when most people would rather give a talk. Perhaps this is more evidence that conference organizers need to be bolder and more daring in structuring their meetings, and not just following the format that other conferences do.


Miss MSE said...

I find the absolute best, at least for smaller meetings, is for me to have a poster after my advisor has a talk. At larger meetings, though, the poster sessions are largely abandoned spaces that people browse while waiting for the next talk they want to see.

Carl Wonders said...

I wonder how much of this poll is tainted by the "prestige factor" of giving a talk. Rightly or wrongly (I favor the latter), talks vs. posters at big meetings tend to be akin to the adult vs. the kid table at Thanksgiving. "If your abstract is good enough, you get to give a talk. If not, to the poster hall with you!" I think this is a seriously flawed perspective, and I often get a lot more out of meetings from the poster sessions, particularly because it's becoming the only place to see new and unpublished data a lot of the time.

Something else that may have biased my answer though towards GIVING a talk (not so much listening to them) is that, unless your poster is deemed "hot" by the meeting attendees, standing at your poster for 3-4 hours can be a real drag. No one wants to have that poster where you're standing there by yourself and someone walks up to your poster, reads the title, and gets this look like someone who is in the supermarket and somehow finds themselves standing in the cat food aisle even though they don't own a cat.