21 November 2013

Dynamic posters at Neuroscience 2013

As one of, if not the, biggest scientific meeting and poster presentation venue in the world, the Neuroscience meeting has every incentive to be at the forefront of developing new ways to give posters. Previously, I’d noted they had plans to allow authors to show posters on a screen. These have been dubbed “dynamic posters.”

Stavros Hadjisolomou shares his experience with dynamic posters at the most recent Neuroscience meeting in San Diego.

The Society for Neuroscience asked presenters to upload their presentations in Powerpoint or PDF files only to a specific website. Each presenter had to create an account and once logged in there were certain steps to be followed:

“Poster Submission Steps”
  • Instructions: guidelines on creating and submitting posters, details on file formats, appropriate text size, section content, videos etc.
  • Poster templates: They offered 3 possible templates, I chose to work on a previous poster I had.
  • Upload poster: Poster file.
  • Upload dynamic poster assets: media to accompany poster.
  • Preview poster: a chance to preview the poster before the meeting

Although they provided extended details on font sizes for headings and content, there were no instructions on poster dimensions. This was a bit of a problem since my initial draft was organized on a 48 inch by 36 inch slide, which looked really bad in “presentation mode” once uploaded. When viewed in presentation mode, the poster was stretched sideways and compressed vertically to fit the screen. This rendered the poster unreadable to say the least. I found from the offered templates that the dimensions are 52 by 29 inches.

In “presentation mode,” you can view the poster and bring up a gallery made up of the uploaded media files so the presenter could choose one to play.

Once finished, I uploaded 10 videos to be used for the poster. One important thing here: the site allowed for a lot of different media file types which made my life easier. Also, each file could be up to 900 megabytes, a pretty reasonable size. Having said this, some files did not stream well with certain browsers. I had to test the ones that worked best (Firefox and Chrome).

My presentation was on Sunday and generally it was a great experience. The poster was about squid behavior (startle escape response – startle chromatophore changes).

Having videos to show to visitors made my life easier and, from what I have heard from people, more enjoyable to them. When it comes to animal behaviour, having videos to showcase your points allows for better communication. I did not spend as much time on creating editing videos as on the poster itself; I kept videos to a max number of 10 (with a couple of “bloopers” for people who had enough time to stay and watch.)

People visited the poster in bursts. The types of people ranged from colleagues, to researchers in different fields but interested in cephalopods and people who had no idea about the poster but were drawn in by the videos; when I did not have any visitors, I ran a playlist of all the videos and soon enough, people would come and ask for a presentation. I had quite a few people who were on their way to another poster, yet stopped and asked for a quick presentation.

Sadly, the provided laptop, WiFi dongle, and display were not adequate for presenting the poster appropriately:

  • The screen did not match the laptop’s resolution. Although the presentation looked great on the laptop, the poster was slightly compressed on the display which made it unreadable. When I inquired with a technician, I was told that all dynamic posters had the same problem and it was to be fixed later. Most of the visitors commented on this issue. Having a printed poster is definitely one less headache, especially since you find out at the last minute.
  • The videos could not be streamed online efficiently. Since my videos were more than 500 megabytes, they did not stream fast enough, even though I was given access to a private wireless account. I brought three flash drives with me (just in case!) with the poster and video files and decided to play videos locally while displaying the poster in presentation mode.

Aside from this glitch, the dynamic poster presentation was great and would do it again in a heartbeat, assuming the display works properly next time. A lot of people showed interest to present their posters in this way for next year. Lastly, while this is a first step towards “dynamic” posters, I wish this would allow for more interactive presentations (something similar to, but not necessarily the same as Prezi).

Bakermind’s description seems a little different than Stavros’s:

This year they opted for conventional posters + iPads. Hope to receive more traffic.

Are dynamic posters ready for the main hall? Drugmonkey asked:

Anyone impressed by a “dynamic poster” yet?

Reactions on Twitter were... ambivalent, at best. Both Dr. PMS and SciTriGrrl reacted with an emphatic, “No.” Benjamin Saunders didn’t like them:

These dynamic posters just seem really dorky to me, not seeing the added value.

Taking a Cat Apart had a similar sentiment:

Still not entirely sure what’s dynamic about a dynamic poster.

 SciTriGrrl adding:

It’s a poster with zooming. WHERE ARE THE VIDEOS?

Apparently, not many presenters took advantage of the videos like Stavros did. However, Bashir noted that some posters did use videos, though maybe not well:

As far as I can tell dynamic posters are just a poster with a YouTube video added.

Observing the crowd, Bakermind noted that this format doesn’t seem to appeal:

Dynamic posters at #sfn13 often isolated... look lonely and I think some people scared away.

Dynamic posters are still a work in progress. There is no doubt in my mind that the technology exists to make a great dynamic poster. The question is whether even a big organization like the Society for Neuroscience, and authors, are willing to make the investment.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The dynamic posters were pretty meh. I thought that people bring interactive (dynamic) presentations; instead they were just posters squeezed onto video screens.

A big problem they had was the poster #. This was often far away from where the dynamic poster itself actually was (ie, if it was labeled YYY13 it would for some reason be between JJJ and KKK)