18 April 2024

Your conference poster should have less than one thousand words

One of the biggest realizations I have had in the time I have been writing this blog was that on average, people want to spend about five minutes at a poster.

If you are at the poster, you can develop and give some kind of summary of the poster that comes in under five minutes. 

But what if you are not there? How much text can you have on the poster that someone will look at it and think, “I can read that in about five minutes?”

One thousand
I think the upper limit – a hard, difficult high end – is one thousand words.

A quick search suggests that people read at rates of a little over 200 words a minute. An overall average for all kinds of adults is estimated at 238 words a minute

Now, it gets more complicated. On the one hand, most people at an academic conference are skilled readers. You might expect them to read a little faster. University students are estimated to read at 250 words a minute

On the other hand, text text on conference posters is usually technical academic writing. You might expect that would slow the reading rater down. One estimate (no citation) is that people read technical works at 75 words a minute. You would only get through 375 words in five minutes at that rate.

If your poster is clearly written without any technical jargon, you might push the number of words into the high hundred.

If your poster is written more like a journal article, with jargon and acronyms, and all the typical style of academic prose, any word count above the mid-hundreds will probably frustrate readers.

If you can pull your word count down to maybe 300 or 350, you have the chance to pull in far more browsers who will think that they can get something out of your poster in five minutes.


Albin Blaschka said...

Albin Blaschka

Albin Blaschka said...

Also considering that not all readers are native speakers is worth mentioning, I guess...