02 May 2024

A simple way to assess conference posters shows you can do better than the “wall of text”

A new paper by Khadka and colleagues has two interesting results.

The first interesting result mentioned in the title of the article is a relatively simple way to assess conference posters. They created following rubric (slightly modified):

Category Exemplary (4 points) Acceptable (3 points) Sub-par (2 points) Poor (1 point)
Organization Information clean straightforward, organized Some left to be desired / better Much left to be desired / better Neither clean nor straightforward
Poster design and use of graphics Visually helpful, eye catching, pleasant to eyes Some left to be desired / better Much left to be desired / better Visually unpleasant
Wordy or busy Not busy or wordy (easy to review / understand) Slightly busy or wordy (some wordiness present but can be easily reviewed / understood) Busy and / or wordy (majority was text, difficult to review quickly) Very busy and / or wordy (full of text, some vague, some ambiguous)

The authors found that this relatively simple scoring system, the observer agreement was high (“nearly perfect”), suggesting that this method is reliably capturing people’s impressions of the posters. 

This tool has promise for:

  • Poster presenters asking for others to quickly review their poster.
  • Instructors who need a fast way to score a student’s poster submitted for a class.
  • Conference organizers running poster competitions.

The problem was that there were only two observers tested, and they were two of the authors on this paper. They were no naïve raters who were given standard instructions, then set loose on a set of posters. More validation with a larger set of raters would inspire more confidence in this scoring method. I’d love to see some people from outside academia, and undergrad students, and professors use this tool and see how well they agreed.

The second interesting finding was that using this rubric, the so-called “traditional” poster (which I take to mean a three column poster with standard “Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion” sections) do not rate as highly as say, “billboard” style posters (introduced by Mike Morrison in his viral YouTube video). However, this may be a function of the categories chosen. When one of the categories literally says “Wordy,” the billboard style will automatically rater higher, because by design, it forces you to reduce the number of words.

I would also like to point out that this research about an assessment tool is in a pharmacology journal. This points to one of the challenges of working on conference posters: the research is fragmentary and scattered in places that are not obvious.


Khadka S, Holt K, Peeters MJ. 2024. Academic conference posters: Describing visual impression in pharmacy education. Exploratory Research in Clinical and Social Pharmacy 13: 100423. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rcsop.2024.100423