A poster presentation is a great way for students and researchers to share their work with fellow students, peers, and others. The key benefit of the poster presentation is that it helps presenters share research and analysis to a large number of individuals in a simple and concise manner.
One of the unheralded benefits of poster presentations is the reflection exercise researchers experience while constructing their poster. The process of creating a poster forces an individual to think deeper about their work and research from a new perspective, to be able to clearly and concisely present their work to an audience with no immediate expertise on the topic. This process requires the poster creator to analyze, simplify, and organize their research into a format that others can easily comprehend.
Bringing together a collection of poster presentations, also known as a poster session, creates a unique environment that provides attendees with the opportunity to consume the big picture outcomes of thousands of hours of research within a few hours. The value of this cannot be understated and is a core function to ensure the efficient sharing of research in the academic community.
Unfortunately, traditionally, poster sessions have taken place in a physical space and that means many are being cancelled as a result of the pandemic. That means that academics who rely on poster sessions to share their work and learn about the work of others are at a substantial loss this Fall.
The good news is that doesn’t need to be the case. At Acadiate we have been able to successfully recreate the poster session experience online (check out the webinar video below if you are interested in seeing how we do that). We’ve been surprised at how fluently partner schools have transitioned their physical poster session plans into the online world. We have identified several unique benefits of online or virtual poster sessions for poster creators, attendees, and school organizers.
Here is our list of 8 reasons to bring your poster presentations online.
It Reduces Barriers to Participation
On first blush most people may think that creating a poster for the virtual environment would add barriers to participation, but in our experience, it actually reduces them. This is because the poster creation process begins in the virtual environment in applications like Microsoft PowerPoint/Publisher, Adobe InDesign/Illustrator, and several others. For physical poster sessions, the creator has to figure out how and where they are going to print their poster.
Increasingly academia is relying less on printed materials as more technologies go online, this means individuals are getting more comfortable submitting documents online and less comfortable printing to physical mediums. The process of printing a poster requires finding a printer capable of printing the poster at the size and dimensions needed for the conference, coordinating with the printer to export the file in a format they can print, and finally sending or uploading it to the printer. Once it has printed, the creator then has to physically go to the printer or wait to have it shipped to them. This is a process that can take several hours to days to complete depending on the printer. Finally, they need to find a space to keep it safe until it is time to present the poster.
Virtual poster sessions on the other hand allow the poster creator to skip several of these steps, they go straight from creation process and upload their poster directly for presentation. This removes the printing process that can take hours to days and allows an individual to complete the task in minutes.
A second important barrier that virtual conferences removes is limitations on the number of posters you can have hosted together. Generally, the number of poster presenters is limited by the floor space available to store all the posters. The virtual environment does not have this limitation – so virtual venues are able to accommodate more posters at your event.
A third major barrier that online poster presentations help academics overcome is geographical limitations. Taking your poster presentation event online means no matter where your poster creators or attendees physically are in the world, they can participate in a meaningful way. For example, a poster creator can work on their poster, export it and upload it to Acadiate from anywhere and at any time.
Virtual Events are More Affordable
One aspect that is often overlooked when organizing a poster session are the printing costs to academics and students. The cost to print the average 3X4 feet poster is somewhere between $75 to $125 per poster, so if you have 50 posters there are around $5000 in printing costs alone. This does not even take into account the costs of renting space, setting up, cleaning up, and supporting the physical conference. Nor does it include the printing costs for handouts and other materials that are common at poster presentations.
Acadiate’s online poster sessions are a fraction of the cost. For example, on Acadiate you can put on a poster session with 50 posters for only $500. This is so affordable that most schools are able to easily cover it using just some of the savings in various expenses they’d usually have for physical events.
It Improves Poster Quality
One of the biggest frustrations that is bound to hit a poster creator is after spending days designing, crafting, and printing your poster, showing up at the poster session only to have someone point out a typo, or noticing any number of errors that you should have caught before printing your poster. In a physical poster session environment, it is too late to correct any mistakes, and it is an embarrassing experience for any poster creator – especially when surrounded by highly respected peers. In a virtual poster session, if this scenario arises, you can make the necessary modifications and adjustments on the fly. It is as easy editing your poster, exporting it, and uploading it to replace the last one in just a few minutes.
Another great thing about virtual posters is that it makes it a lot easier to have it reviewed by more trusted peers prior to the actual poster session. All virtual posters on Acadiate have a private link that you can use to share with anyone online. You can share your poster privately with family, friends, trusted mentors, co-authors, and others before, during, and even after the poster session. This enables poster creators to get a wider range of input which results in better feedback. You can then incorporate their feedback, proof reading, and constructive ideas for improvements. This iteration and feedback loop prior to the event results in higher quality posters for those who choose to leverage it.
Improves Exposure and Feedback
One of the more disheartening things for a poster creator is to pour their time and effort into a great poster only to have no one show up. We are living in an increasingly busy world, where attending a poster session may require someone to block off a specific block of considerable time, like an entire afternoon. One of the major advantages of a virtual poster session is it is only 1 click away. There is no need for individuals to figure out travel or to clear out their entire afternoon. Access can be granted over a 24/7 period. This flexibility in access makes them far more attractive to gain greater attendees. So far, we have seen a trend that online events and sessions are able to pull in 2-5X more attendees than they did when individuals attended their physical counterpart.
The other benefit of an online poster session is that you can span access over multiple days or even weeks to minimize potential scheduling conflicts for attendees.
When it comes to feedback in the physical world you can have hundreds of conversations throughout your poster presentation. For many poster creators the amount of feedback they receive during this time can be overwhelming because you have to mentally remember, organize, and analyze all these inputs. At an online poster session, feedback can be captured for you in three important categories. First, if you want live interaction with your attendees you can use any online meeting software you like ( Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, etc) to connect instantly with attendees and you can record your interactions with attendees so you can review them later. Second, you can have individuals leave a message directly to you on your poster – without having to disclose your email address. Third, you can have a comments thread on your Showcase to enable discussion among multiple reviewers.
Widens Review Window & Accuracy of Poster Content
Physical poster sessions are available usually for an afternoon. For all the effort and time that go into preparing the poster, it is a tight window to share. The existing poster window is a product of the economics of a physical poster session where room has to be either rented or reserved for the purposes of the poster session. The room then has to be cleaned out and repurposed for the next event. In a virtual poster session, the room can stay around indefinitely. This means you have the ability to have attendees drop in over a much wider range of time. This creates many opportunities for new utility for posters session organizers.
In the virtual environment, while you can emulate the existing structure of traditional sessions, you also have the opportunity to create new and effective structures that would be impractical in the physical world. For example, poster organizers can have an ongoing poster session where poster creators update their posters as their research evolves. This transforms poster session from a point in time snapshot of research into a constantly evolving, live view into the latest research by academics.
It’s More Eco-Friendly
It’s no secret how much paper and ink need to be used for each and every poster session. It may not seem like a lot when looking at just one poster session, but when you extrapolate for all the different poster sessions taking place in different programs, in different schools, in academic conferences, you will quickly see how much eco-friendlier online poster presentations can be.
It is not just limited to the resources required to put on a conference, you also have to consider the environmental costs of travel. If your event has 300 attendees and on average those individuals are all about a 20-minute drive away, you can see how quickly it adds up. When it comes to helping the environment, every little bit helps.
Opens Opportunity to go Beyond the Poster
One of the first things we notice when people are bringing their poster sessions online is how quickly they gravitate to including an introduction video for their poster. It is usually a short 5-10-minute video where the poster creator walks the viewer through their poster and explains what it is to them. This is especially useful for poster creators who usually spend the majority of their time at poster presentation repeating the same talk track to each and every new attendee. This approach can free up the poster creator’s time for more thoughtful discussion in live meetings.
The other benefit is because the poster is online, you can incorporate other elements much more effectively. For example, if you want people to follow you on social media like Twitter, ResearchGate you can easily add those links right onto your poster and attendees can connect instantly with you on those platforms. You can further support your poster by also attaching materials like research papers, datasets, author bios and more.
Helps you Develop your Presentation Skills in the Digital World
The world around us is changing quickly, more and more important decisions now are being made by reviewing materials online. Whether it is grant applications, job applications, speaking engagements – these are all potentially career altering decisions. To succeed in this new environment every academic, professional, and student should be doing everything they can to sharpen their personal marketing and presentation skill in the digital environment. Poster presentations (and arguably all presentations) share the same fundamental rules for success as grant and job applications, it is about clearly understanding your audience and crafting clean and clear communication that enables the reviewer to understand the value you are presenting as quickly as possible.
To conclude, there are several elements of a physical poster session that cannot be replicated in the online environment. It is currently impossible to replicate the natural and spontaneous social interactions that occur in physical poster sessions in online poster presentations, and that is okay because different communication mediums have different strengths. Hopefully I have been able to show you that online poster presentations have their own unique strengths and opportunities which can be leveraged to execute a great poster session experience for poster creators and attendees alike.
If you are interested in running your own poster session at your school and would like to speak directly to us, we’d love to meet.