How To Get The Most Out Of Attending A Poster Session
Poster sessions are an underrated part of conferences. While they aren't as high profile as talks or panels, you can still get a lot from attending a poster session if you follow a few key tips. For a look at all upcoming conferences where you can put these strategies into action check our listings.
Research in advance
When it comes to getting useful information from a poster session, the first step is to do research in advance. You need to figure out what posters will be on display, whether there will be distinct poster sessions or free wandering, and what the titles of the posters are. Typically you'll be able to find all of this information either in the conference handbook or possibly online before the conference begins.
Doing your research is important because poster sessions can be busy, cramped, or hectic, so you need to know where you're going and what you want to see. Sometimes conferences will have particular sessions at which certain presenters are available to talk about their posters, which is common at large conferences, while at smaller conferences the posters may be left out in a communal area for attendees to browse over the course of the conference. Try to find abstracts for the posters in advance as well as titles, so that you can work out which posters are most relevant to your research or which ones sound the most interesting. Make a note of the designated number or code for any poster you want to see, or, better yet, mark it on a map of the poster room so you can find it easily.
Listen to the presenter's whole spiel
When someone is presenting their poster, they'll typically have a talk of around 10 minutes that walks viewers through the poster and explains each key part of it. The presenter will explain the poster to groups or individuals who ask. You can come and go from any poster as you please, so you may well arrive at a poster when the presenter is halfway through explaining it.
If you're merely idly curious about the poster you can listen to whatever part of the talk is remaining. However, if you know that you're very interested in the poster's topic, then you should wait until the presenter has finished explaining their work to the current group and then ask to hear the talk from the beginning. This is more polite as it means that you won't miss out on any key information that the presenter wants to convey.
Talk to the presenters
Once you have listened to the talk, you can and should ask the presenter questions. You can ask them about the particulars of their research methodologies if you're interested in that, or ask about their plans for future research. Remember that presenting a poster can be hectic, so if the presenter is currently busy talking to others then you can always come back to them later.
It can also be helpful and informative to discuss the poster with other attendees. If a group of you are reading the same poster, you can chat with other attendees to find out what they think about the research. You can also ask if they do related research or find out if they've thought about using the methods under discussion.
Ask if you can take a picture or get a copy
Finally, a really good way to remember key information from a poster session is to get a copy of the poster. Sometimes presenters will even bring smaller photocopied versions of their posters for attendees who are interested to take with them, which is ideal. If there are no copies available, you can ask the presenter if you can snap a photo with your phone for later reference. Remember to ask permission first, as some presenters are very happy to share their poster but others would prefer you not to have a copy.
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