6 Steps to a Good Scientific Poster (Part 1)

Our new book,  Stand Out with Your Scientific Poster, will be released in February.  Are you a researcher struggling with creating scientific posters or just want to do better? This book will help you step-by-step on your way to a poster that has impact and really works. So you won’t be twiddling your thumbs at your next poster fair.

In the first part of this two-part blog post, we’ll look at the first six steps you need to take to get a good poster. Of course, in the book, we go into much more detail about each step, and you get a ton of examples to get you started. But this way you can get started anyway. Want to know more? There’s a discount code for the book at the bottom of the post!

The first six steps are about content

What do you put on your poster and what don’t you put on your poster?

Step 1. Who are you making the poster for?
This is important because if you are presenting a study on “The Life Behavior of the European Hamster in the Netherlands,” you will encounter three types of people: people interested in ecology, people interested in hamsters, and people from the Netherlands. Each audience requires a different approach. Ask yourself these three questions to get a better idea of the audience that will see your poster:

  • What do they care about?
  • What they already know,
  • What jargon do they use?

Step 2. Choose a main message
A poster is very bad at conveying a lot of information. After all, a poster fair is a chaotic environment and people are under time pressure to look at as many posters as possible. Make sure your poster is all about getting one message across. This is your main message. Repeat it as many times as possible on your poster.

Step 3. Write your introduction
You need both a verbal introduction, the one you say when you stand next to your poster, and a written introduction that fits on your poster. To develop a good introduction, write a problem-solution-relevance statement. Where you first explain the problem you are addressing, then what you are doing in your research to address that problem, and then why it is relevant to your audience. This sentence can easily fit into the intro block of your poster, but it’s also a great starter for your verbal intro.

Step 4. Draw a structure pyramid
Besides the introduction or conclusion, what else will appear on your poster? To find out, create a structure pyramid. What the structure pyramid is, is too much to explain in a short blog post, but suffice to say that you should look for three things that support your main message. These three things will become the three blocks on your poster, and you will elaborate on them.

A structure pyramid will ensure that you are no longer staring at a blank sheet of paper and that you have a good idea of what you want to put on your poster.

Step 5. Write out your text
People read about 100 words per minute in a quiet environment where they can concentrate. In a busy poster session, that number drops. So put a maximum of 400 words on your poster. They can read that in about five minutes in that busy environment. That’s really all the time people have at a poster fair.

Step 6. Create a handout and a QR code
You may want to say more than 400 words. No problem. Put all that extra information on a handout, or put a QR code on your poster that takes people to a page with more information. My personal favorite is to print a physical handout with your poster on the front and the extra information on the back, such as references, an abstract, a link to a full paper, or that one graphic you couldn’t fit on your poster.

In the next blog post, we’ll go into more detail about how you turn your poster into one that grabs attention with its title, images, dates, and more.

A valuable case

Xena Serifova (KULeuven) is one of the researchers who read the book in advance and helped make it even better. In addition to the regular expert poster format, we also explain the pitch poster format in the book.

The pitch poster is ideal when the readability of your poster is compromised (e.g., in an online poster presentation or when your poster is projected) or when you are in front of a non-specialist audience (e.g., during a research day or a large conference). Xena put on her bold shoes and made a pitch poster of her research. She used it at her conference. How did it go?


“The poster was successful (there were people ready to talk to me before I had it completely up). I spoke with several researchers and also made arrangements to discuss our findings together in the future when I have more results. I also received a promising proposal for a possible collaboration on EEG data from OCD patients. In short, I am very pleased with both the event and the impact of the poster. I will definitely use the pitch format in the future. Thanks again for all the valuable tips!

Pre-order the book at a discount

Curious about the book? Then pre-order it through this link: https://www.lannoo.be/nl/stand-out-your-scientific-poster and use code stand10 to get 10% off and free shipping. We will ship the book to you as soon as it is available. Code valid until 06/02/2024

We also offer workshops on how to create scientific posters. For more information, click here.