I like poster sessions

As I said before on this blog, I do like poster sessions. The poster sessions at the just finished American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting didn't offer food and drink, but were otherwise very enjoyable. The meeting is probably special because a lot of high quality research will be presented as poster, as there is just not enough time for enough oral sessions. Many of the poster presenters were senior faculty. I also like the printouts that were available from most posters – but there still was a lot of picture taking with digital cameras. A very good feature was the oral summary of some of the poster sessions: 15 minute presentations of 5-10 posters, summarized and commentted on by an expert in the field.

I had some very informative discussions with a number of poster presenters. When you are familiar with the research topic it is often possible to go straight to the interesting issues, the nonlinear and interactive format of a poster is then often better than an oral presentation. The downside of a poster presentation is obviously that the format is good for presenting to a small audience only. But the poster presenter will usually get much more feedback than from an oral presentation.

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7 Responses to I like poster sessions

  1. Henry Gee says:

    I like poster sessions, too. As an editor, I see them as ‘trade fairs’ that allow me to network, to see a lot of possibly interesting things in a short time, without running the risk of spending fifteen or twenty minutes in a lecture which (often) turns out to have been fifteen or twenty minutes wasted. In this same trade-fair spirit, a poster session allows potential authors to come and find _me_ so that they can pitch papers or story ideas.

  2. Massimo Pinto says:

    I have usually disliked poster sessions, but at a recent meeting I received so much precious feedback, for the reason that you (Martin) are writing about, that I had to think again about the value of posters.

  3. Martin Fenner says:

    Posters have a bad image, they are perceived as second class to an oral presentation. But it doesn’t have to be this way and a lot depends on the meeting organizers. In the ASCO meeting that I just went to, posters are rather the rule and not the exception. And only abstracts that pass peer-review make it to the poster session. Unfortunately I still had a few posters that were not hanging or where the poster author was not present.
    And maybe we can change the poster format to better take advantage of current technologies. We could for example have a poster printing service onsite. Similar to oral presentations, we would just bring the electronic version of a poster. This not only allows last-minute changes, but also gets rid of that poster box that really is not practical when travelling.

  4. Maxine Clarke says:

    You can also post them on (say) Nature Precedings, so you can get feedback from people who weren’t at the meeting.

  5. Brian Derby says:

    I have a colleague who refuses to pay for his/her students to attend a meeting if they are only offered poster slots. Personally I think they are useful but difficult to use. They can give a good snapshot of what is going on in a field (and from the conference I went to last week, everyone has started electrospinning biomaterials). However, it is quite normal to find posters unattended when you visit them. Now, of course during a poster session the authors of the poster like to see other posters too and thus one shouldn’t expect them to be at their posters for the entire session. A useful tactic is to stick on your poster some times when you guarantee that there will be someone manning it.
    Another useful tool would be to have the posters on the conference website after the session.

  6. Maxine Clarke says:

    An advantage of posters being on a (subject-labelled/tagged) preprint server as well as or instead of a conference website is that more people will see them, I guess, particularly after the conference is finished — also they are given a unique identifier.
    I think posters work best at the conferences where there is a time set aside for a “poster session”, or if the conference doesn’t have this in the programme, the person presenting the poster notes on it when he or she will be there to present/discuss it.

  7. Maxine Clarke says:

    Sorry, Brian, just noticed that you already made that point about noting on your poster when you will be at it to discuss it!