Increasingly, posters are being printed as a single large page after developing them with PowerPoint templates. It can seem strange at first to think of using a slide format for such a large item, but many people find it works well. At some meetings, this is already the predominant construction mode.
Various poster sizes can be constructed by combining slide size and printing size options. Currently, the largest slide size available in PowerPoint is 56 x 56 inches (142 x 142 cm). Posters are often sized 60 x 48 inches (152 x 122 cm); set the slide size to 30 x 24 inches (76 x 61 cm), and print the slide at 200%.
Sometimes posters need to be printed as separate "tiles" for an even larger presentation. Although PowerPoint doesn't currently have the option to tile printing, recent versions of Adobe Acrobat® do. One can create a PDF of the poster from PowerPoint using a downloaded PDF print driver, then print it from Acrobat (Swinford, 2006).
Before these options came along, the favored approach for poster construction was to print logical sections of the text separately, frame each on a stiff colored backing, and assemble them together on a larger background. The resultant posters were time-consuming to prepare, but when carefully done they were very attractive. This look can also be achieved now by printing each of a series of PowerPoint slides individually, then mounting them on foam core or similar material using spray adhesive.
Unless the conference presenters specify otherwise, feel free to choose between these construction methods according to your own preferences. Each has advantages and disadvantages (Table 4.4).
Despite the relative informality of the poster situation, it is still your responsibility to maintain a professional attitude. Be at your poster when you are scheduled to be; some people will make a point of being there to talk with you. If friends stop by for unrelated small talk, be sure any poster audience takes precedence over the social one.
Finally, resist the temptation to do competitive head-counts. Your success does not depend on the number of people who stop by your poster versus someone else's display. As you stand by your poster watching people pass in the aisles, it can feel disheartening. Most will walk on by. If they stop, they will generally look at only your main points, usually for less than 90 seconds.
Remind yourself that your audience is not all these people, but a small subgroup of people who are already interested in your general subject, but are not familiar with your data. If you design your poster in such a way that you attract and keep their interest, and as a result have the opportunity for clear communication conveyed with knowledge and sincerity, the experience will be worth their time and yours.
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