Guidelines to Preparing a Poster


by I.D.M. Robertson, Perth, Western Australia

Objective, size and finish – simplicity essential

  • Your poster should very briefly summarize the essential points of your work, leaving just a few‘take-home’ messages. Your full scientific output will appear, in due course, in the GEEA issue, dedicated to the conference. Above all, keep your poster simple.
  • Before printing it out, ensure its size and orientation complies with the size limitations and orientation (portrait or landscape) allowed by the conference.
  • Ensure you have adequate supplies of the necessary materials to attach your poster to the board (velcro, pins or double-sided tape).  This is generally specified by the organisers, but it is wise also to bring alternate materials so you can cope with the unexpected.
  • Bring your poster rolled, preferably in a cardboard or PVC tube.  Do not fold it.  If you can afford it, have the poster laminated – it will protect it in transit and give the poster a more professional gloss finish.

Structure, length and balance

  • A title should be at the top, giving the title of the poster, the authorship (with the presenting author underlined), and any required logos or affiliations.
  • A very brief introductory paragraph should set the scene and say why the work was done.
  • The main text body of the poster should be no more than 200 words, summarizing the science of your work.
  • There should be a list of short, punchy conclusions, preferably as dot points.
  • Acknowledgements and/or contact details should be at the end.

Preparing the poster

  • Use plain sans serif fonts, such as Arial, Helvetica or Swiss, throughout and avoid serif fonts, such as Times New Roman, Century or fancy fonts.  Serif fonts are designed for big blocks of text, which you should never use.
  • The title should be short and punchy, with a point size in the range of 72-100.
  • The minimum size for the body of the text should be 36 point.  Use bold fonts and keep the number of words to theabsolute minimumrequired to get your point across.  Do not put in huge paragraphs of text and do not use abbreviations.  The less text you have, the more attractive the poster will be and, thus, it will more likely be read.
  • Simplify the text, use relatively short, punchy, simply constructed sentences and avoid pompous words and phrases such as ‘methodology’ (method), ‘at this point in time’ (now) and other flowery and nonsensical creations of ‘management-speak’.
  • Make good use of colour but avoid colour pairs that are easily confused by people who have colour vision deficiencies.  Approximately 7-10% of the population are red-green colour-blind and a disproportionately large part of these are geoscientists for some unknown reason, so this is avery importantconsideration.  Don’t use too many different colours - it can make a simple poster look complex.  Avoid saturated colours, which can look harsh.  Strong but preferably incompletely saturated text colours on pastel backgrounds are the most effective.  Avoid white or black backgrounds.
  • Pictures and blocks of brief related text can be made more interesting or emphasised if placed in a coloured panel and then raised above the background by using a shadow or a frame.
  • You may be required to use a corporate poster template.  Some of these have graded backgrounds.  Adding text to a graded background can present problems.  The colours and shades of the text can be severely limited, as it is difficult to achieve sufficient contrast between text and some parts of the background.  A way round is to set the text on a pale, ungraded, pastel rectangle, so disabling the background, but leaving the required template as a frame.
  • Diagrams and pictures are very important, as geoscientists tend to be visually oriented.  Ensure pictures and diagrams are large enough and have sufficient resolution for the viewer to see them properly from about 2.5 m.  Avoid obviously pixelated images.
  • Diagrams must be simple.  Diagrams and graphs imported from a document, and maps in particular, generally need substantial simplification of annotations and axes.  It is generally more meaningful with maps to delete the axis annotations and add in a simple scale bar and a north arrow.  Diagram and photo captions should be a minimum of 30 point.
  • Avoid references unless absolutely necessary; these will come later in your written paper.
  • Donotuse complex tables – keep them simple.
  • Make sure there is a ‘flow’ to the text and illustrations, which makes easy reading - the reader does not have to hunt for figures and tables.
  • Look critically at the balance of text and artwork in the poster and re-position or re-size the components until the result looks balanced and all is clearly legible.  If you have access to professional drafting help, make use of it or, at least, request a senior colleague to have a critical look at your poster before finalisation.
  • Do not write too close to the edge of the poster, leave a thin margin (5%).
  • Corporate logos are generally expected and even required.  Rightfully, logos should be prominent either near the titleorthe acknowledgements.
  • If superscripts and/or subscripts are required, use them.
  • If you can leave your viewers remembering three important points after reading your poster, you have achieved your objective.  If you expect to achieve more than this, you are very likely to fail.  Above all,keep your poster simple.


  • You will probably be allocated a time to be near your poster to answer questions – make use of this opportunity.
  • Some conference attendees may opt to look at posters in the quiet time before proceedings start in the morning or at the end of the day.  If you are not going to be there, you can leave a pile of business cards or even A4 copies of your poster nearby for them to take home, if they are interested.  A few dozen are generally enough.