10 Top Tips for Poster Presentations in Dentistry

Over the years and throughout my years of postgraduate training in dentistry, I have published and presented many posters at conferences and events. I remember the first poster I ever did I had no idea how to go about it... so here are my top tips if you're considering presenting a poster...

My latest poster presented at the Pathways from Homelessness Conference

1. Decide where you are going to present 

Have a look at different meetings, conferences and events for opportunities to submit posters and present them. Most specialist societies will have sections for poster (and also sometimes oral) presentations. Many will have specific criteria you need to follow, for example not just submission dates, but abstract length, topics, landscape or portrait etc. 

Some meetings will be very competitive and only accept a certain number of posters, some will accept all poster submissions that hit their essential criteria so do your research. Don't forget other places where you might have poster opportunities such as BDA events, local meetings in your hospital or trust, student events or conferences, or trainee days (such as DCT or ST study days).  

2. Decide what your poster will be about

Depending on where you are presenting as mentioned above, there may be stipulations about what posters can be about; on the whole it will be one of the following:
  • Case reports or case series
  • Research
  • Topic review
  • Audit or quality improvement project 
  • Service evaluations 

3. Collaborate

You don't have to work by yourself! Posters can have multiple authors, or you can ask advice and support from your colleagues, supervisors or mentors. Do make sure you either mention them as co-authors or in the acknowledgements!

4. Get examples

Many conferences will have abstracts or previous posters on their websites you can have a look at, but also ask colleagues or mentors for examples so you can get the gist of layout, how to structure and content of your poster. 

You can see examples of some of my previous posters here, here and here (this one was one a won a prize for!). 

5. Work out if it's a digital poster, or a physical one?

This information should be available on the website or information from the organising team of the conference or meeting you are planning to submit your poster to. Digital posters mean you don't have to print off anything but the conference organisers will display your poster either online or via television screens. Make sure you correctly format your poster to their requirements so they can display or circualate them (for example, sharing the poster in powerpoint or PDF formats). 

If you need to print off your poster... well that does throw up a few additional considerations I will cover below...

6. Give plenty of time to print your poster

Allow enough time to finalise your poster and get it printed. There is nothing worse than running around the day before a conference trying to find somewhere to do same day printing of an A0 sized poster! Trust me I've done it!

Depending on what your printing services are like in your area, give yourself at least a few days as some services will need a day or so to print off, although there are online printing services but again will take a few days to deliver the poster (if you trust the post or delivery service to get it to you!). 

One of the best tips for poster printing is that if your trust or you belong to a teaching hospital with access to a library, many of these will print off the poster for you, at a decent price and are used to doing these. Some trusts even will do a lot of the formatting etc for you and make your life easier! So research what you might have access to. Also remember to take blu tak/pins/stickies to hang your poster if needed. 

7. Format your poster properly 

Make sure when your poster is displayed that everything is how you've planned it - this can be easier to test out digitally than if you need to print the poster off, but some printing services will allow you to preview what the final product will look like. 

For formatting on powerpoint, make sure you make the slide the correct size (A0, A1 etc) on formatting. If you click on any of my examples above, they are all formatting to size A0 so please do feel free to adapt! Also make sure your poster is landscape/portrait as the organisers recommend. I would say the majority of posters I have presented are usually portrait... but not all! 

8. Make it eye-catching

The worse thing at poster exhibitions are conferences, in my opinion, is having a room of posters that are just text! Imagine like 20 posters, size A0, with just text on them! Use graphs, figures, tables, pictures and nice design features like big headings or colours so they are easy to read and grab peoples' attention. 

And if you are working for a specific trust of organisation, ask their communications or designs team if they have templates you can use. They might also have guidelines, like the use of their trust logo or which colours to use - so check those out before you start. 

9. Proof read

I don't know what it is about creating a big A0 sized poster, but it seems ten times easier to make typos on these sort of things! Make sure you proof read all text (including bits like references of your affiliations) as otherwise your mistake will be out there on display for the whole world to see! Always a good idea to also ask a second pair of eyes to have a look!

10. Be ready to present your poster

At some conferences, not only do you have to display your poster and the work you have done for everyone to see... but some will ask you to stand by your poster to present it during the exhibitions. I've had varying experiences of this; from standing up in front of half the conference delegates and presenting for 5 minutes, to just chatting through my poster as people go by, to submitting a precorded audio file or zoom of me presenting the poster which was posted as a link alongside my poster online. 

For poster judging (as don't forget, many conferences will have prizes for the best posters!), judges sometimes want you to present the poster or they might ask questions about it. So be prepared! 

I hope my tips help any of you who might be thinking of submitting a poster somewhere! They can look great on your CV and are essential as part of most of the postgraduate dental recruitment processes (like speciality training) - but also a chance of winning prizes for your great work! So keep an eye out for opportunities and get submitting!

Have you presented a poster before? Do you have any more top tips? Please leave them in the comments below.

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