Sunday, June 14, 2009

Selling Your Poster

Above the three Lanes are shown enjoying a fine meal in a New Orleans establishment, after all of our posters are done.

So you have designed and printed your poster. Now you will have to stand next to it for a period of time. This presents a great opportunity for you to present your work one-on-one to those most interested in it. Some people squander the moment.

First of all, dress professionally. This means some sort of suit-like outfit. As I have noted before, if you are showing up on the Nobel short list you can wear jeans to your presentation. Until then, be professional! Read the poster instructions. Show up and stay the whole time.

Those strolling by will generally fall into 3 groups. Most will read the title, perhaps smile at you, and then walk on by. Don't feel bad - they are just looking for another category. Another group are your colleagues. They will come by to see your work, catch up, and otherwise see what you are presenting. The third group are those who are interested in your topic in some way. This is the group for which you prepare.

If someone you don't know spends more than a minute reading your work, smile and say hello. Offer to answer questions. Don't pretend like they aren't there (you would be surprised how often this happens). Try to read their name badge; you may recognize it! Think of this as a golden opportunity to meet those whose work you cite!

Others who decide they are interested in your work will ask you to tell them about it, rather than reading the poster while you watch them. Have the 2 minute summary ready:
  • Why we did it
  • What we did
  • What we found
  • What we think it means
Each point requires one or two sentences. "We thought factor X might cause Y. We knocked-out the gene for factor X in mice and found that they didn't develop Y. Factor X may be a new therapeutic target for disease ABC which is characterized by high levels of Y." They can then ask you to clarify what they are most interested in, whether it be how you knocked-out the gene, how you measured Y, or why you think any of this has any relevance to the real world.

Poster presentations present challenges, but they are a great way to have others discuss your work. Remember, this is your chance to present your hot science to the world - not "just a poster."

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