Navigating the Poster Session like a Pro

Personally, the poster session is the most overwhelming part of conferences. Hundreds of posters, even more people, milling about an area which seemed huge when empty but now feels too small with so many people. It can give me a great deal of anxiety, especially in my first few meetings. If you’re like me and the poster session seems overwhelming I’d like to share some tips to help!

1. Posters are grouped by neighborhoods with specific themes (list here). This helps to narrow down your focus area. Don’t look at the entire room as a whole, plan your trip to visit certain neighborhoods.

2. Use the app! Once the app goes online not only can you pick out your must see talks, BUT you can favorite posters as well. Knowing the numbers of your must-see posters will help you move around the big room efficiently.

3. Do not shy away from the presenters. During the 2 hour poster session, the poster authors are supposed to stand in front of their poster for either the first or second hour depending on their poster number. That’s a long time to stand alone. One of my habits as a seasoned conference attendee is to walk a neighborhood of interest and talk to the first person I see standing alone in front of their poster. I meet them in the eye, ask them to tell me about their work, and really engage with them. This is key for two reasons: 1) it helps build their confidence and 2) I learn really neat stuff! Each presenter has spent a great deal of time putting together their poster and has their own unique story to tell!

4. Have some refreshments. There will be snacks at the poster sessions, take advantage! Your mind can only absorb so much at one time, taking breaks away from the intensely packed information presented on a poster is a good thing! Personally, I can talk to 3 people and still remember what the first person said; however, after that I start forgetting the early posters I saw. This lets me know I should talk to 3 people, then take a 5 – 10 minute break. I use this break for refreshments, hanging out in the Plantae pavilion, grabbing a selfie at the Selfie Station, or wandering the Exhibitor Hall to collect some swag.

5. This year we will have e-posters for the first time! I have no tips for this as I have yet to experience it, BUT I cannot wait to see! There will be 50 touchscreens from which you can navigate the 200 posters. This promises to be a very exciting must-see and I encourage you to put it on your to-do list.

I’d love to hear from you! If you are new and nervous, what is your biggest concern? If you’re a seasoned pro, what are your best tips for making the most of the poster sessions? Comment below!

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