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Creating a Poster Presentation: Getting Started

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Before You Start

It is important to get an early start when creating your poster. Not only will the poster itself take time, but you will also need to allow for printing time and (if displayed on campus) time to have the display space prepared. The Copy Shop on campus requires a project be submitted at least 2 days in advance to allow for adequate time. Be aware, you are part of a class or other large campus event that require posters, you may need to allow more time for printing.

When planning your poster, you will want to consider:

  • Your Audience
  • The overall look of your poster

Depending upon the event that you are presenting your poster at, your audience may come from very different backgrounds. You cannot guarantee that all those attending will be in your same field or have a baseline knowledge of what you will be presenting on. It is strongly recommended that you be prepared to present your poster (and topic) to a general audience.

Before you begin actually designing your poster, it is recommended to create a miniature mock-up on a sheet of paper. This can allow you to determine the layout and get an idea of what kind of images/graphics you will want to have included on the poster, saving you time later.

Creating Your Poster

Note: All of the templates included on this guide are Microsoft PowerPoint files. If you have access to programs like Microsoft Publisher or Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop and would prefer to use one of those programs, you just need to set up the blank file to match the specifications and make sure that when you save the final version for printing that it is a PDF file.

Most posters created for MMU events will need to be set to 39" wide by 45" tall or 45" wide by 39" tall as to make it fit the holder dimensions. If your program or instructor provides you different dimensions, use what they provide you. Be aware, however, if using other dimensions to account for the printer margins to ensure that information does not get cut off. You do not want to push everything to the outermost edge.

Things to keep in mind:
  • Use easy to read fonts

It can be tempting to use a very distinct font, but it shouldn't take away from the readability of your poster. Sans-serif fonts (Arial, Helvetica, Calibri, etc.) are recommended for titles while serifs (Times New Roman, Georgia, Garamond, etc.) are recommended for the body of the text.

When it comes to font size, test out the combination of font and size by printing out a sample and holding it back to read. Generally, titles will usually be somewhere between 85 pt and 100 pt and the content text should be no smaller than 30 pt, but it will depend upon the font style you use. We also recommend including some spacing in your text heavy paragraphs to increase readability.

  • Be mindful of your color combinations

In addition to using easy to read fonts, make sure that your color choices make for easy reading. Using black text on a dark colored background will make it difficult for your audience to read what text you've included on your poster. If you find yourself in doubt whether something is hard to read or not, ask someone else to take a look.

  • Keep your word count low

A poster should not be your paper or study copy and pasted onto a larger format--a person looking at your poster should be able to read the entire poster in 10 minutes or less.. You want to keep the text to a minimum and allocate space to graphs, charts, and images that will enhance your presentation and make your poster eye-catching.

Remember, you are there to provide context! Everything does not need to be explained on the poster because you can provide that additional information. Your poster should be cohesive to stand on its own, but also not a complete in-depth rehash of your paper/study.

  • Use high resolution graphics

It is easier to scale an image down than it is to scale it up. You'll often find images blur or look otherwise unprofessional when they are scaled up beyond what their original dimensions.

  • Be creative

Have fun with your poster design. An interesting poster is more likely to engage your audience and inspire more conversation and questions from them. Additionally, having more graphics/charts/images can be helpful when presenting your poster as you can lean on these visuals to make your point.

If attending a poster session or conference:

After you've completed your poster, you may want to create a brochure or handout that you can give to attendees. Unlike a business card that has only your contact information, a brochure/handout allows attendees to walk away with both a summary of the information you presented as well as your contact information. 

The contents of your handout should reflect the contents of your poster, although it shouldn't be an exact copy of your poster in miniature. You will want to make sure that any images translate well to the smaller format and that the text remains readable.


Printing and Displaying Your Poster

When you have finished your poster, you will want to save a copy as a PDF that you can send to the Copy Shop ( Send your completed poster at least two days in advance of when you will need to present it. If creating a poster on behalf of a class, you should confirm with your faculty member on will manage the cost of printing.

Note: If you are responsible for arranging where your poster will be displayed, you will need to be in contact with Events Services ( at least two days in advance of the event.