Sociology posters: like Twitter, but with more words and pictures?

Sociologists can communicate their research-based ideas, arguments and findings in a range of ways, including in journal articles, books, contributions to print and broadcast media, and through oral presentations at conferences. Nowadays, of course, there are social media based tools of communication too, such as Twitter and blogs. In my own career I have used all of these, but until recently I had never done a sociology poster presentation.

Poster presentations usually take place at conferences and involve a display of A1 size posters, each detailing an argument or research findings. I found the process of preparing my poster presentation a real challenge, both technically (in terms of its physical look and production) and intellectually, in terms of effectively transforming what was a 7000 word published journal article in to a A1 visual display. One of the great things about Twitter is that you are heavily restricted in how many characters each of your tweets can contain. Twitter forces you to be succinct and to the point. My experience of presenting sociology in a poster format is that it is just like Twitter, only with a few more words and pictures. In other words, presenting sociology via a poster forces you to get to the gist of the matter and convey your points in the most efficient, effective and engaging way.

Did I pull it off with my poster? Well, I am showing it at the BSA Ageing, Body and Society Study Group Conference ‘Body Work in Health and Social Care’ on 6th September 2011 but here’s a preview, judge for yourself!  

15/09/11 UPDATE – Due to an accident and subsequently having a plaster cast on my leg, I was not after all able to show my poster at the conference! I am hoping to show it at another conference at a later date.

29/03/12 UPDATE – My poster is due to be shown at annual conference of the British Sociological Association, University of Leeds, on April 12 2012.

Here are some tips I picked up on the way:

Have an attention-grabbing title, in large font

Divide your poster up in to sections of information and use headlines for each

Use a good contrast of colours between text and background

Include your institutions logo, and that of any funding support for your work

Give emphasis to your really key points through using bold or slightly larger font size

Don’t bother with an abstract or include references, but do have a brief introduction and conclusion sections

Remember, its a poster not a paper – you have to grab people’s attention with it, so it has to be visually attractive and convey your topic at a glance; but you are also expected to stand next to your poster and engage in face-to-face communication and dialogue with the audience it attracts

Use Powerpoint (or a similar package) to prepare your poster. The University of Leicester offers good advice on how to use Powerpoint effectively to prepare a poster.

When using Powerpoint, to see what your poster will look like at A1 size, use zoom to increase what you see to 283%

Less is more – aim to include between 300 and 500 words on your poster

Any graphics/pictures used have to be of the right pixel quality, so they look good when blown up to A1 size – about 300 pixels is the minimum but 400-500 is ideal

(With thanks to Ollie Williams from Department of Sociology, University of Leicester for his help with some of these tips).