8 tips for preparing a digital poster that stands out from the crowd

Virtual meetings are rapidly gaining popularity, due largely to the necessity of continuing knowledge exchange during the social isolation brought on by the Corona pandemic.

Even before the pandemic, EMBL´s Course and Conference Office was already exploring options to improve our services and the event experience on-site, including the option of digital poster presentations.

Our software provider iPosterSessions comes with easy to use WYSIWYG templates. Users can display high-resolution images, videos & animations, and the content can be updated at any time right throughout the conference – allowing poster presenters to present their research digitally and dynamically.

If you are presenting a digital poster at an upcoming (virtual!) meeting, here are eight tips to help you on your way:

  1. Download the official template from the software provider

Most digital software providers have an official template that you can download – use it! This will reduce the risk of glitches, resolution problems and sizing issues in the final product, and you know from the outset what you have to work with.

  1. Check out the tutorials

No two digital poster tools are the same, so take the time to browse through the online tips and tutorials to make sure you are comfortable with the software before starting. It will save you a lot of frustration in the long run!

  1. Make your design eye-catching – it should stand out from the crowd

This is the same principle as creating a printed scientific poster – there are so many of them, so make sure yours stands out! It should be eye-catching and visually appealing. Include clear data representations, and make sure the text is to the point. It should grab attention but not explain every little thing about your results – that’s your job during the discussion.

  1. Use media – images, sounds, video. Check that they work and display properly

Graphics and media can express details more quickly and memorably than paragraphs of text, so have a think about how you can present your work in this way and put some time into it. Be sure to check that the media files work with the software, and test every file to make sure they display or play properly.

  1. Link to external resources

Digital posters differ from printed posters in that you can generally link to other pages online – so if there is a great external paper or online source you want to link to in order to explain your point in more detail, do it! Your audience will be grateful to have further reading handed to them on a plate if they want to find out more after the poster session.

  1. Check your work

This should really be a no-brainer. Check your work is complete, correct and final before publishing your poster! Silly mistakes only show that you haven’t put as much time and effort into the work as you probably should have, so get someone else to go over your poster before you release it to the conference community.

  1. Practice your presentation

Yes, it’s a digital poster presentation, and no, you won’t be talking face-to-face with your audience as you normally would, but you still need to practice your presentation beforehand and know exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it. It may feel strange online, so try presenting the poster online with a colleague or your boss (e.g. with Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts) and get them to give you feedback and pointers.

  1. Stick to the publishing deadline

There are deadlines for a reason, so please stick to them! You don’t want to risk your poster being excluded from the poster presentation because of tardiness. Give yourself plenty of time in case of any issues that may arise with uploading or compatibility (this shouldn’t be an issue if you followed the template and guidelines, but sometimes computers have a mind of their own!).

So why not check out our list of upcoming virtual events to see where you can try out your digital poster presentation skills!

For general pointers about creating posters, see 10 tips to create a scientific poster people want to stop at.

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Best Poster Awards – Cancer Genomics

The 4th EMBL Conference: Cancer Genomics (4 – 6 November 2019) brought together over 240 scientists in the field of cancer research to present the latest findings in cancer functional genomics, systems biology, cancer immunogenomics and epigenomics, as well as their translation and clinical impact.

123 posters were presented at the two poster sessions, out of which two were selected as the winners by popular vote. 

Infinite sites violations during tumour evolution reveal local mutational determinants

Jonas Demeulemeester is a postdoctoral researcher at the Francis Crick Insitute in UK. PHOTO: Jonas Demeulemeester

Authors: Jonas Demeulemeester (1), Stefan C. Dentro (2), Moritz Gerstung (2), Peter Van Loo (1)

The infinite sites model of molecular evolution requires that every base in the genome is mutated at most once. It is a cornerstone of (tumour) phylogenetic analysis, and is often implied when calling, phasing and interpreting variants or studying the mutational landscape as a whole. It is unclear however, whether this assumption holds in practice for bulk tumour samples. Here we provide frameworks to model and detect infinite sites violations, identifying 24,459 in total, including 6 candidate biallelic driver events, in 700 bulk tumour samples (26.3%) from the ICGC/TCGA Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes project. Violations generally occur at mutational hotspots and their frequency and type can accurately be predicted from the overall mutation spectrum. In melanoma, their local sequence context evidences how not only ETS, but also NFAT-family transcription factor binding creates hotspots for UV-induced cyclobutane pyrimidine dimer formation. In colorectal adenocarcinoma, violations reveal hypermutable special cases of the trinucleotide mutational contexts identified in POLE-mutant tumours. Taken together, we reveal the infinite sites model breaks down at the bulk level for a considerable fraction of tumours. These results warrant a careful evaluation of current pipelines relying on the validity of the infinite sites assumption, especially when scaling up to larger sets of mutations and lineages in the future.

View PDF Poster

(1) The Francis Crick Institute, United Kingdom, (2) EMBL-EBI, United Kingdom


The other award-winning poster was:

Understanding the early impact of activating PIK3CA mutation on cellular and genetic heterogeneity presented by Evelyn Lau, UCL Cancer Institute, United Kingdom


Working on your own conference poster? Then check out 10 tips to create a scientific poster people want to stop by .

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10 tips to create a scientific poster people want to stop at

Are you attending a conference and presenting a poster, but not sure where to start? Here are 10 tips to help you transform a good poster into a great one!

(And make sure you check out our scientific poster templates at the bottom!)

  1. Make it gripping!
    The scientific poster needs to captivate your audience from the beginning. Make sure you focus on what your key message is and put that clearly in your title.
  1. Keep the title short
    The title is what will make people either read your abstract and visit your poster or not. Keep the title short and snappy to make sure it draws interest.
  1. Leave out unnecessary words
    Make sure you only use words that are really necessary. Try to minimise the text, however make sure you clearly and succinctly describe the main conclusions from your project and the take-home messages.
  1. Make good use of graphics
    Focus on the graphics – these are what will catch the eye and explain the data in a way that’s easy to comprehend. Make sure you use graphics that are easy to understand, and stick to a consistent, clean layout.
  1. Don’t try to cram everything on the poster
    The poster is not the place to publish your entire research results. It serves as a networking tool that should attract attention, and help you start up conversations with other scientists. Include only the important information on the poster – YOU are there to provide any other information!
  1. Outline your methods
    Use one graphic, for example, which outlines the design of the study and the methodology that you’ve utilised. Follow this with graphics that convey the scientific results.
  1. Have clear take-home messages
    The take-home messages need to be clearly visualised and clearly described for them to be understood by your listeners.
  1. Know what’s important
    Work out what is the most important information on your poster, and make sure it is visible / readable from a distance in order to draw people who are walking past.
  1. Tailor your poster presentation to your audience
    When you’re presenting your poster to a listener, make sure that you assess their expertise level so that you can tailor your delivery to the person that’s standing in front of you. You don’t want to give the same level of details to somebody who already knows a bit about the subject as somebody who is completely unaware of the research area you’re in.
  2. Don’t forget credits!
    Be sure to include all acknowledgements and collaborators, as well as your name and affiliation on the poster.

Still unsure? Here are some scientific poster templates to help get you started!

Scientific poster template – pdf
Scientific poster template – powerpoint

Original video with Prof. Lars Steinmetz, EMBL Senior Scientist and Director of the Life Science Alliance

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