Here are five top tips for presenting a project poster. The ideas were developed in discussions at the Presenting with Confidence sessions in 2014 and are based on experience in assessing student poster presentations. Keep these points in mind when preparing and delivering your presentation.
1. Why should anyone care? You need to convey your enthusiasm for your project. Spell it out for your audience, why is your work important or significant? In fact, why bother doing the project? Try to reconnect with your original motivation for getting involved with this project and explain it to someone else. If you have lost motivation and have no enthusiasm for your project, it’s time to refocus and find an area that you are interested in. Meet your supervisor and discuss.
2. Tell the project story. What did you set out to do? What did you do? Where are you now? What remains to be done? Do you have a Plan B? Don’t assume the audience knows this. This is your project journey, what have you learned along the way? A story captures the audience interest and keeps them engaged. You may not have completed the project but let them know the direction you are heading in. Remember it is your journey, take ownership. Portraying yourself as a ‘passenger’ waiting for someone else to sort it out means that you still have a lot to learn. Start steering the ship!
3. Direct the audiences attention.
Think of yourself as the director rather than the object of attention during the presentation. If you make no reference to your poster, it is difficult for the audience to connect what you say to the information on the poster. You can connect and use the poster as a visual aid for your presentation so you are talking through the different elements of the poster. Your poster has room for graphics which are useful to illustrate points.
4. Be friendly and approachable.
Stay near your poster. If someone shows an interest, smile and be prepared to chat about it before your ‘official’ presentation. First impressions count, if you are ‘lurking’ in the distance while someone waits to ask a question, it suggests you are not really engaged with your project/poster. Be prepared for the ‘unexpected guests’ people who may show up for the presentation because your poster looks interesting. It’s a good sign and helps other students to learn about your subject area.
5. Timing is everything
Be aware of exactly how long you have to present and rehearse your presentation so you can complete in the time. If you overrun and the audience needs to be elsewhere, you may have to stop your presentation part way through. Obviously, not a good idea. Leave time for questions, and invite them, questions show interest and will help you to relax. It’s fine to ask people to elaborate on their question if you don’t understand. If someone genuinely points out something new, acknowledge this and be prepared to do more research.
For advanced presenters, a surprise 6th top tip – consider the element of surprise. Your audience may become rather jaded seeing several presentations in one morning, what can you do to make your presentation stand out? Last year, Matt brought home baked biscuits or as he preferred to call the ‘BIMscuits’to supplement his presentation. There were no extra marks for these but they did show imagination and preparation and made the audience smile. A smiling audience is a good start to any presentation!
So, good luck with your presentation and it’s surprising how much good luck you have with good preparation.