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5 compelling reasons to create a fresh scientific poster for every conference

Man working on his laptop sitting by his office desk surrounded by scientific poster tubes from various years and is thinking about designing a new poster

Watching a much-anticipated movie is always an incredibly exciting experience. You’re drawn into a new world and its vibrant settings, learning all about new characters and their stories, and witnessing the most epic scenes and jaw-dropping plot-twists. 😱

Or at least, that’s how you’d feel when you watch it for the first time.

Every time you go back and watch it again, it just doesn’t have that same magic anymore. 😔

The audience needs something fresh.

Where am I going with this? Well in many ways, presenting a scientific poster for its debut at a conference is much like the premiere screening of any major motion picture. At this point in time, your brand new poster is full of sparkly new data (piping hot from the lab), and is being seen by your colleagues for the very first time. 🤩

You’re excited to share it with the world. So much so that sometimes, we get into a bad habit of using the same poster over and over again for the next conference. And the next one. And then the next one… 😪 (been there before)

It’s losing its magic. It’s no longer representative of the latest of your amazing work.

So it’s time to put that old and well-loved poster aside, and register your next presentation with your poster’s much-deserved sequel in mind. 😉

Why? Well, here’s 5 compelling reasons why you should create a fresh scientific poster for every conference. 👇

1. First and foremost, it’s best practice!

There’s an unspoken suggestion that we should have a new poster for every conference or event. 🕸️→✨

Distracted boyfriend meme in the style of creating a new scientific poster versus keeping your old one

Though in reality, this isn’t as a strict ‘rule’ in our academic training. Instead, it’s hinted as best practice.

So what’s stopping many of us from upholding this as best practice? 🤔

Let’s look at why many of us would want to reuse a poster, which often boils down to two things: practicality and time commitment. For example, if your research has ‘barely changed’ from the last iteration of your poster, it may be more practical and cost-effective to reuse a poster. The convenience is tempting. And of course, creating a brand new design can take a significant amount of time (even though there’s shortcuts to make this much easier).

But consider this. Making a new poster allows you to tailor it to fresh audiences, showcase new data, tell the world that your research is evolving, and so much more! We’ll touch on this as we go along.

So if you’re trying to iron out a tattered old poster that been folded ten times over, those old creases might still be showing their age, let alone your data’s age. Why not repurpose your old posters in a completely different way?

Let’s dig deeper as to why creating a new poster grants far greater benefits to you, your physical poster, and your overall presentation.

2. Different audiences may need different context

Does your old poster cater mostly for a technical or expert audience? In which case, perhaps you’ve chosen to omit some background info from your introduction. Things like defining nuclear fusion, advanced click-chemistry, or perhaps even what ‘Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis’ means. 🤷🏻

Man is looking at a book, whether it be a manual or dictionary, in complete confusion
That last one miiiight not be in your everyday dictionary.

If your audience consists mostly of specialists with assumed knowledge, that’s a valid approach. But if your audience is more on the general side 🙋🏻‍♂️, you’ll likely need some clear definitions on your poster, or perhaps an analogy to help people understand it.

The key message here is that different audiences and therefore different conferences may need different context. So designing a brand new poster which caters to a specific audience will allow you to target your messages in the most effective way during your presentation.

Another thing to think about is presenting data. Researchers love data. But sometimes data is irrelevant to your audience.

For example, an audience of Alzheimer’s disease researchers would be delighted to see your data (p-values and all) about how a certain protein affects the progression of the disease. On the other hand, a public audience of patients and affected families may have greater difficulty understanding your intense graphs. Instead, consider simplifying the graphs, employing a data visualisation approach, or replace them with a simply written message like: “Protein X affects the disease. Adjusting your diet can help”.

Two scientific posters side-by-side. On the left, is one with lots of graphs and technical background. On the right is one with icons, data visualuation.
Though really, both types of audiences would more easily understand a simpler poster.

Regardless of the audience, in our guide for designing posters we generally recommend keeping the number of graphs to a maximum of about 2 to improve the readability of your work. So creating a new poster is likely what you’ll need to do to cater for the right audience.

At the end of the day, your catered poster should allow the audience to walk away with information that’s of interest or value to them. 💎

3. New content contributes more value to the conference

Generally speaking, people tend to be more invested in experiencing new things. New rides at an amusement park. New releases of video games. New hit movies. Or new posters at a scientific conference!

New things represent new value. 🏅

Say for example, you’ve just presented your poster at a local conference. But then you’re planning to register for another conference in a neighbouring city and expect to meeting some of your colleagues there. Registering with the exact same poster again is likely going to deter them from showing any new interest in your presentation.

After all, if you’ve heard the story once, you’d have less of a reason to hear it again. 🥱

Robert Downey Jr saying And Here We Go, Different Day Same Story

It’s also far more valuable for the conference to have a wider array of presenters who come with new content. By creating and presenting a fresh poster for each event, you reinforce your reputation as a dynamic and active contributor to scientific progress, earning greater respect and recognition by the conference organisers and your peers. In fact, there are a number of high-status conferences that won’t allow you to present data that has previously been presented before. Plus it’ll indicate that you’ve signed up for the poster session for more than just the complementary food and drinks. 🥂

So even if you’ve only got a little update for your poster (and we tend to undervalue how small our data or findings might seem) — it’s still worth making an updated poster for!

4. Your CV’s presentation record will have more impact

Need a little motivation to get you out of bed in the morning and into the lab? A reminder of your great achievements might just be the spark you need to get you going. 🏃🏻

Paper got published? WELL DONE! 👏

Grant got accepted? THAT’S TERRIFIC! 🤜🤛

Got invited to present at the next conference? SIMPLY AMAZING! 🙌

Puppy meme telling you that you're awesome
The chant you need to recite first thing in the morning before your coffee.

And how do you remind yourself of these feats? Writing this all down in our CVs is one way we keep track of each incredible feat we manage along the way. Poster presentations are no exception and they are often listed alongside any oral presentations you’ve given.

Though, some might argue that you shouldn’t list the same poster as multiple lines on your CV. Of course, this would mean that you’d need a new poster for every event if you want to build that CV page. 📑

Listing the same poster, despite being presented at multiple different conferences, can effectively ‘dilute’ your CV. Creating new work will instead help boost your reputation as someone who invests time and effort into new posters.

“Wait what? If that’s the case, what if I was invited to present my poster at 3 different conferences? How will this be able to represent all of my presentations?!”

If you’ve already presented the same poster multiple times, we recommend listing it as a single title, but then adding a list of events underneath it to show the wide variety of conferences you’ve presented that work at. 👇

Before and After improving your researcher CV by listing each unique poster once each
Which do you think looks better to the grant funders reading your track record?

But to really make your CV look impressive with some real bulk, creating a brand new poster with a new spread of information is really the goal here.

“But I’m still working on the same research project!”

Worry not, because the purpose of a poster isn’t about presenting your entire project. It’s about showcasing a key selection of what you want to communicate. Aim for 2 graphs max. Only the BEST stuff. So if a conference is coming up, we highly encourage you to update your poster with a brand new title which highlights your main key message this time around, regardless of whether its from the same project. We highly recommend titles that are informative with an interesting analogy to hook people in. 👇

Old scientific poster with a generic title vs new scientific poster with a more interesting title
Take strong ownership over your new poster titles, no matter how bold and daring their titles may be!

Excited to spruce up your next poster? Perhaps one of our scientific poster templates will make that much easier to update your poster with little fuss about having to make a new design! 📊

5. You’ll have better chances at a poster prize!

And of course, we’ve got to address the bonus incentive for presenting our posters: the coveted poster prize. Don’t be shy, we’re all in it to win it. 🏆

Will Ferrell saying that winning feels good because he really likes winning
No shame in that!

When you’re registering your poster, some forms will ask whether or not your poster has already been presented at another event, which you’ll need to be honest about. This is important to allow the organising committee to consider this factor when selecting presenters, as some conferences prioritise novelty. So from the get-go, having a new poster will grant you better chances of even presenting at all.

And then comes poster judging. The judging criteria varies from conference-to-conference, though generally you can expect points for:

  • a legible design, which includes layout, concise text, and colour scheme

  • a well-communicated message

Whilst research novelty is often not listed in the judging criteria, presenting old data might influence your enthusiasm, your delivery, and therefore how the judges perceive your presentation. 🤔

Instead, a never-before-seen poster can ignite your enthusiasm to share something new with the scientific community. The judges will definitely like the look of that. 🤩

Let’s summarise!

  1. It’s best practice — an important part of improving the academic culture!

  2. Different audiences may need different context

  3. New content provides more value to the whole conference and its attendees

  4. Your CV will have a lot more unique entries on it

  5. And you’ll be one step closer to that much-deserved poster prize!

Whilst sometimes reusing your poster is necessary, we hope we’ve given you a push to invest the time to create something new for every poster session. ✨

Ready to present your poster’s sequel?

You’re coming up to the weekend premiere of “My Scientific Poster 2: Return of the <0.05 P-Value”. 🎞️

But time is running out, and you’ve yet to prepare your sparkly new poster! 🙊

Fret not, we’re here to save the day. 🦸🏻‍♂️🦸🏻‍♀️

Animate Your Science offers professional design services which will transform your latest research into a compelling and eye-catching scientific poster worthy of a best poster prize, tailor-made for you using our award-winning formula. Connect with our friendly team of PhD-trained science communicators (who have presented their fair share of posters! 😉), and we’ll ensure that your epic research sequel is ready for its debut on time, on budget, and without unexpected surprises.

Contact us using this page and we’ll be at your every call!

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