Sooner or later you will be asked to do a presentation, one requiring a full display of your creative and oratorical skills. So how do you overwhelm your audience if your greatest skill heretofore has been talking behind the backs of your coworkers?
The answer is the poster. Yes, that stalwart of boardrooms and bedrooms, the poster offers style, format, color, readability, attractiveness and showmanship—traits that, when properly applied, can easily camouflage your lack of knowledge.
Here, then, is my brief guide through the do’s and don’ts of creating an effective poster, one that, if followed to the letter, will spellbind your audiences and confound your critics. So let’s get started!
POSTER LAYOUT AND FORMAT
DON’T create your poster on just one or two large boards, especially billboards; they’re clumsy and a real nuisance to lug around. Billboards frequently don’t fit well into a glove box. They strain your muscles and your patience, and when they fall down, they generally tend to crush anyone standing beneath them.
DO make up your poster in a large number of separate sections of roughly comparable size. However, resist the temptation to shape each section irregularly so as to resemble a jigsaw puzzle. Mount each section individually on a colored board of its own of slightly larger dimensions; this frames each poster segment with a nice border. Where the borders are restricted, enhance them with barbed wire.
DON’T vary type sizes and typefaces, especially in the same sentence.
DO design your poster as though it were the layout for a magazine. Select fonts and sizes that work well together and dismiss the ones that don’t with only a week’s severance.
DON’T use too small a type size for your poster. This is the single most common error, aside from writing in crayon. Using 8- or 10-point type will only please your optometrist. And never, ever, use 2-point type except under a court order.
DO use a type size that draws a crowd around your poster. Failing that, offer free beer.
DON’T pick a font simply because it was the only one left after all the others had paired off. More importantly, avoid the urge to choose a font where the lower-case ‘m’ resembles a rear view of someone bending over at the waist.
DO, by all means, use colors in your poster. But always try to use them without letting them know they’re being used.
DON’T leave people wondering who did the work. Put the names of all authors and their institutional affiliations just below the title. It’s also a nice touch to include the full names of any correctional institutions they may have attended.
DO use a high-quality laser printer to print your poster. Where funding is an issue, select someone with good penmanship. Also, consider adjusting the kerning—the space between each letter—to reduce the risk from pickpockets.
DON’T use sexist language. Avoid gender-specific words, as in this example: “Anyone who parked in Lot 3 will have his car removed.” Instead, make this gender-neutral with: “Anyone who parked in Lot 3 is fired.”
DO consider adding a helpful tutorial section to your poster, complete with photos taken with a hidden camera and instructions on where to leave the cash.
DON’T use chalk outlines to represent the competition.
DO give credit where it is due; just do so in a low voice.
DON’T expect anyone to spend more than three minutes looking at your poster. If they do, check to see if you still have your wallet.
DO be descriptive. Remember, you are not limited to 50 words—unless it exceeds your vocabulary.
DON’T forget the Rule Of Three, which says that things repeated three times are more likely to be remembered. Don’t forget the Rule Of Three, which says that things repeated three times are more likely to be remembered. Don’t forget the Rule Of Three, which says that things repeated three times are more likely to be remembered.
PRESENTING YOUR POSTER
DO treat people you encounter with courtesy and respect; however, do not follow them home.
DON’T stand too close to the audience; it’s much easier to deflect objects when they are hurled at you from a distance.
DO realize that a poster should be accessible. A little informality can be helpful, but stop short of calling everyone “baby.”
DON’T put your hands in the pockets of your sport coat if you’re not actually wearing your sport coat.
DO offer a firm handshake to everyone in the audience; this should leave little time for your presentation and get you off the hook.
DON’T fidget or slouch, especially if you are lying on the floor.
DO ask for clarification if you do not understand someone’s question. Then ask again and again and again until they tire of speaking to you.
DON’T use correction fluid to hide a pimple.
DO offer to explain complex formulae as soon as you get back from break. Then take off.
DON’T tease the audience; it can only come back to haunt you later on when, after the presentation, they are outside waiting for you with baseball bats.