Poster Sessions – A Beginner’s Guide

02/12/2013 § 9 Comments

I tried to make my poster for the SAA 2013 meeting as unique as possible!

I tried to make my poster for the SAA 2013 meeting as unique as possible!

It’s hard to believe, but the end of the fall semester is a good time to start thinking about next summer’s professional conferences.  Though June, July and August might seem like ages away, many conferences use January as their deadline for submissions from students.  So today is as good a time as any to talk about a type of submission that can seem foreign to a lot of library students- the poster session. Let’s dive in!

What is a poster session?

At conferences, poster sessions are an opportunity for students and/or established professionals to present their work in an informal context.  It’s a great way to dip your toe into the conference presentation waters.  Unlike a traditional session, all of the posters are set up at once, and each presenter is expected to stand with their poster for the entirety of the session (typically an hour or two) to answer questions from passers-by.  The advantage of this format is that it can be a lot less intimidating to be a part of than a panel or paper presentation.  Also, at most conferences more posters are accepted than papers, especially from students.

Where do I start?

If you keep an eye on your listservs, or check the website of a particular organization you’re interested in, you will notice a lot of calls for posters.  Here are a couple of examples- one from ALA and the other from the Society of American Archivists.  The timing might vary- you could have six months or six weeks.  But you know how these things go- you’re most likely to find out about the deadline a week or so before it’s due. DON’T WORRY. One of the secrets of conference presenting is that you typically only need an abstract of around 250 words at this stage in the game. So now it’s time to set your idea down on paper.

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Presenting Your Best Self

20/03/2013 § 6 Comments

Library school is full of presentations. Whether it’s a short, informal talk or a long, detailed speech, I’ve had to give some kind of presentation for almost every library school class I’ve taken. Partly just a given in academia, frequent presentations will also be a reality for many of us in our future careers. LIS professionals are often expected to speak eloquently and concisely to everyone from peers to administrators to the general public.

Over the last few semesters, I feel as though I’ve learned so much more about presenting and presentation styles from my LIS peers and professors than I ever did in undergrad. Thus, I thought I’d share a little of their collective wisdom; some of these things seem fairly obvious, but many have changed the way I present myself and my information to others.

Must it always be a PowerPoint?
When planning a presentation, you always have to decide what, if any, visual aids you will use. “Presentation” has almost become synonymous with “PowerPoint,” but it doesn’t have to be! PowerPoint is a very useful tool, and it can be great for a lot of situations, but it shouldn’t be the only weapon in your arsenal. When you find yourself slipping into the same old PowerPoint layout, consider mixing it up with something more dynamic like Prezi.

Cut the amount of text in half; better yet, throw it out altogether
Crazy, right? Except it’s not. I recently had to help craft a group presentation for a marketing course. I was ready to plug away with some standard Title/Picture/3-5 Bullet Point slides. But one of my group members (who, it comes as no surprise, is already working in a management position at an academic library) insisted on minimal text. And when I say minimal, I mean very lean. We ended up only using images, a wee bit o’ text, and a lot of Smart Art (PowerPoint’s infographics):
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