GSA Poster Symposium Recommendations

Recommendations on How to Prepare a Professional Poster

NOTE: In order to encourage student creativity, we offer general recommendations on how to make your posters. The only firm requirement we have is that your poster size be mounted on cardboard or bulletin board, and sized either 3’ x 5’ or 4’ x 6’. So take a look at what other students have done, and have fun creating your own poster!

Purposes of a Poster

  • Informal dialogue and discussion
  • Combines text and graphics
  • One-on-one conversation with the presenter

Guidelines for Preparing a Poster

  • Information in poster should stand alone
  • Information should not overwhelm the viewer
  • Build presentation around one or two key points
  • Select two or three key points within each section that relates to overall points
  • Supplement with a handout


  • Communicate main points quickly and clearly
  • Use jargon only if your audience will understand it
  • Use short sentences/phrases unless long sentence is useful


  • Visual information is easier and faster to comprehend than text
  • Use text to convey key points
  • Use graphics for supplemental information that will enhance key points
  • Tables can communicate a great deal of information in a small amount of space
  • List information
  • Use bullets
  • Avoid using full sentences
  • Be concise by using phrases
  • Group information


  • You must attract viewers
  • Large headings
  • Graphics and text
  • Color and white space balance to reduce clutter
  • Fonts
    • Text must be readable from a distance: 36 pt for text; 48 pt for titles
    • Avoid italic or fancy script and using all capitals
    • Use one font style
    • Highlight with color, bold or underline
  • Use headings/subheadings to label information
  • Double space text
  • Keep margins uniform on both graphics and text
  • Use a laser printer for a dark, sharp image
  • Glossy paper causes glare


  • Mount text on a colored background
  • Many use a complimentary color to set apart each section
  • Colors should not clash
  • Darker colors draw attention
  • Warmer colors are more inviting but are trickier to use
  • Mount light items on darker colors and darker items on light color
  • Neon is an absolute NO


  • Provide a title and your name in larger text and in prominent view
  • Banner across top
  • Top center above poster
  • Center of poster
  • Left to right is a safe layout
  • Use columns to move reader along
  • Don’t put key information at very bottom where a viewer might have to squat
  • Define sections clearly
    • Abstract
    • Background/Demographics
    • Methodology
    • Results
    • Conclusion
  • Use arrows to direct viewers for difficult layouts


  • Create a layout map
  • Mount poster before you travel
  • Use good quality bond so glue does not ripple or ruin paper
  • Transport in pieces or in tube and carry it with you
  • Bring push pins and glue stick
Source: From Student to New Professional: How to Survive the Conference Presentation Process. Author: Heather J. Moulton, MS, MPH, OTR/L, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University.

Other Useful Sources

Pictures of Student Posters