Studio Session #6: Tips for effective virtual poster sessions

Candice Evans

A staple of professional conferences, the poster session is a tried and true method of exchanging ideas and sharing research with peers.

They’re also easily adapted to any event where knowledge and/or materials from multiple sources need to be shared with a large group of people.

Poster sessions may be more informal than an hours-long presentation with slide deck and videos, but that doesn’t make them easier to prepare. They require careful planning, especially when moving them online. Decide what story you wish to tell, then craft it by carefully selecting text and graphics.

You should also plan for how you’ll interact with attendees. While an in-person set-up will usually involve only the presenters, you may find it beneficial to have a moderator on hand. They can take care of the technology and provide basic support, giving presenters the freedom to focus on the audience and engage them in conversation.

There isn’t only one right way to run a virtual poster session, as each will be different depending on the materials to be shared and the people presenting it. For example, you may wish to prepare a recorded presentation and play it on a loop in your virtual room. Just like watching a video in a museum display, the expectation is that people will join and begin watching throughout the presentation.

Another good practice is to use chat to interact by welcoming them when they arrive, posting relevant links to more information and making yourself available to answer questions. Having a moderator on hand will ensure no message will be overlooked and can help respond to more general questions (such as where the presentation can be downloaded or the researcher’s contact info).

A more formal structure would be establishing blocks of time throughout the day for your staff to make their presentation and be available for Q&A. To avoid this feeling repetitive to your speakers, plan a brief “meet and greet” at the beginning of each demo to learn who’s in attendance. This could be a simple poll or asking people to respond in chat. Gathering even a small amount of information about your audience will help those presenting the research tailor each individual session to the people in attendance for each demo.

Make sure to have materials people can walk away with, whether that be links to downloadable handouts or a website with a detailed FAQ. The session may have answered many questions, but it should also have sparked curiosity. Providing materials attendees can peruse at their leisure after leaving the session, along with your contact info, is a must.

You can hold as many concurrent sessions as your conferencing software can manage. And working with professional event producers (like those on staff at Intellor) means you don’t have to limit yourself based on staff availability.

Whether you plan to hold poster sessions within a larger conference, or wish to make them the primary feature of your event, consider your goals and audience when developing your program. Pay careful attention to the kind of feedback and interaction you’re looking for and how you plan to present your work. Dedicate time and attention to creating a visually engaging story and you’ll find poster sessions are a great way to gather comments and foster collaboration.

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