Conference Presentations: Poster or Talk?

Conference Presentations: Poster or Talk?

Presenting your research at a conference? Should you present a poster or a paper? Here are some pros and cons of both.

Poster Presentations

Pros

  1. Easy to prepare
    Create a few summary sentences in PowerPoint, add some tables or figures, and you're good to go.
  2. Interaction with people one-on-one
    Poster presentations are usually 2 hours, which means more opportunities to have conversations with people who are interested in your work.
  3. Casual setting
    Although you still need to dress business casual, giving a poster presentation is simply having a brief conversation with someone.

Cons

  1. Printing issues
    Even if your school has a plotter, you'll need to plan in advance to have your poster printed. Don't put yourself in the situation where it's a day before the conference, and you have no way to print your poster.
  2. Traveling hassles
    Make sure your pretty poster doesn't get bent in transit, especially if you're traveling by plane.
  3. CV concerns
    Depending upon the conference and your research area, poster presentations are sometimes viewed as less prestigious than giving a talk at a conference. It's all relative, however.

  

Paper Presentations

Pros

  1. Looks good on CV
    As I mentioned earlier, a paper presentation is sometimes viewed as more prestigious than a poster. Even if you’re presenting at a less prestigious conference, giving a talk always looks good on your CV.
  2. Simple format
    It’s pretty easy to take your presentation with you if you’re giving a talk; just bring your usb drive. Being able to edit your slides in the hotel the night before is also a plus!
  3. Good practice
    Giving a talk forces you to practice discussing your research in a formal format. This is good practice for teaching, research talks, and job talks.

Cons

  1. More prep time
    In addition to creating slides in advance, you’ll need to orally practice your talk and ensure it flows well and fits within the time limits.
  2. Public speaking anxiety
    Speaking in public is always a little nerve-racking. You’ll not only need to make it through your slides, but you’ll also need to make it through the Q&A.
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Comments 5

zmirtsching on Wednesday, 31 July 2013 11:56

Are there any other types of presentations? Or are these the two main types?

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Are there any other types of presentations? Or are these the two main types?
Peter on Thursday, 15 August 2013 15:34

I have seen a few others. At some conferences there are "hands on workshops" and "pre conference training" - these are probably not something most graduate students would do. There are also "roundtables" and sometimes very casual things that don't even involve a formal presentation.

Also, some conferences have a range of length of talk. I have seen talks that are anywhere from 3 minutes to a day.

1
I have seen a few others. At some conferences there are "hands on workshops" and "pre conference training" - these are probably not something most graduate students would do. There are also "roundtables" and sometimes very casual things that don't even involve a formal presentation. Also, some conferences have a range of length of talk. I have seen talks that are anywhere from 3 minutes to a day.
SaraB on Thursday, 01 August 2013 04:37

@zmirtsching, thanks for your question! I've seen another category at conferences called "symposium session." That usually consists of someone submitting an abstract to host or lead a session where several "experts" or lead researchers in the field discuss a topic in-depth or give talks pertaining to a highly specialized topic. I'm not aware of any other categories, but most people choose between a poster or a "talk" (i.e., paper presentation).

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@zmirtsching, thanks for your question! I've seen another category at conferences called "symposium session." That usually consists of someone submitting an abstract to host or lead a session where several "experts" or lead researchers in the field discuss a topic in-depth or give talks pertaining to a highly specialized topic. I'm not aware of any other categories, but most people choose between a poster or a "talk" (i.e., paper presentation).
Peter on Thursday, 15 August 2013 15:32

I've presented a lot of posters and talks. I would not agree that preparing a poster is quick. OK, preparing a slapdash poster can be very quick. But preparing a good one takes a lot of effort; perhaps as much effort as a talk.

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I've presented a lot of posters and talks. I would not agree that preparing a poster is quick. OK, preparing a slapdash poster can be very quick. But preparing a good one takes a lot of effort; perhaps as much effort as a talk.
SaraB on Sunday, 18 August 2013 13:20

Thanks for the input, Peter! You might be on to something regarding the prep time. For me, the perception of giving a talk was much more nerve-wracking, and I enjoy tweaking posters (e.g., playing with the styles). So my impression was always that talks take more effort than posters, but it just might be that I spend equal amounts of time on both!

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Thanks for the input, Peter! You might be on to something regarding the prep time. For me, the perception of giving a talk was much more nerve-wracking, and I enjoy tweaking posters (e.g., playing with the styles). So my impression was always that talks take more effort than posters, but it just might be that I spend equal amounts of time on both!

PhDStudent