College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Easy Guide to Better Posters & Presentations

Even in disciplines that have traditionally shared their scholarly work at conferences as delivered papers, there is a growing trend toward greater media use and alternative presentations styles.

We've polled some of the gurus within our College to produce this guide on creating everything from large scale posters to electronic media.  On-campus services can help, so links are provided below.

How do they make those huge posters?

How can I give my next poster more "Wow Factor"?

How can I create a moving display on a computer monitor?

I'm considering showing artifacts on a table.  Any Tips?

What other sort of display styles might I consider?

I need help with the display of statistical data. 

I need help with graphics that I don't know how to make myself.

I need one type of media (for instance, a VHS tape) converted to another type (perhaps  DVD).

What about readability?  What font should I use?

I'm going to participate in the next Sabbatical Showcase.  What equipment should I request?

I have some great tips that would enhance this page.  Who should I contact?



How do they make those huge posters?

The short answer is that large posters are often created as a single PowerPoint slide and then printed on a large-scale printer called a plotter.  GVSU has a number of these.  Some are part of particular labs or departments and others can be accessed for a fee (usually about $25 for each large poster).

The result looks like this or this.  Special thanks to Gwyn Madden of Anthropology for these samples.

Here is an article that many archeologists have found useful.  A Poster Primer:  A Few Tips for Planning Your Poster Session, by Frasier D. Neiman.


There are different protocols for the plotters in various locations. 

Please remember that these shared resources can become busy.  Never leave your print job to the last minute.



How can I give my next poster more "Wow Factor"?

It can be off-putting to see the poster you are approaching is a white sea awash with small black printing.  Color, pictures and the position of the material on the poster can increase its readability and Wow Factor.

Here are some tips:

  • The eye naturally sweeps across the poster in a somewhat predictable way.  We expect to see titles in large fonts near the top, and either centered or at the left margin.  As artists know, the movement of the eye can be guided to a certain degree by placing vivid colors or items of interest in certain spots.  Here are some studies that show how we look at complex displays such as posters and web pages:

A poster with rich color and images that we can make out at a distance draw us in.  An example would be this poster by Charles Pazdernik of Classics.

  • Unless your discipline has a rule about such things, consider the third dimension.  A small sample of your species' seedpod could be attached or a LED display embedded in the foam core your poster is mounted on. 
  • An optical illusion can be a good conversation starter.
  • Consider a technique you see every day in newspapers and magazines--a pull quote.  Box and enlarge a sentence that sums up the key issue or expresses why your subject is important or quotes a giant in your field on the subject.


What must nature, including man, be like in order that science be possible at all?

~Thomas S. Kuhn

  • This poster won an award for Al Steinman of AWRI and his colleagues.  His tips for a good poster are:

1) tell a story 

2) don't overwhelm with text (biggest fault) 

3) have engaging graphics


How can I create a moving display on a computer monitor?

Classics' Melissa Morison, depicted in the photo at the top of this Web page, explains how she displays on a monitor a series of images of her archeological finds and notes about them. "I used Keynote, which is bundled in MAC's iWork package, for my slide show; I find that it handles graphics & so on better than PowerPoint. This can also be used to make posters."

For those on PCs, you can use the animation features in PowerPoint to get your images moving.  You can Google many online tutorials for this feature.  Here's a basic one:

Adding Custom Animation in PowerPoint 2007
3 min 11 sec

When you are ready to display your "show", you can either show it on a table-top monitor or project it onto another display device such as a screen using a data projector.


I'm considering showing artifacts on a table.  Any Tips?

  • Once the room is crowded, items at table level can be a little hard to see.  Consider draping cloth over a collection of boxes of various heights arranged like an Aztec pyramid or stairs.
  • Indicate whether items can be handled and touched or not. 



Page last modified April 29, 2016