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Friday, 03 August 2018 09:37

Posters, posters, posters...

by Josee Koch

AIDS2018

Amsterdam was hot, not only in temperature, but also in the dissemination momentum achieved by the various EHPSA studies. On the 24th of July, six EHPSA studies presented their results through the poster exhibition. But the experience left me pondering... why is it that we feel slightly disappointed when an abstract is accepted at a major conference, but when the presentation format is not the desired oral session, but a poster session. Yet, conference posters are interesting vehicles to communicate evidence and engage stakeholders.

On the day, I decided to observe the poster dynamics and the underlying protocol in the poster exhibition hall, and I discovered that there are four types of people at poster sessions.

G Josie red 587 440 100The oblivious traveler: these are people who roam around the exhibition and seem to do this rather aimlessly and come across as distracted or out of place. They might look up at a poster by accident. To capture these people and create an opportunity to engage them, the design and layout of a poster is important as a visually attractive poster is a draw card.

The content driven traveler: these are people who have analysed the conference programme in advance and have marked the poster as interesting and worth checking out. They walk around the exhibition with determination and a roadmap – most likely in their head - and do not doodle around, they come straight to see the poster. To capture these people a predictable location of the poster and a clear logical link between the abstract number and the poster board is important.

The networking traveler: these are people who know the author of the poster and come and look for their colleague to catch up and network as the primary objective. They might be keen to engage on the poster content, but only as a secondary objective. To capture these people, it is important that the poster is manned by the authors, or at least a colleague who can receive and engage the person.

The “in the same boat” traveler: conference posters provide an opportunity to stimulate engagement between researchers. Poster authors tend to hang out together, waiting for audiences to pass by and interact. This waiting process lends itself for academic interaction and for networking.

AIDS 2018 has introduced the e-poster format, giving authors an opportunity to load their posters and embed them in the online conference programme. This is a beautiful new channel to enhance the shelf life of the good old-fashioned conference poster.

The best conversation I had, which was triggered by my poster, was with two delegates from Indonesia. They fell into the “content driven traveler” category and came to learn about how to science communication and engagement with policymakers in the research process. We spoke for 20 minutes about the importance of early, continuous and responsible engagement and the fact that engagement is long term investment to stimulate research impact.

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