Saturday, November 22, 2008

22 steps in creative development of scientific poster displays.

The Healthcare Convention & Exhibitors Association (HCEA) has published
Guidelines for Scientific Exhibits and Poster Displays. These guidelines have been compiled to explain the nature of educational (scientific) exhibits and poster displays and the steps required in their creative development.

Scientific exhibits and poster displays are included among the teaching methods used in continuing medical education (CME) at medical meetings and conventions. The display of the presentation allows attendees to examine the information at their own pace. Authors are often required to staff their displays during specific times during the meeting in order to discuss their displays with interested attendees.

What is a Poster Display?
Effective posters communicate by the written word and visual illustrations. The format of a poster display provides a step-by-step explanation of procedures and the results of scientific research or multiple case studies.

Displays are usually one of three styles, as identified below.

a) Tabletop Poster: These displays typically consist of a series of cardboard or paper sheets that can be attached to an existing framework that rest on top of a table. The graphics consist of text, photographs and artwork printed or painted on the cards or papers attached to the framework with pushpins or thumbtacks.
b) Poster Display: A poster display is sometimes called a bulletin board display. The poster display area is usually a bulletin board or tack board that is four to eight feet wide and four feet high. Specific display areas may differ from these dimensions.
c) Electronic Poster: This display is an alternative to the traditional poster or tabletop display. Computers, supplied by the association, are sometimes provided at the organization’s meeting, enabling attendees to view the presentation online. An electronic poster may be provided in PDF format on the healthcare association’s website. The association’s website and meeting publications will identify if electronic poster presentations are available.

What is a Scientific Exhibit?

• A scientific exhibit typically illustrates an extended study or a complex procedure with a minimum two-year follow up per patient for clinical studies.

• A scientific exhibit differentiates itself from other educational displays in the amount of material that is presented. The use of display cases, X-ray film view boxes, audiovisual presentations, interactive demonstrations or other types of media into a scientific display distinguish it from a poster presentation.

• The content of the exhibit should not be promotional. This limitation should be given special attention if the exhibit deals with a pharmaceutical product, medical device or any product that is sold on the open market.

• Demonstrations and comprehensive handout materials are encouraged and should reflect the exhibit content, as well as assist in understanding it.

• It is not necessary for a scientific exhibit subject to be new. However, it must make its point concisely, use clinical or research data to support its conclusions, and may show new or modified techniques as they relate to diagnosis, surgical complications or other phases of surgical problems. (*See endnote)

• The display space provided for a scientific exhibit is usually greater than the space provided for a poster display.

Suggested Organization and Layout
Often, scientific exhibits are organized around the essential components included in most medical manuscripts:

• Title, Authors

• Introduction

• Materials/Methods

• Data

• Results

• Discussion/Conclusions

Title, Authors

1. Title should concisely state the conclusion of the study.

2. Include full names of authors including affiliations.


3. Outline the reasons for doing the research project.

4. Give a brief overview of the subject matter.

5. Present as a series of short, concise statements, rather than in narrative form.

6. May present new theories or approaches to treatment.

7. Restricted use of quotes can be very effective.

8. Graphics, illustrations or photographs may be incorporated in setting.

9. State the theme of the exhibit.


10. Because available data usually exceed exhibit space, material should be reduced substantially without sacrificing or distorting study procedure.


11. Data may be condensed by use of schematics, drawings and tables, and enhanced by short explanatory paragraphs. All references should be confined to the accompanying handout.

12. In order to convey methodical information briefly and concisely, a narrative approach is discouraged.

13. Electronic media, such as computers, videotapes and slides often help to condense this information into a usable form.

14. If a product is the subject of the presentation, it should be referred to by its generic name in the body text. The product trade name can be referenced once, as a footnote, at the bottom of the exhibit in letters not to exceed 1/2 inch in height. Company logos may not be used in any part of the scientific exhibit.


15. Generally, the results section will present study findings, side effects, laboratory changes and commentaries of a non-conclusive type.

16. The scientific exhibit presentation is enhanced by the use of tables, graphs, photos and illustrations.

17. Well-conceived and properly labeled graphics enhance the narrative discussion of study findings and disseminate much information quickly, with minimum space utilization. Use of eye-catching color combinations is suggested, but not so many that it makes it visually confusing.

18. Audiovisual methods provide a firsthand experience of study findings, e.g., medical procedures, anatomical changes and pathological findings.


19. Highlight the main points of the study.

20. Re-emphasize important or unusual findings.

21. Sequential, short, pointed bulleted statements are preferable.

22. Graphics can be used.

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