The least expensive option
The least expensive way to prepare a poster is to prepare it yourself in PowerPoint (or Microsoft Word) and print out the slides, one per page, on a regular printer. The cost will be less than $10 since the only thing you have to pay for is a board on which you will stick the pages you have printed out.
Optional: If you can find a color printer to use, the poster can be improved.
Compare this simple method with two more expensive ways that are commonly used.
1. Using a standard poster template in PowerPoint that can be downloaded free at various websites. In this case, the person prepares the poster herself in the template, converts the finished poster into a PDF, then takes the PDF to a printer to be printed out for about $50 to $100.
2. Getting a poster custom made, designed exactly as you want it. This costs about $300 to $400 because the designer’s time is expensive!
What kind of board?
In most science fairs for middle and high school students, the presenter is provided a table rather than a hard board to pin the poster to. So, the best way to make a poster is to buy at trifold poster board at an office supply store. The trifold poster stands up on its own, without any additional support. To show what I mean, here’s an example of an inexpensive poster I made when I was in sixth grade. It won the first prize in my school’s science fair!
You can see the pages that I printed out to make this poster at the link below:
What kind of paper?
You can either use ordinary printer paper and stick it onto the board OR, if you spend a little money, you can print out the poster on full sheet self-adhesive labels (e.g., those made by Avery®).
The commonest mistake in making a poster is to put in a lot of text. Less is more! This is NOT an article that you are writing.
Remember! A poster is a visual aid, not a document. This is very important.
When making the poster in PowerPoint (or Microsoft Word) as I recommend, about 12 sheets of paper (three rows of four sheets each) is usually appropriate. Sixteen sheets of paper would be a maximum, I think.
Aim to have the font size to be 36 points or greater. A person should be able to read the poster without having to come very close to it.
Title of the poster
Keep the title BRIEF and CATCHY. Titles that are questions that your project will answer are often the best.
Use a separate template in Word using “Word Art.”
The Title will span about three sheets of paper.
In most cases, an Abstract should be put in the top left corner of the poster.
Most people only read the Abstract, so all key points should be covered in the Abstract even though they are covered again in the body of the poster.
Write it as if building up a logical argument.
What I mean is that the brief review of the background should lead to laying out the importance of the specific problem that your project addressed.
The last sentence of the Introduction should logically justify why you did this project.
Keep your best material for the Discussion because that is what stays in the readers’ minds.
Presenting the poster
Have a two to four minute description of your project ready. So, when someone stops at your poster, you can offer to explain the project. People prefer this rather than struggling to try to understand the poster on their own.
In giving this brief explanation of your project, keep pointing to and referring to your poster. This links what you are saying to the content of the poster. It also reduces your anxiety since you don’t have to remember everything–you simply follow the flow of the poster.
Your explanation of the project should flow like a story. Reviewing what was already known ⇒ what is not known ⇒ the aim of your project ⇒ the methods (very briefly) ⇒ each key finding one by one.
When persons who stop by your poster ask questions that you don’t know the answer to, make sure to write them down. They are doing you a favor by helping you to improve your project. These may be questions to which you want to look up the answer. Or, they may give you ideas for future projects.
After the poster presentation
Share a PDF of the poster with your mentors and other teachers.
Don’t throw away the actual poster even after the event. Why?
1. You should be proud of your poster and keep it as a “souvenir.”
2. You may bcan resubmit the poster for another meeting.
3. The posters may be put up in the hallway of your school as a demonstration of the students’ intellectual vitality.
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