Presenting posters and leading the conversation in a poster session can be intimidating. However, there are some very simple things that you can do to help yourself get through what can be a challenging experience. Richard Threlfall, Managing Editor, Asian Journal of Organic Chemistry, gives you some tips on how to plan and design an outstanding poster and how you can make sure that you present your poster like a pro.
In general, people go to poster sessions to learn something, to get new ideas, or just to have a browse. You shouldn’t think that anyone is asking questions with the intention of catching you out or embarrassing you. The poster session isn’t an exam and if you don’t know the answer to a question, then it is fine to say that you don’t know. However, what you should realize is that there are likely to be a large number of very experienced researchers there and trying to learn something from these people should be one of your top priorities.
If a person is asking a very technical question, then chances are that this is because they have had personal experience of whatever they’re asking about. For example, if someone asks: “Have you tried XYZ catalyst for this reaction?” this likely means that they’ve used catalyst XYZ in the past for something else. Your response could then be: “I hadn’t thought of that, have you had any experience with catalyst XYZ? How do you think it might work in this situation?”. Likewise, if someone asks a more open-ended question, such as “Are there any alternatives to these conditions here?”, then it’s likely that they have seen or done something similar themselves and your response could be: “These are the best that we have identified, but did you have another idea?”.
Answering a question with a question can sometimes be annoying so don’t do this every time, but people do like to talk about themselves and the person asking probably won’t get annoyed if you are genuinely trying to learn something through scientific discussion.
There will be lots of people walking by who won’t be specialists in your area of research, but they will be genuinely interested in learning something about it and it’s always helpful to look at your work through the eyes of another. That’s not to say that there won’t be people there who will want to challenge your theories, but discussion is part of the scientific process and can be valuable in developing the skills you need to defend your work in public.
Avoiding an Argument
If someone begins to question or challenge your work more aggressively, then the first thing to do is remain calm and not to get too defensive. Restate your reasons and results and how this backs up your hypothesis. A good technique is to then ask the other person to talk through their point of view step by step. Going through their viewpoint in smaller sections as opposed to trying to tackle what might be a long concerted critique on your work makes it easier to identify where their interpretation might be incorrect, and where they may be in the right.
This approach shows that you are willing to have an open scientific discussion and will hopefully lead to you being able to prove your point by logical reasoning. You may also be able to identify areas of common or complementary expertise, or a shared interest that might lead to collaboration, which is a much better outcome than an argument!
- Next month: Talking in Poster Sessions: Impressing Poster-Prize Judges (4)
- All Tips for Your Poster
Also of interest:
- Wonderlab Comic – Poster Session,
ChemViews Mag. 2012.
Ever struggled to engage a student in a conversation at a poster session? Wonderlab explores some of the reasons why
- Tips for Writing Better Science Papers