AFA Ph.D. Student Poster Session – Guidelines

Overview: If you have never attended a poster session, ask a colleague in the natural sciences (where poster sessions are the most common type of conference session) how they work. You may want to place the paper on your website before you come so you can direct interested folks there (or you can direct them to the paper on the ASSA Conference Event app). Plan to include your name, affiliation, and email address on your poster and be prepared to make a list of interested participants who want more information.

Video: Check out this video on a new approach to creating posters.

Date/Time: The 2024 AFA PhD Student Poster Session will be held in the Marriott Rivercenter, 3rd floor lobby, on Friday, January 5th from 8:00 am – 8:30 pm with a special preview on Thursday, January 4th following the AFA PhD Student Poster Session Panel.

Poster Printing: The AFA has coordinated with to provide a convenient way for participants to order their poster online for delivery directly to the conference. If you place your order with, you can pick up your poster from the AFA Information Desk (separate from the main conference registration area) on Thursday, January 4th from 2:00pm-4:00pm and Friday, January 5th starting at 7:30am at the Marriott Rivercenter, 3rd floor lobby.

Space: The AFA will provide 8′ X 4′ cork message boards in the lobby for displaying the posters. Presenters will be assigned a designated board. Each presentation will be allocated half of one side (4’ X 4’) of the message board. We will have plenty of push pins available.

Material: Presenters have had success using either large-format printed posters or a series of smaller printed pages arranged on the board and supplemented with arrows or numbers to help the reader follow the page sequence. Mounted material will be difficult to thumb-tack to the corkboard (let alone transport to the meetings), so it is not recommended. Please be sure to include your name, affiliation, and email address on your poster.

Content: Your poster should be self-explanatory, freeing you from answering obvious questions so that you are available to supplement and discuss particular points of interest. Will a casual observer understand your major findings after a quick perusal of your material? Will a careful reader learn enough to ask informed questions? Ask yourself, “What would I need to know if I were viewing this material for the first time?”

Clarity: Is the sequence of information evident? Indicate the ordering of your material with numbers, letters, or arrows. Put your major points in the poster; save non-essential sidelights for informal discussion or handouts.

* Guidelines based on recommendations developed by the AEA

Below are some general tips from others regarding poster session presentations.


1. What’s the story? You know the purpose of your poster. What do you want the poster to be about? What message do you want viewers to “take home?”

2. Make a content map: start by writing the topic, then 3 sub-topics or key points, and follow that with 3 supporting topics for each of the 3 sub-topics. Decide which of these you really need in order to convey the “take home” message.

3. Show what you did in your project. Use visual representations whenever possible – illustrations, tables, graphs, charts, diagrams, pictures, photos, etc. – to present the ideas. A minimal amount of text material should supplement the graphic materials.

4. Sketch a design for placement and size of elements. Make it as simple as possible. Use diagrams, arrows, and other strategies to direct the attention of the viewer.

5. Use title and visuals to “hook” people; they’ll read the rest if interested.

6. Make the title easy to find and brief.

7. Size of an element (heading, graph, text) should relate to its importance.

8. Balance the elements. Avoid centering everything. Keep in mind the overall picture and the way you want viewers’ eyes to move – the visual flow.

9. Text, lettering, and graphics should be large enough to read at 6 feet. Double-space text. Avoid baroque fonts.

10. Capitals and lowercase lettering are most legible. Chose one font and use it throughout the poster. Add emphasis using boldface, underlining, or color. Italics are difficult to read.

11. Use color selectively (don’t overdo it), and consistently. Let color communicate meaning (ex. green for student data and blue for faculty).

12. Don’t use distracting backgrounds. Avoid busy wallpaper.

13. Posters are summaries, meant to encourage discussion. Use handouts for large amounts of text material. Think prompt, not product.

Think of your poster as a sandwich board on the sidewalk in front of a restaurant. Customers can see the day’s SPECIALS, and if that whets their appetite, they will ask for the menu.

Source: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.


Have you…

– used visuals whenever possible to illustrate ideas?

– eliminated distracting backgrounds?

– used a bold, plain font for headings?

– avoided using more than two different fonts?

– used italics, bold, underlining, or color for emphasis?

– used the brightest and lightest color to focus attention on important elements?

– limited the number of colors on the poster?

– made the design as simple as possible?

– made it legible? If the audience can’t read it, don’t use it.

Source: Heinich, Molenda & Russell. (1993) Instructional Media. New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, p. 85.