Poster Presentation: Pocket Dynamo Or A Poor Relative?
Presenting a poster at a major conference is an integral part of our education system. If you are lucky, you have the aptitude to make a poster and be able to organize it in a manner that makes complete sense. If not, it could be akin to painting a house; a virtual nightmare of color and shade selection and for a generation that did not have Twitter to help compress their thoughts, a constant tug between needing to add more information versus making it legible enough to read.
Posters were perhaps initially conceived as a means to help disseminate ideas, ideas which had potential, but had not yet reached big time. They were also a means to be able to incorporate more scientific advancements within a conference, without the need to have a conference hall time and the other paraphernalia of a full-fledged talk. It provided an opportunity to be able to participate in a conference, especially for the student community, and sort of pat on their back for ideas which added value to the existing literature. They are also an opportunity to be able to display meaningful work to one’s peers without the formal environment of a talk. Some prefer the relative ease of a poster to convey a message, as compared to a formal platform presentation. It also allows for better interaction with the target audience providing them with more opportunity to question the presenter. It also allows the presenter to make a pitch and allows him the chance to defend the veracity of his ideas; something which may not be very ideal in the setting of the tightly regulated platform presentation. Perhaps the most famous poster that comes to the mind is that of Dr Gruentzig.
The flip side of things is that sometimes poster presentation is considered the consolation prize at the scientific meeting. It is not uncommon to see the poster halls completely empty with hardly anyone present there; at times even the presenters are absent! A relative lackadaisical attitude towards them, coupled with an increased number of similar sounding ideas have contributed to this situation. Increasingly one gets the feeling that poster presentation is considered the easier way to present data at a conference. It perhaps needs lesser effort than the platform presentation and allows one with the citation on the CV. In addition, there are conferences with additional sessions, sometimes with even major trials being presented at the same time as the time allotted for the poster presentation!
None of this is to say that the poster presentation is a lost form of research presentation. But it definitely is in need of some tweaks. The e-poster submission initiative by AHA is a welcome addition. The use of moderated poster sessions is also something that helps draw a lot of attention. Placement of moderated poster sessions amidst the non-moderated ones allows for the footfalls to engage these too. Having luminaries in the field visit poster sections pertaining to their area of expertise, giving valuable comments outside the setting of a manuscript reviewers comments is a welcome addition.
The beauty of a poster lies in the fact that ‘A picture says a thousand words.’ A well-made poster drives home the message powerfully. It allows for that unique interaction between the masters and the newbies and is the start of many a promising academic career.
In conclusion, a poster presentation is a unique representation of scientific data, one with significant history. It is an inclusive experience and one that all of us cherish. In the era of data clamoring for attention, it does need a niche dedicated to it for its preservation.
Deepak Padmanabhan, MD
Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology Fellow, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
Deepak Padmanabhan is an Electrophysiology fellow at Mayo Clinic , Rochester, MN. His research deals with ventricular arrhythmias, cardiac device therapy and translational medicine. His opinions are solely his own. Follow him on Twitter @manak_18.