A man looks ahead confidently, surrounded by drawings of research papers and posters and vignette photos of a woman talking at a conference and people shaking hands.

How To Create an Advocacy Poster for a Conference (and Other Conference Tips!)

Many patient advocates may have had the pleasure of observing, and in some cases showcasing, an abstract or poster at a conference. It can be an intense experience if you’re not sure of what to expect. My first experience was a bit daunting as there was no script, and the conference I attended expected me to provide a poster on my advocacy.

Start a Forum

So, what exactly is a poster?

A poster involves a standalone display that ranges in sizes, but typically 48” x 60’ or 48” x 96” cloth or paper in dimension. The poster provides insight into your specific advocacy. The posters generally showcased at conferences involve some type of statistical-based findings.

Again, I had no clear direction other than Google as a resource, but I would have to say what I came up with worked out fine. What initially felt like being put on the spot was turned into an opportunity to share my cause and speak about it on a smaller stage and some one-on-one conversations.

Let’s delve into the poster formation!

Getting started

First, if you have the opportunity to showcase a poster, get creative by delving into the nooks and crannies of what you represent. It’s a good idea to take out a pad and pen and sit down and think about the structure of your poster mission.

Some helpful questions to ask yourself are:

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

  • What is it that you want the reviewer to come away with, especially having an actual patient leader in person?
  • What do you want the reviewer to understand?
  • Is there a problem you’ve experienced as a patient advocate that you wish to bring to light to the reviewer?

The reviewer may be a representative of the medical and science-based industry. You may want to consider thinking about your mission or your messaging with typical starting points of I.M.R.D., which stands for introduction, methodology, results, and discussion.

Your introduction

Providing a short bio on who you are and the condition you represent makes a great start. The introduction should also include an eye-catching title that will draw in people who may be interested in that particular condition. A good rule of thumb is to think about the conference you’re attending. You don't want to steer too far off from how other posters are showcased (remember to stay in the confines of the structure), but make it unique and your own. For example, if you love bold colors, use bold colors!

Explaining methodology

Use this as an opportunity to address or highlight a specific point when it comes to your condition. This is where having a structure and strategy comes into play. You may find posters have a full page with a bunch of text and charts, so finding a balance of what you want to highlight takes a bit of thought and strategy. For example, if you advocate for lung cancer, you can highlight how there's a lack of funding for research in treatment.

Showcasing results

Show the data analysis based on the highlight of your methodology mentioned previously. Again, it pays to plan the layout. This can help you smoothly proceed in the process of the findings.


Based on how well you’ve crafted the I.M.R. sections can bring it home in the core of leading the conversation. If you’re well versed and understand the main areas of your advocacy, the discussion part should feel easy. This is a time you can really interact with those viewing your poster, and they may find it interesting to stir conversation and seek more details that may not be listed on your poster. Be ready to answer questions! What a way to start a constructive conversation based on your poster!

Work a room-what posters do you want to see?

Working your way through a room of posters takes strategy as well. Upon attending a recent American College of Preventive Medicine conference, I worked out a strategy for what posters I wanted to see.

Here are some areas to be mindful of and to make the experience as a reviewer less frantic and overwhelming:

  • Plan out what posters to visit beforehand, if available.
  • Bring along business cards to share with the poster rep in case there’s not enough time for an in-depth discussion.
  • Take pictures of the best posters and if possible, access a QR code they may have available providing further data (something to consider for your poster as well).
  • Focus on the title and text of the visiting poster. Is the heading interesting? Is the text easy to read? It depends on the latter if you should bother reviewing.
  • Be aware poster viewings tend to showcase around the same time other presentations may be happening- allow wiggle room to move around quickly while not missing too much of what is happening at a conference.
  • Expect conversation. If you stop by an interesting poster and the representative is there, expect a discussion to follow, as again this is their chance to present their model.

Lastly, one very important point to note in some cases you may not find anyone at their station to represent their poster. They may be attending other presentations during the timing of the poster observations, or they may be checking out other posters at the same time.

Have you ever created a poster for a conference? How did it go?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The SocialHealthNetwork.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.