Presentation and Poster Resources

The following websites and resources are provided for informational purposes only.  The TOMODACHI STEM @ Rice Program, Rice University, and the U.S.-Japan Council is not responsible for content contained on any external sites.

Academic Writing and Presenting in English for Non-Native Speakers
Abstract: Development and Resources
Posters: Design Resources
Posters: Formatting Guidelines
Posters: Prof. Kono’s Poster Design & Presentation Tips
Presentations: Why and How Do Americans Learn How to Present?
Presentation and Communication Skills Resources
Rice University 90-second Thesis Competition
Videos and Workshops

Academic Writing and Presenting in English for Non-Native Speakers

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Abstracts: Development and Resources

Prior to preparing a draft of your abstract or presentation, it will be helpful to ask yourself the following questions.  Answering these questions may help you develop a more cohesive abstract and final presentation.

  1. Problem: What problem or question are you investigating?
  2. Importance: Why is solving this problem important? Why should others in your field care?
  3. Purpose: What are your objectives?
  4. Method: What experimental design or method(s) are you using to solve the problem? Why did you choose those methods rather than other possible methods?
  5. Context: How does your work fit into the context of similar work that other researchers have done?
  6. Results: What are your planned/anticipated findings? How do your results advance the field? What evidence do you have to support those results? (If you haven’t yet generated results, what results do you expect to produce?)
  7. Unique Contribution: What do you present that is new?
  8. Applications & Future Impact: What are some possible uses, either practical or theoretical, for your reported findings? What are the implications?
  9. Claim: Often a speaker will identify in a single sentence the problem, its importance, the method used to solve the problem, and the results. This is called the claim, as in the following example: This talk will demonstrate how a new algorithm that incorporates wavelet theory can decrease the number of dropped cell phone calls by 50% during peak usage hours. What is your claim for your presentation?
  10. Video: “Abstract Writing Workshop”, Dr. Tracy Volz, Senior Lecturer, Professional Communications, Rice Center for Engineering Leadership
  11. Other Abstract Development Resources

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Posters: Design Resources

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Posters: Formatting Guidelines

Poster Dimensions: Be sure you find out what the maximum or preferred poster dimensions and orientation is for the conference, workshop, or colloquium you will be presenting at. If you neglect to do this you may end up with a poster that is too large or small for the poster board or that has the incorrect orientation.

  • To set your poster dimensions in PPT go to File –> Page Setup and then enter the maximum width and height and select your orientation.

Orientation: In the U.S., typically posters are typically in landscape orientation but some conferences, particularly international conferences, may require vertically orientated posters.  Be sure you confirm with the conference organizers what the maximum height and length are as this will be an indication of what orientation you should use.  For the Nakatani RIES Fellowship posters should be landscape.

Dark/Solid Backgrounds: Be cautious of using a solid, dark-colored background. These can take a lot of ink to print and also take a long time to dry.  Using a solid, dark-colored background can increase the likelihood that your printed poster may smudge.  Printing large-scale, full-color posters is expensive uses a lot of ink and paper so you will likely only want to print these once.

Small-scale Test Print: We highly recommend printing an 8 1/2 X 11 or A4 copy of your final poster (in color) to review prior to printing.  This will help you catch minor errors or issues with your graphs, images, or charts that you may otherwise miss when editing posters on your computer.

Colors: Remember, every printer has different types of ink and the type of paper used for printing may also impact the final printed color may be different than what appears on your screen.  What looks grey or yellow on your computer screen may appear purple or green when printed.  This is another reason it is helpful to do a small version test-print as this often can give you an indication if your color choices are showing up the way you would like.

Color Blindness: Some audience members may be color blind.  Red-Green color blindness is the most common. Be cautious of using red or green as important colors on your poster, for example using them as colors for information on graphs or charts. Audience members who are color blind may not easily be able to tell the difference between these colors.  This is also why it is important to label all charts, graphs, and photos/images that you may use on your poster. 

Images: To be sure that all of your images, graphs, and charts show up in your PPT or PDF version correctly, insert them directly into your document.  If you just copy and paste the images into your poster they may not print properly from the PPT or save properly when you convert to PDF.

Logos:  Ask your research host advisor/s what logos should be included on your poster as these may include your funding sponsor/agency, host university, host lab, and/or home university. If you include logos, be sure you use high-resolution image files and scale the logo properly when re-sizing.  Most U.S. universities have high-resolution logos on their website that you can search for.  For example, Rice’s logos can be found online here.

Match Title/Authors to Abstract: If you have previously submitted an abstract for your poster, be sure that the title, authors, and affiliations you list in the title section of your final poster exactly matches what was listed in your abstract.  Otherwise, attendees may not be able to easily find your poster as the title listed in the program schedule will not match the poster you are presenting.

Contact Information/Email: There may be times when you have to step away from your poster. Be sure to include your email address or preferred contact method on your poster so that those who are interested in learning more about your research or summer experience can write this down and contact you. This can also be helpful if you plan to display your poster at your home university.

Acknowledgements: Most posters will include an acknowledgements section where you recognize the funding agency or program that supported your research.  Nakatani RIES Fellows should including the following acknowledgements statement on all posters and presentations given about your summer research:

  • "This research project was conducted as part of the (20XX) Nakatani RIES Fellowship for (U.S./Japanese) Students with funding from the Nakatani Foundation. For more information see http://nakatani-ries.rice.edu/.”
  • You can also use this section to recognize individuals who have been especially helpful to you with your research project or program experience.

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Posters: Prof. Kono’s Poster Design & Presentation Tips

  • As in a scientific paper, the organization of your poster should follow the ‘IMRAD’ format, i.e., Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion.
  • There should be very little text in your poster, most of the space being used for illustrations.  Crowds will gather around the simple, well-illustrated posters; cluttered, wordy posters will be ignored.
  • The great majority of bad posters are bad because the author is trying to present too much; huge blocks of typed materials, especially if the type is small, will not be read.
  • Use a variety of colorful illustrations; all kinds of photographs, graphs, drawings, paintings, X-rays, and even cartoons can be presented.
  • The title should be readable out to a distance of 10 feet; the typeset should be bold and black, and the type should be about 30 mm high.
  • Lots of white space throughout the poster is important; distracting clutter will drive people off.
  • Try to make it very clear what is meant to be looked at first, second, etc.
  • A poster should contain highlights so that passers-by can easily discern whether the poster is something of interest to them.
  • It is a good idea to prepare handouts containing more detailed information; colleagues with similar specialties will appreciate them. Print these out yourself (in Japan) and bring them with you to the SCI colloquium.

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Presentations: Why and How do American Students Learn to Present?

Japanese Student Question:  How are students in the U.S. trained to give presentations throughout the grade school system in America? Why are presentations valued so much especially compared to Japan?

This is built into the curriculum of education in the U.S. from elementary school onwards.  It is very common to ask students to give presentations at the front of the class, for example about a book report or team project.  Teamwork is also highly valued in the U.S. education system and it is very common for teachers to assign a team or group of students to work together at all levels of education (elementary through graduate school).  This is reflective on the U.S. educational system’s focus on collaboration skills which makes sense when you think of how diverse the U.S. is.  Since there are many different people in the U.S. with different backgrounds and perspectives it is important that students learn to work with diverse groups and think critically about the pros and cons of different approaches.   Through classroom presentations, students share their approach and have to respond to questions/feedback from others.  Through this process you not only learn about your own answer but better understand the questions you forgot to ask or alternative ways to approach the topic.  So, even though all students in the class might be assigned the ‘same’ topic – during the presentations you’ll see the variety of approaches taken.

You can still see this at the graduate level in terms of how most lab group meetings are organized in the U.S.  One student presents on their research and responds to questions from the group that help that student improve their research approach or consider different approaches for their project.  This is exactly what will happen when you present on your research at a conference or other workshop in your field.  Sometimes, you will get very critical and difficult questions and have to ‘think on your feet’ quickly to come up with a good response – hard to do when standing at the front of a seminar room filled with your research peers from all around the world.

Within industry you may need to give presentations to team members or your supervisors to convince them to fund your project idea or convince them that your approach is not only the correct one but also efficient and economically viable.  Or, you may be ‘pitching’ your companies services to a potential client and have to ‘sell’ or ‘win them over’ to decide to hire your company for the contract/job.  So, presentation skills are very important at all levels of your career and in all fields/industries.

This is also why most U.S. universities have poster sessions/colloquium and places where you can receive presentation coaching, such as the Communication Support at RCEL, to help students improve their presentation skills.  Even though many American students may have been giving presentations throughout their school career, it doesn’t mean that everyone likes to do this or is comfortable with this.  There is always room for improvement and this is a skill you can only learn by doing.  The more presentations you give the more you will improve!

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Presentation and Communication Skills Resources

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Rice University 90-second Thesis Competition

When you are presenting on your research at conferences or other events there are often strict time limits and you may have just 3 – 5 minutes for your talk. This time limit can seem challenging but reviewing these videos of Rice University’s 90-second Thesis Competition winners highlight how it is possible to present on research, even your thesis or dissertation, in less than two minutes.

For more resources and advice on preparing brief, informative, and compelling research presentations see the Center for Written, Oral, and Visual Communication’s 90-second Thesis Resources page.

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Videos and Workshops

These videos were created as part of the 2011 Revserse NanoJapan Program in preparation for their research poster presentations at the 2011 Rice Quantum Institute Summer Research Colloquium.  They have been archived as a resource for future students.  All presentations were given by Dr. Tracy Volz, who is currently Director of the Program in Writing and Communication at Rice University.

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