Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Preparing an e-Poster for an Academic Conference

In "Preparing a Poster for an Academic Conference" I discussed how I went about preparing a poster for CCA-EDUCAUSE Australasia 2011. The final poster and notes are avialable online. I prepared the poster as a HTML web page, with two sets of additional CSS formatting, for the notes and for fine tuning the printed version.

A poster is a short form presentation. What I found useful was to provide a longer version, with footnotes and links, as a web page. The web page for this was included on the poster, both as text and as a 2 dimensional barcode. Delegates photographed the QR code with their smart phones to get the notes.

During the poster reception I stood next to my poster to answer questions. It was useful to have my photograph on the poster so deligates knew who to ask questions of.

Posters vary in size, those for CcaEducause-2011 were up to 750 wide by 1200 mm high. This is slightly smaller than the international standard paper size A0 ( 841 x 1189 mm) is used in Australia, but in practice A0 fitted on the board. However, I decided to use smaller A1 size. This was intended to be compatible with the format used by the ANU College of Engineering & Computer Science Poster Day., which uses A0 landscape mode. An A1 portrait mode poster is the same height as an A0 landscape poster, so the two sizes can be hung alongside. This smaller size is also cheaper to print and easier to handle (some of the large EDUCAUSE posters started to peel off the wall due to their weight).

By also providing online notes I was able to minimise the text on the poster and have it large. The poster was formatted as an A4 page on screen, with 15 point sans-serif font and then scaled up at a commercial print bureau when printed A1 on an ink-jet printer.

A modified quad chart was used with four sections: Motivation & Objectives, Approach, Key Results and More Information.

The formatting of a poster with HTML presented some problems. Initially Ariel font was used, but this produced incorrectly spaced text when turned into PDF for printing by the Mozilla-Firefox browser. Removing "Ariel" from the font command and using the default sans-serif solved the problem. Using CSS for scaling headings and sub-headings worked well. Use of the CSS3 colours command worked well, but column break did not. Use of an alternate style sheet to remove the colour and underlining of hypertext links for printing worked well, as did an alternate style sheet to removed the extra text notes for printing the poster. The PDF file generated was only 44kbytes, due to the inbuilt fonts.

Posters normally use fully justified text. However, Mozilla has no hyphenation function built in, resulting in fulling justified text having very large gaps between words. However, when I reduced the poster to only short sentences and phrases I found that a ragged left margin was acceptable.

The process of preparing a poster was a useful learning experience but not an exercise I would wish to repeat. In my view, in 2011 it simply does not make sense to prepare a document on paper which only a few people at a conference will see. In the future I will not submit posters to conferences unless the conference organisers provide an online publishing facility for them. CC-EDUCAUSE used the OCS conference publishing software which has such a facility, but chose to turn off the feature, stopping me from uploading a copy of my poster to the conference web site. These does not seem any good reason for this decision, particularly at a conference featuring e-publishing.

No comments: