For the almost 4000 of us presenting posters, I thought I would clarify the rules.
First, you should definitely hang your poster the night before you are listed to give it. This allows people interested in your work to view it early and ask questions during the session. They will let you in to hang your poster and view other posters from 6pm-10pm. Don’t bother trying to hang your poster before 6pm, because the poster from that day may still be there. If you just can’t hang it the night before then try to get it posted as early as possible the day you give the poster. It opens at 8AM. You can also leave your poster tube by your poster – even though it says not to – but if it is a nice poster tube you should probably not do that.
Second, you need to hang your poster by board number, not poster number. This always causes problems the first day when the poster numbers are low enough to coincide with the board numbers.
Third, there is a two hour block for the poster session 1:45-3:45 pm. If your board number is odd you present from 1:45-2:45 pm and if your board number is even you should present from 2:45 pm – 3:45 pm. No one pays attention to these hours. You should probably stay by your poster the whole time. If you want to see someone else’s poster or need to leave for some reason then definitely make sure not to leave during your specified hour.
Fourth, you need to pack up the poster by 5pm, tubes, tacks, and all. The next shift of presenters will want to hang their posters.
Unofficial rules: The poster session can last all day. People will be milling around looking at posters if they have a break. If you happen to be there, you will inevitably talk to them. Since these people are highly interested in your work – enough that they came early to see the poster – these are usually some of the best discussions you can have. Of course, you don’t need to stand by your poster, but you can keep an eye out and check on it periodically during coffee breaks. If you meet someone during a session and get to talking you can also bring them down to your poster.
Extras: People can get very creative with poster presentations. Some have movies, some have printed abstracts prepared with their contact information attached, and some have copies of papers to distribute.
If you anticipate being swamped: Get to your poster as soon as possible after lunch. Maybe even stand by it in the morning. Remember people won’t stick to the presentation schedule. You may be presenting right up until 5pm. Bring snacks, breath mints, and water with you. You will be doing a lot of talking my friend!
If you are worried that not too many people will show up: Advertise your poster to others that you meet during the meeting. Also, have all of the people you know well stop by. There is a “nucleation” that occurs at the poster session. If you are talking to one person then others will come by and listen that may be afraid to ask questions themselves. People will see a lot of people at your poster and assume it must be good! Suddenly you will be swamped. Then eventually it will let up again, and the whole process will start over. Also if someone pauses to look at the poster from far off, you can ask them if they would like you to explain it to them. People would much rather be walked through the data orally than have to read the poster. Have five minute spiel prepared, for just this reason!
Also, thought I’d share a picture of my undergraduate student, Fred Shipley, getting ready for the meeting.