Professional Growth and Development: Posters

I’m writing today from the 2012 Horizons Northeast Regional Critical Care Nursing Conference. The planning committee, of which I am a member, puts on this 3-day conference every other year in various areas of New England. Past locations have included Burlington, VT; Hartford, CT; Manchester, NY; and Boston.  This year’s conference is taking place in Springfield, MA. The president of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) attends and is the keynote speaker at each conference, which includes dozens of breakout sessions, a large exhibit hall with multiple national vendors, and a poster hall.  In addition to being a member of the research subcommittee, I am also a poster presenter at this year’s conference.

Posters are a great way to get one’s feet wet in terms of personal growth and the promotion of nursing . They can take on many appearances and formats, generally going far beyond a basic set of electronic slides glued to a poster board. The possibilities for poster content are virtually endless – workplace initiatives, personal interest & experiences, or school projects, for example. My first experience with poster development and presentation was for the 2011 International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning conference in Orlando, FL.

I had submitted an abstract about a project at work that combined our long term care division’s “Connections©”professional development program  with simulation. When it was accepted as a poster rather than a podium session, I initially thought it would involve less work and effort on my part. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Since I hadn’t been involved in the curriculum development, direct education, or evaluation of the participants, I had little background information for the poster’s outline. There were very strict requirements for the poster in terms of dimensions, font types and sizes, colors, and outline components. The program’s primary educator and I spent hours developing the poster content and revising it to fit the requirements. When we finished, I sent it to our graphics department for formatting and printing. They did a beautiful job!

My next challenge was getting it from Massachusetts to Florida and back. I ended up mailing it to myself at the hotel (and then back to work), thereby incurring extra expenses (and worry about its arrival). Once there, transporting it the 4 blocks from my hotel to the conference venue was an event in itself on a windy afternoon (even though it was inside a strong cardboard tube). Once I found the poster hall and my assigned spot, it took me 20 minutes to hang it on the board… picture me with thumbtacks in my mouth, getting one corner up, trying for the other side and then having the first one fall… luckily another presenter came to help! I finally got it centered and stabilized, and realized it was a little too big for the board despite using the dimensions specified in the outline.

I noticed that almost no one was stopping to see my poster. As I looked around at the other posters – there were well over 100 entries – I started to realize why. My entire poster was made up of text! The colors were great, font was fine… but there were no photos, graphs, images, etc. It was truly a case of TMI (too much information)! I worked so hard with the program coordinator to include every bit of pertinent content that the idea of making it eye-catching never occurred to me.

The information was great; there was just too much of it. This was one of those cases of learning how NOT to do something by actually doing it the wrong way. My next column will discuss more ideas on creating an eye-catching (and informative) poster, one that will get you more than a cursory glance as people walk by on their way to the next one.

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