Last week I had the pleasure of attending Nursing2012 Symposium in Orlando, Florida. One of the sessions, titled Faculty-Guided Poster Tour: Ask the Experts, was a highlight for me. This session was exactly what the title implies; an informal tour of the posters being presented at the conference. Three experts – Frank Myers, MA, CIC; Cheryl Dumont, PhD, RN; and Anne Dabrow Woods, MSN, RN, CRNP, ANP-BC – led the session which was held right in the exhibit hall where the posters were displayed. Frank Myers who critiqued each presentation first, initially broke the ice by sharing that he’s taken about 15 research courses throughout his career and education and asked “What does that make me?” While I thought “an expert,” “amazing,” and “impressive,” he answered for us all by saying “Boring!” It certainly was a fun and interactive session!
The leaders shared their reactions and feedback on 6 of the posters. They pointed out key features of the posters themselves as well as the research being presented. It was helpful to get tips about what a poster should look like, what the elements should be, and a little bit more of the intricacies of research and evidence. Here are some of the things that I learned and I hope that you find them useful too!
The poster should…
• Be visually attractive.
• Be about 1/3 pictures and/or graphs.
• Have about 20% white space.
• Be legible from 3-4 feet away.
• Be organized so that the content flows in a logical manner.
• Include your references.
Regarding the research…
• Be clear about what you are testing.
• Make sure you have a good reason to do the research.
• Get approval from the Internal Review Board (IRB) if needed.
• Understand the difference between an observation study and an intervention study.
• When using graphs to show your data, note the intervention period on the graph.
• When considering endpoints, pay attention to other fields or disciplines.
• Know what the “popcorn effect” is – remember that during the first weeks of an intervention, people are more likely to like it and perform it.
• Use rate (for example, amount/1000 patient days) rather than just a number when reporting results.
• Understand the difference between statistical significance and clinical significance.
• Compare mean and median to balance outliers. It’s generally okay to discard outliers when they are 2 standard deviations from median or when you disclose that you’ve done so (ask yourself if patient who is an outlier matches your patient population).
• With regard to sample size, it should never be smaller than 30 and more than 1,500 won’t impact your findings. The more covariants you have, the bigger your sample size needs to be.
• Anytime something “jumps” out, such as a peak or downward trend, explain it.
• Spell out acronyms with first use.
• Remember your audience; not everyone is an expert in statistical analysis.
• Don’t cut and paste from statistical analysis programs; create new tables and graphs.
• Supplement your poster with print copies and also copies of any tools you developed for the intervention.
• Include information about the financial impact of your intervention to “sell” it to administration.
• Be savvy with terminology – use “cost avoidance” rather than “cost savings.”
Poster presentations can be used as a “stepping stone” to publication. Consider turning your research into a poster and presenting it at an appropriate conference. It’s a wonderful way to get feedback from your peers which you can then incorporate into a manuscript.