I presented a poster with no text - here’s my experience

At some point when I was learning the ropes of academic life I read on Twitter that scientific posters should have as little text as possible.

For some context, I don’t really like posters, overall. I tend to see them as a lot of one-use-only sunk cost. I appreciate the format, but it takes a ridiculous ammount of preparation, compared, to, for example, a talk. I feel, for example, that the graphic aspect of a poster might play more interest in attracting people than the ideas – the quality of the work behind plays a role on the people that approach you, of course, but in general most people quickly dismiss a poorly designed poster, meaning time doing graphic design that doesn’t fall within your normal responsabilities as a researcher. This places an unnecessary burden in early career researchers in already very competitive environments (plus, the price of those things! for one use! you are lucky if your university covers it).

Anyway, that’s another story. Despite my complaints, early in my PhD I spent a lot of time thinking about posters and how to make them efficient. As I see it, the work of a poster is to foster conversation, and I thought, back in 2018, that the less text there is the more time you can spend discussing. I also dislike the idea of just smiling politely while people read your poster - I prefer a short explanation followed by a meaningful chat.

So an idea occured to me. What would happen if I present a poster with no text? Would I get a more interactive experience? Would people focus less on the material support and more on talking about the ideas and work behind?


There were a number of things I expected from a wordless poster before the conference.

What happened

Some lessons

The text in you poster is cumbersome to design and write, fatiguing to read when you have dozens of posters in a hall and will make you stand awkwardly for a wile. But it also helps grounding the kind of conversations you keep and prevent misinterpretation. The quality of the poster plays a role, but it’s easier to design a good poster with text, overall. Also, I’m sorry to say this poster was equally awkward without text – there is no going around that.

Conclusion: I can’t really recommend

… Unless you are a graphics designer, your figures are amazing and crystal clear or people already know what you are going to present in a poster. It was a fun experience, overall, but I think it’s not worth it. Let me know if your experience is different.

I do recommend, nevertheless, hybrid formats, such as posting QRs in you poster leading to a digital copy of it, or to a paper and bibliography. That poster was the first time I did it, and that’s one of the things I’ve kept doing for subsequent posters. Overall, people like to be able to read a poster later, or retrieve a particular data point or reference from it - it saves you time and space in the poster.

Anyway, I still don’t like presenting posters.