Quick and easy posters in LateX

Going to a conference and have to print a poster? Here is my tip for doing this as efficiently as possible.

Since my first conference, I have made quite a lot of posters (and printed them all on fabric) The first time this was very time-consuming, but the time I spend per poster has decreased over time. My new record is from the last conference. I had scheduled the task of creating the poster on my calendar – by default all events are one hour long. But by the end of the hour, I had not only made the poster, I had also already ordered it from my favorite vendor. All I had to do was wait for the poster to arrive.

As a disclaimer, I do not have the best posters, so if you want to win the best poster award, this is probably not the advice for you. But my posters do the job. So far my experience is that it’s more important how I talk about my research while I’m at the poster. That’s 20% of the work that achieves 80% of the result. The poster can fill up the 80% of work that achieves the other 20% – with all the other things we need to be doing (writing?) the decision on not spending too much time on it is not so difficult.

My “secret” is to use the same LaTeX template and the same structure for every poster. The template takes care of the layout and doesn’t let the poster get too crowded, and the structure guides me in what content I need to add.

I’m sharing two zip files with source files for my posters – one with a TU Delft, one with a TU Eindhoven template. When I was at Erasmus Medical Center, I could not find a LateX template, so I modified the TU Delft one to use different logos and colors. These templates were not originally made by me but allow modifying/sharing as long as the copyright notice is included. Please do the same if using the templates.

Cheplygina et al – Characterizing Multiple Instance Datasets (Poster, TU Delft template)
Cheplygina et al – Exploring Similarity of Medical Image Datasets (Poster, TU Eindhoven template)

How to recycle your fabric poster

Today I’m at Benelearn 2017, the Belgium-Netherlands-Luxembourg machine learning conference. Here’s me next to my poster:

 

As usual I printed the poster on fabric, growing my collection of fabric posters even further:

 

But you might have noticed something else about the picture… Yes, I’m wearing a skirt made from one of my old posters!

Here are some frequently asked questions & answers about this development.

 

Did you make it yourself?

No, the skirt was made by REpost Science, a company in the Netherlands that upcycles fabric posters into bags, gadgets and even clothes. I first heard about it through @GeomechSteph (thanks!)

 

Is it comfortable?

Yes. I asked REpost Science to create the skirt following the model of a Comma skirt I already had (see a better quality photo on Zalando):

So the fit is very comfortable. The fabric is comfortable as well – the poster skirt has a lining from a regular non-poster material. The lining also removes any transparency of the poster fabric.

I

It has pockets!

Yes! The original Comma skirt has pockets too, which is why I love it and why I vowed never to buy clothes without pockets again.

On the subject of pockets, you might also want to check eShakti, which has lots of customizable and affordable skirts and dresses WITH POCKETS (thanks to @Doctor_PMS for the tip!)

 

Do a lot of people notice it?

I’ve had quite a few compliments and questions, but I think less people notice it than I had originally thought. In part I think this is because I don’t feel like I’m wearing anything unusual (since I wear exactly this skirt but in a different color/fabric more often). And in part it’s because most people don’t really care what you are wearing. See for example this story where a woman wore the same outfit for a year and nobody noticed.

I did have a lot of nice comments on Twitter too! Here are some favorites:

 

 

Online, it gets noticed a lot! At one point it was the most popular post I have written, and in the last quarter it even surpassed the all-time-popular How I Fail interview with Hal Daumé III.

I also discovered I don’t really understand how to use Twitter Analytics – is there a list of “all time popular” tweets? But compared to my other tweets in June 2017, the tweet about the blog post seems quite popular:

Are you the first person to do this?

No! Here’s Rolf Hut and his suit from posters, and actually how I found out about REpost_poster (the company that created my skirt)!

I also saw pillows, bags and other accessories in my Twitter feed – if you are the owner of any of those, please share the tweet and I’ll add it here!

Is it machine washable?

Yes! Because the skirt needed a bit more than poster, I had some leftover “scraps”, which I decided to use to investigate what happens when you wash the poster fabric. Since it was an experiment anyway, I thought I’d raise the level of difficulty with sriracha and garlic sauce – the first things I saw in the kitchen I thought would be difficult to get out of white fabric.

These made some terrible stains. I also added coffee, since that’s what I’m most likely to spill on myself. I didn’t have any red wine in the house, but I could try that in a next experiment if there is interest.

Into the washing machine it goes! This is the normal cycle I use for all my clothes, 40 degrees Celcius, with regular color detergent.

All good again! At first I could still see hints of the sriracha, but after drying, these disappeared.

So, now I can safely bring the skirt with me to the next conference – MICCAI in Quebec City, Canada in September!

5 easy ways to do more with your poster

How can you make your poster stand out at the poster session, if you only have a limited amount of time? There are many tips out there on how to design the poster and how to structure all the information (a couple of resources I like are here and here), and these are the most important things you should be doing! But if you already have a poster ready and can’t afford doing a complete overhaul, here are three ways to make your poster more memorable:

1. Print your poster on fabric

Print your poster on fabric if you don’t already do so. This not only makes travel easier, but also makes it easier for people to approach you and to start a conversation, and that’s what poster sessions are all about.

2. Add a picture of yourself to the poster

Chances are that your poster will be up for a longer period of time than you will actually be there to present. If people see your picture on the poster and then see you later at a conference, there are again more likely to approach you if they have any questions.

Add a picture of yourself next to the contact information on your poster
Add a picture of yourself next to the contact information on your poster. See the full poster here

 

3. Add business cards next to the poster

These days most people have a smartphone and can take a picture of your contact information. But if you do this regularly, you end up with lots of pictures that you might forget to follow up with. Make it easier for people to remember and contact you by giving them an opportunity to take your card! If you do not have cards, you can consider adding print-outs of the poster (or even the full paper) instead.

Add business cards to your poster for easy exchange of contact information
Add business cards to your poster for easy exchange of contact information

 

4. Add a QR code that leads to your website

This is especially helpful if your website has a URL that is difficult to remember. There are many QR code generators out there, such as this one. Remember to save the image in a large size and resize it afterwards for best quality during printing.

5. Promote your poster on social media

If you have Twitter, take a picture of yourself next to the poster and tweet about it using the hashtag of the conference, and include the location of your poster. People are more likely to like an image if it features a face and might decide to stop by for a chat even if they didn’t yet know about your work.

Presenting my poster at the MICCAI LABELS workshop in 2016
Presenting my poster at the MICCAI LABELS workshop in 2016

That’s all the tips I have tried so far while attending conferences. Please share below if these work / do not work for you and if you know any other tips that might be useful. Thanks for reading!

Bonus tip

To leave a lasting impression, glue your PhD thesis to your poster:

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