Judging at yesterday's Research Showcase at the University of Nottingham @UoNgradschool was a real privilege. Interesting and engaging researchers keen to share their research and hear from others, including those beyond their discipline and members of the public.
As a judge, I was obliged to look at some posters, and others I chose to look at. And which ones did I choose to look at?
The ones in my sphere of interest? Well, yes. They caught my eye as I looked down the published list of posters. But I was busy and only had time to deliberately find a couple with really interesting titles.
The ones that looked good? Yes. I actually spent more time looking and talking with these presenters. As I went around finding the posters that I had decided to read and meet the presenter (and those I had to judge of course), others caught my eye: Their layout, their use of visuals, the colour combinations and the titles drew me to them.
I must thank all the wonderful researchers; the standard of personal presentation was high, even where the posters were …hmm a little ‘plain’. The very best presenters used simple language in their posters and made fewer assumptions about what I, as their audience, did or didn’t know. They talked with me, not at me: They had thought about their audience, and their posters looked good too.
The basic rules around audience and visual attractiveness are not hard, and training courses can make you aware of what you are doing – or not doing - very quickly. I asked a few of the presenters (of the duller posters, if I’m honest) if they’d taken up the courses that I know are on offer to them and they all replied in a similar way – No, but I wish now that I had. As one of the presenters said to me, in a charmingly disarming fashion.
“No, I didn’t. I had the scientific arrogance to think that I knew what I was doing; I thought ‘I’ve done loads of scientific posters, I don’t need any training, it’ll be fine!’. Looking around me, here, now, I think I might be wrong.”
I have a great deal of respect for that researcher. I hope he takes up the course that’s available to him, and I hope I get to see more wonderful posters @UoNgradschool next year.