Talking the walk: helping non-native speakers to present scientific posters successfully
Posters are intended to get people’s attention. To present a short, simple message, they combine a strong image (such as a moustachioed officer pointing straight at the viewer) with a short text (“Your Country Needs You”). In principle, scientific poster sessions borrow from this tradition, aiming to present the essence of a complex idea quickly and accessibly. In practice, many posters fail, and all too few are read, a fact conference organisers now seem to recognise. To improve communication – and possibly to increase networking – many sessions now include a poster walk, in which successive scientists present their poster in a three-minute talk. But if you’re a junior scientist working in your second or third language in a setting without native-speaking inputs, how easy is it to give such a talk? You certainly won’t get the guidelines you need from a conventional poster, which is too cumbersome: wordy and poorly designed. And there’s no way you can make an overloaded scientific-sounding sentence trip off the tongue! In recent work with PhD students at Erasmus University Medical Centre, I have developed a set of style and design guidelines that seems to work surprisingly well. I will outline it briefly, providing a handout. One of my students has kindly agreed to demonstrate how she puts these guidelines into practice. Time allowing, we will also summarise the responses of PhD supervisors to this approach.
About the facilitator
David Alexander has been living in the Netherlands for nearly 41 years, where he has worked in various commercial and academic settings as a translator, language editor and language-skills trainer. This presentation reflects 14 years of experience as teacher and co-ordinator of the course in English Biomedical Writing and Communication at Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam.