Skip to content

Present each others’ posters

It seems that I’ll be judging a poster session next week. So this seems like a good time to repost this from 2009:

I was at a conference that had an excellent poster session. I realized the session would have been even better if the students with posters had been randomly assigned to stand next to and explain other students’ posters. Some of the benefits:

1. The process of reading a poster and learning about its material would be more fun if it was a collaborative effort with the presenter.

2. If you know that someone else will be presenting your poster, you’ll be motivated to make the poster more clear.

3. When presenting somebody else’s poster, you’ll learn the material. As the saying goes, the best way to learn a subject is to teach it.

4. The random assignment will lead to more inderdisciplinary understanding and, ultimately, collaboration.

I think just about all poster sessions should be done this way.

My post elicited some comments to which I replied:

– David wrote that my idea “misses the potential benefit to the owner of the poster of geting critical responses to their work.” The solution: instead of complete randoimization, randoimize the poster presenteres into pairs, then put pairs next to each other. Student A can explain poster B, student B can explain poster A, and spectators can give their suggestions to the poster preparers.

– Mike wrote that “one strong motivation for presenters is the opportunity to stand in front of you (and other members of the evaluation committee) and explain *their* work to you. Personally.” Sure, but I don’t think it’s bad if instead they’re explaining somebody else’s work. If I were a student, I think I’d enjoy explaining my tellow-students’ work to an outsider. The ensuing conversation might even result in some useful new ideas.

– Lawrence suggested that “the logic of your post apply to conference papers, too.” Maybe so.


  1. jrkrideau says:

    I definitely like David’s idea.

  2. Jack pq says:

    The FRA conference in finance has discussants doing the long presentation of a paper, with their criticism, and then the authors have a few minutes to reply and clarify things. This reversal is pretty interesting but I don’t know if it could work widely

  3. Cole says:

    The Annual Health Econometrics Workshop is one example where, in my experience, reviewers presenting the papers of submitting authors works out well. It is one of my favorite meetings in part because of the format. Of course, the group is fairly small and reviewers in particular are tremendously high quality. The process seems to force (thorough) reviewers to rephrase (and, in so doing, increase the clarity/transparency of) the research design that may have been too familiar to the author of the piece. The papers seem to come out being meaningfully improved by the reviewers presentation. At least, from an observers perspective.

  4. Xi'an says:

    Ah, I tried that at a few Valencia conferences and elsewhere, but only with a close friend, and it was a fun experience, definitely!

Leave a Reply