Presenting a poster at the MS Trust Conference
A personal perspective
Gail Griffiths, Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist
Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley Primary Care Trust
Way Ahead 2005;9(2):11
The MS Trust hosts poster presentations at their annual conference, which provides therapists and nurses with an opportunity to share professional ideas and innovations and to present research and clinical projects. I led a physiotherapy research project funded by the Southwark Branch of the MS Society in London and a poster seemed the ideal opportunity to share the findings from the project. The project aimed to find out what people in the moderate disability phase of MS want from a physiotherapy service, to develop the service and to evaluate it.
The first step was to send a summary of the content and purpose of the poster to the MS Trust by the end of July 2004. By the end of August I was informed that my poster was accepted for the conference in November 2004. I felt pleased but then a bit anxious because I did not have any experience of poster presentation and it seemed quite daunting to condense a long report into an attractive poster.
I decided that it was best not to pretend that I could do it alone and asked somebody who had experience of presenting posters to support me with this task. I was very fortunate to have help from the Primary Care Tutor in Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley PCT who spent some time helping me to develop the poster. With help from her secretary and the physiotherapy administrative team, it began to take shape.
The MS Trust has poster guidelines and suggested that the poster could be divided into sections including: introduction, background, aims, methods, results, discussion, conclusion, summary and references. It was important to be concise and keep to a maximum of 500 words. I found that I could produce quite colourful and attractive sections for the poster using PowerPoint templates. This also meant that I could produce the poster quite cheaply and make the necessary changes easily. The title needed to be short and snappy to attract attention, and needed to appear across the top of the poster. We made the title as a banner that could be easily rolled up for transportation.
I laid the poster out and asked my colleagues for their opinion. I found this really useful as they gave me some helpful comments and I decided that I wanted to add a photograph and some comments from the people with MS who had been involved in the project to bring the poster truly alive.
Finally I realised that I would need to be able to transport it on the train from London to Harrogate. What worked for me was to print each section and to laminate it (no section was bigger than A4, some were much smaller). I also printed a summary of the poster with my contact details on so that delegates at the conference could have a copy.
When I arrived at the conference it was quite a rush putting up the poster and I was grateful to have help from one of my colleagues. As my poster was made up of so many pieces I needed a lot of Velcro to attach it to the board; luckily the MS Trust staff had lots of it! The poster was displayed throughout the conference, but I needed to be at my poster between 1.00 and 2.00 on the Monday so that delegates could discuss the contents with me.
The poster exhibition at the MS Trust conference
I felt apprehensive about this beforehand, but found that it was a very interesting and enjoyable experience. Many people showed interest in the poster and I really enjoyed talking to them about what I had done and learned. It was an opportunity to meet other therapists and nurses from different parts of the country with an interest in MS and to hear about their experience and expertise. Through my experience of creating a poster I appreciated and looked at other poster presentations at the conference in a different way.
I have learnt that presenting a poster is not quite as daunting as I first imagined. I would encourage other therapists and nurses to present posters at conference and I am keen to do it again. Presenting information in this way has quite an impact and promotes discussion in a way that other forms of presentation may not.