Poster sessions done right

If you’re a reporter covering the American Psychiatric Assocation meeting here’s my advice: Ignore the plenary sessions. Ignore the symposia. Ignore the workshops. Ignore the medical courses. And spend most of your time and energy on the poster sessions.

Anyone who knows my approach to covering medical conferences knows that I love poster sessions. It’s possible to scan dozens of posters in the time it takes to listen to one oral presentation.

I’m covering the APA meeting in San Francisco right now, and the poster sessions at this meeting were exceptionally good. Here are some of the elements that make this meeting’s poster sessions so fine:

  • Virtually all posters presented original research studies.
  • There were a manageable number of posters in each session. There were three sessions today (9-10:30 am, 12:30-2 pm, and 3-5 pm). Each was limited to fewer than 150 posters.
  • Virtually all the presenters were standing right next to their posters for the entire poster session.
  • And last but not least, virtually all the presenters had a generous supply of  paper copies of their posters. As Denise Napoli wrote on this blog earlier this month: “Bring handouts of your poster. If Reporter A, also known as “I-have-twenty-stories-to-write-by-tomorrow” is walking past three equally interesting posters, also known as “seriously-intense-studies-of-gene-loci-using-statistical-methods-derived-from-string-theory,” and Poster 1 has a handout but the other two don’t, guess which one is more likely to be written up.” Today I didn’t have to make coverage decisions on the basis of handout vs. no handout. I had to make tougher decisions based solely on the quality and newsworthiness of the studies. I loved it.

—Bob Finn
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