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Warning: if you get your students to do a poster, and they are in a competition with students in the Sciences they will lose. The poster technology (software and printing, I imagine) that they seem to use for their conference poster sessions is way way cooler than printing up a few slides and posting them on bristol board.

They're just using Powerpoint. Create the presentation poster size, and get it printed. If you want to know how, Google will tell you. There are lots of online resources for creating poster presentations.

Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes!

I first saw posters at the Bayesian meetings, and I got so much out of them that I insisted on introducing them when I organised the CESGs all those years ago. Add beer and snacks, and it's the best session of any conference you can name.

A few of my colleagues have introduced poster presentations - in classes of various sizes and levels. Their comments were similar to yours, Frances. For one large undergrad class, the students did group posters - so class size doesn't seem to be a barrier. But I was told the first time through was a lot of work for the instructor, especially those who had never produced a poster before! I had intended to try it this fall...and forgot. But this may spur me to try it in the spring session.

Christine - and the business school students! Though it's important to avoid being text heavy - for posters just as much as for powerpoint - and some science posters I've seen are more like a paper printed out on a 4'x6' board than a presentation.

Patrick - any suggestions? Or links?

Stephen - I think the typical attitude of economists towards posters is 90% (or more) about social status and 10% (or less) about the actual realities of posters. The sad reality is that, in economics conferences, posters sessions are for losers - people who weren't good enough to make it onto the program - so people don't attend. Unless there are sufficient quantities of beer involved! The best way to break that is to have high profile sexy people in the poster sessions. I wonder if the fact that you saw them working at the Bayesian meetings isn't a coincidence - I can see them working really for econometric theory.

Linda - interesting. Would be very interested to hear how your colleagues graded them. Hope you do try them - I can imagine you really enjoying the one-on-one discussions with students about their topics - and the students getting a lot out of your comments!

Posters are easily made in powerpoint or open office. They avoid the title/bullets nightmare that is bad powerpoint. Google ghettysburg address powerpoint for the best bad powerpoi t ever.

Frances - Yes, that is an issue. I think the way to address it is for the organizers to fin one or two heavy hitters who are willing to be a good sport and do a poster. In my case, I was able to get Don Andrews to do a poster, and used that as leverage with people who thought they were being relegated to the second tier.

I think the success that you are seeing in the poster session stems from physical restrictions that people can violate in a talk. You said that the poster session is confined to 8 to 10 slides and that there is no time to go on a 5 minute monologue about the research. That's why it's better!

Most people – and that includes professional economists – have no idea how to give a talk. An hour long talk should not have any more than 10 slides and probably less. There is no need for the wind-up, no need for the monologue about why you did what you did. Start with the result. One table. One graph. Explain the result in your own voice. Lead with why people want to hear about your work in the first place. A talk (or a poster session) is not the place to prove every detailed theorem or show array after array of numbers. No one – not even the best – has instant memory access to every detailed result in her head and she can't follow dozens of numbers for computation.

Talks are a great way for students to share their work if the professor imposes the structure that every student wants to violate. Students want to show that they “did it right” so they want to include heaps of stuff. Stop them. Get them to talk about the result, the idea. Prevent them from going over 10 slides. Make sure that if they display a table that they talk about every singly column, why it's important, and what patterns emerge. In short, get them to honestly teach their colleagues. If professor imposes this structure, the talks will be as good as poster sessions.

I found this site very useful when I was preparing my first poster. http://colinpurrington.com/tips/poster-design

Avon - it is nine years - almost to the day - since Nick made his very first appearance on WCI, with this classic post:

http://worthwhile.typepad.com/worthwhile_canadian_initi/2006/11/how_to_present_.html .

Saying much the same thing.

Linda, thanks, that really gives me some good ideas for how to advise students next year.

Patrick: cool! Thanks for info. Will have to figure out printing process (can likely handle software elements pretty easily, now I'm told it can be done).

Have been playing a bit with videos as an optional assignment in one class. It has led to some really quite good as well as entertaining results.

4. Ideas spread - bad ones as well as good ones. Suppose one or two students in the class make the same mistake - entering "highest degree" as a continuous variable, rather than as a series of categorical variables, for example, or including an explanatory variable which is clearly endogenous but adds considerably to the regression's r-squared. With a traditional powerpoint, the rest of the class would be too zoned out - or the mistake would flash by so quickly - that no one would notice it. But with posters, because each student is actually looking at every other student's work and trying to understand it - bad ideas can spread throughout the class.

So you are bothered by a communications medium on the basis that it can effectively communicate?

Tel: "So you are bothered by a communications medium on the basis that it can effectively communicate?"

It's a challenge. Not something I'm bothered by, just something to deal with.

Christine - interesting! Will any make it into the "how to think like an economist" series?

Frances: How about this :)

Here too: http://guides.nyu.edu/posters

Poster presentations build useful skills for entry into the private sector. The new hires are often stuck with working the trade show booth ('cause everybody hates doing it). It helps if you've had experience repeating the same pitch and answering the same questions ad nauseam.

Hmm, this looks like a great idea. I've had students doing presentations this year in my history of science classes (5 minutes, seated, no powerpoint) and while they've almost all done very well, I do think that engaging their non-verbal communication skills would spice things up a bit, and encourage them to prepare more in advance.

(5 minutes in most cases. I've had some extremely good 15 minute presentations as well.)

Patrick - thanks for the links. I hadn't really thought about the preparation for the private sector angle until my students started saying to each other things like, "Have you ever been to a job fair? It's going to be like that." Now I'm totally convinced that this is a skill our students could use and don't get enough of.

W. Peden - I like the idea of the no powerpoint presentation. Don't know if it would achieve quite the same thing as a poster, but it's an interesting alternative to the traditional powerpoint in class presentation. Worth thinking about.

Frances Woolley,

One of the good things for the students, I think, is that they get eye-contact from their classmates, which (a) makes them know they're being listened to, and (b) means they can gauge things like whether or not they're going too fast.

If they had done a statistical study and had some graphs, I suppose I'd allow slides of graphs, but that doesn't apply in this particular class, or any other classes that a humanities person like me is likely to teach. In some more advanced philosophy classes, having them do stuff on a whiteboard would be good. In formal logic classes, I like to get everyone to prove at least something on the whiteboard at some stage of the term.

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