Arranging the poster presentations

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There are two common ways of organizing poster sessions. The first, a more frequently used plan, is running large, combined sessions that are typically held in the evening after talk sessions are over. Usually light dinner and drinks are served during these sessions. An alternative plan is to run poster sessions parallel to the talk sessions throughout the day. Both types have been used successfully in the past conferences. The following guideline, written for the first type of poster sessions, is thanks to Michael Strube, the program co-chair of ACL 2015.

Tips from ACL 2015

In recent years the poster session at ACLs has become increasingly important. About half of the papers are presented as posters. However, the general perception is that a poster presentation is less worth than an oral one. In order to do away with the "poster stigma" (an expression borrowed from the TACL editors-in-chief), we should organize poster sessions in a way that authors and audience will have the best experience possible.

The following guidelines have been developed by observing the almost perfect poster session at ACL 2014 and evaluated by implementing the guidelines at ACL-IJCNLP 2015.

Space and Time

Most importantly,

1. It is critical to ensure that sufficient space and time will be allocated for poster presentation. 
2. Space and time required are a function of the number of posters and the number of conference attendees.

Recent ACLs had about 200 poster presentations (long and short papers, TACL papers, demos, SRW papers). These should be split into two poster sessions of about 100 posters, three hours each. The conferences had between 1100 and 1400 attendees. Hence we had one poster per 10 to 13 attendees per session.

A poster should have enough space to accommodate the presenter and about (at least) five attendees. Also, attendees should be able to walk through the poster isles and browse posters without bumping into each other. This requires that each poster occupies a virtual box of about four by four meters, hence each poster requires about 16 square meters (please see the drawing below, artwork by Strube).


For a poster session with 100 posters we need a room of about 1600 sqm. If food and drinks are served within this room, we need to add another 800 sqm, hence we need about 2400 sqm. When computing the space, we should also be careful about unusable space. For example, if there is a stage in the room for oral sessions, this most likely can't be removed but occupies a lot of space, emergency exits may occupy space along the walls.

Other Considerations

3. Posters have to be arranged by subject area so that attendees easily find the posters they want to explore in detail.

4. Landscape orientation is preferred over portrait, because it allows more attendees to look at one poster simultaneously.

5. An open space between posters allows for easier access to posters and makes a nicer atmosphere. Avoid creating closed isles.

6. A three hour poster session with 100 posters is not the same as two 1 1/2 hour poster sessions with 50 posters each. The poster per attendee ratio changes dramatically. It won't work.

7. Avoid putting events with conflicting setup (oral session, poster session, social event) in the same room, as the time to remove chairs, to set up and remove poster boards may be too long to allow for a smooth schedule.

8. Serve beer during the poster session. Or else, workshop chairs will use the opportunity and make fun of the main conference poster session!

9. Work closely together with Priscilla as -- in contrast to us -- she knows what she is doing.