FemaleScienceProfessor discusses the pros and cons of talk vs. poster, confounded by the politics of being involved in the conference. Physics conferences in particular have a certain breakdown that’s mentioned over at Uncertain Principles, that being invited talks, contributed talks and posters. It was my impression that posters weren’t nearly as big a thing in the particle physics community vs the AMO community, during my postdoc at an accelerator lab some years back — I was gearing up for an atomic physics conference, to discuss the double-MOT system we had, and how we transferred the atoms, and the particle men acted like they weren’t familiar with the concept of a poster session.

One aspect of talk vs. poster is how important is it to be seen, as opposed to how important it is to get experimental details out (as much as you can do that in 10 minutes or so). In that case it was a description of an apparatus and not any real experimental results, so a poster made sense. When we had some experimental results, I gave a talk, and that gave the attendees a chance to see me and associate my face with that experiment — several or many dozen, as opposed to a smaller number that might have dropped by a poster. (Of course, a smaller number isn’t so bad when it includes a Nobel prize-winner or winner-to-be).

What I remember about that particular talk is that the program listed the talks as being 15 minutes long: 12 minutes of talking, with 3 more for questions. During the announcements preceding the plenary session, we were informed that that was a typo in the program, and the talks were actually just 12 minutes total: 10 for presentation and 2 for questions. The poor people giving talks that day had no chance to revise things and cut down their presentations, and everything ran late. I at least had that evening to make adjustments and drop a slide to bring my talk in in the allotted time.

0 thoughts on “Conferences

  1. I’ve never been a big fan of posters. From a personal point of view, it seems like a waste of time: I spend two or more hours standing in front of a poster in order to address the same number of people I would deal with in a 15 minute talk.

    A bigger issue, at least in the Optical Society of America, is that a committee now decides for you whether you get a poster or a talk (though you can ‘request’ a particular type). Unfortunately, talks end up going to the more senior researchers, and posters get pushed upon students, which means that students lose one very valuable opportunity to practice their public speaking.