Feminist Theory and Gender Studies

A blog to facilitate the communication of the Feminist Theory and Gender Studies Section (FTGSS) of the International Studies Association (ISA) concerning their research, activities, conferences, and thoughts.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

How can we improve the poster session at ISA?

The FTGS poster session committee has developed some ideas for how we could improve the annual ISA poster session, and would like your feedback! We have brainstormed what we see as being problems with the existing way the poster sessions work and ways to improve them below. However, we need your help! If you have any additional suggestions or comments, please respond to this posting with a comment. We will then seek to make structural changes to the poster sessions by submitting a proposal to the ISA executive committee. We look forward to hearing from you.


Preliminary notes on Poster Sessions at the Annual Conventions of the International Studies Association

What the ISA says:
“Done effectively, posters can provide a political scientist with much more feedback than s/he would receive during a traditional panel session. An alternative method to panels for disseminating and evaluating research, poster sessions are a visual and concise method of presenting one's work. Though they are relatively new to political science, poster sessions have long been utilized at professional meetings by a number of other academic and professional organizations ... As other convention delegates come … and look over your presentation, you have the opportunity to engage in a much more detailed discussion of your research, the methodology and your findings than you might otherwise in a traditional panel format.” (International Studies Association 2007).

What James Lebovic says:
“The poster room – a place where presenters can stand next to fragments of their conference paper on display – is an alternative to panels for presenting research findings. By visiting a poster room, one can avoid the 2-hour time commitment of attending a panel or an uncomfortable early exit from a panel in progress. For the presenter, the poster room provides an opportunity to present research without sharing the stage with a panel chair, discussant, and panellists or carrying the burden of having to interact with other life forms. The downside is that the presenter must stand for 2 hours surrounded by people whose ideas were deemed by the conference organizers as too revolutionary to debut in a traditional forum” (International Studies Perspectives 2006).

Key problems with the current state of poster sessions:
1. Poor location/timing:
There is often a distinct air of desperation around the poster room, as 2 hours is a long time to stand in the hope that someone will come and engage with your work.
2. Lack of organization & value assigned to them:
The first extract constructs a very positive picture of the experience of presenting a poster. However many have noted the poster room is more of a dumping ground for graduate students and overtly interdisciplinary work.
3. Positivist emphasis
The professional organizations that are cited in the first extract are predominantly positivist in orientation and therefore likely to encourage works that can be illustrated graphically. However this method would be less appropriate for say something like poststructural discourse analysis.

Suggestions to improve the poster sessions:
1. Preparation issues:
a. Establish suggested poster expectations/ standardize poster dimensions (to help the room look more professional)
b. There is a wide range of websites that offer information on how to produce effective posters and it would certainly be worth suggesting to the ISA that they link to these sites from their own page on poster presentations, despite the subject-specific nature of some of them. The sites include:
http://www.ncsu.edu/project/posters http://lorien.ncl.ac.uk/ming/dept/Tips/present/posters.htm
(this latter is particularly useful as it offers ‘Do’s and Don’t’s’ of poster presentation in a very accessible format)
c. Encourage more interactive poster presentations, utilizing technology (websites, moving images, short films, etc) to make them more visually appealing and innovative

2. Location/Timing: Making the poster sessions a place people want to go
a. Shorter poster sessions (not 2 hour blocks) – perhaps around coffee breaks or middle of the day times (10:30, 2pm) – but not around lunch/end of the day
b. Have ISA schedule a special poster time slot (maybe 30-45 minutes) each day that occurs between panels (such as times listed above) so posters do not directly compete with conventional panels for time. A dedicated time slot for posters would also encourage more attendees to explore the poster room and would add value to the poster session (tied to the issues under Organization & Value below)
c. Large room so there is enough space to roam around
d. Host a reception or meeting in the poster room
e. Hold one grand poster session timeslot for the section, at a time when no other panels for the section compete (might be easy to link the slot then with a business meeting/reception).

3. Organization & Value: must make more effort to demonstrate posters are valued
a. Suggest that poster sessions are themed and organized like panels, to avoid the ‘mish-mash’ of ideas and approaches that most poster sessions embody.
b. Amend the panel submission form so that people could choose to submit poster panels. This would diminish the negative association of posters with ‘failed’ papers.
c. Group posters by related sections and use big signs to identify related themes (e.g., FTGS, Security, etc.) – makes it easier for people to find what they are interested in
d. Have fewer posters in a session (6-8) and hold the poster session in an ordinary panel room
e. Have conference organizers open the poster session

4. Added features:
a. Increasing flow of people into the room:
- have food/drinks or the coffee break in the poster room
- put email stations in the back of the poster room
- have places for people to have discussions (tables/chairs for people to sit down and meet)
b. Awards for best student posters, or best poster in other categories
c. More advertising:
- At the end of related paper sessions, chairs can announce/advertise related posters (listing titles/authors)
- Sections can advertise their posters more by placing abstracts of poster papers on their section website to encourage attendance
d. Make announcements in the poster room
e. Instead of looking at poster sessions for completed paper work – poster sessions might be utilized as a venue for works in progress, giving participants a chance to talk with others about their research and get feedback before it is completed (the concern: would ISA accept this kind of idea?).