Symposium Switches to Poster Format to Help Increase Attendance

In 2013, the Annual IPFW Student Research and Creative Endeavor Symposium changed from research papers over to poster format, in part to increase attendance.

The 20th annual symposium was held at the Walb Classic Ballroom at 9 a.m. on March 29. There were a total of 125 undergraduate and graduate students presenting 92 research posters from multiple majors, including biology, chemistry, and visual communications.

Cheryl Truesdell, former dean of Helmke Library and a 2017 symposium judge, said there had been a decline of both participants and attendees for the symposium. The symposium planning committee decided to change the way the research was presented.

Truesdell said the committee went from papers and oral presentations to posters, in hopes of making the symposium more interesting for those in attendance. Truesdell said in the past the participants were separated and grouped by department, in which they presented amongst each other. But that changed too.


Susan Anderson, member of the Helmke Library symposium planning committee, said the move to a poster format was a great way to represent the research, and express it graphically.

John Nicklin, Studio M coordinator, said the research is ultimately the main focus of the student’s presentation, but how the poster itself should complement the research. He said the poster is a supporting element that reinforces the presentation done by the student.


Nicklin said the content and poster design and how it is presented to the viewer can be used strategically, to lure the attendants to the speaker. Using design elements that are not ordinary or frequently used can help draw people in. It creates interest and makes the attendant want to stay and listen to the presentation.


Nicklin said he assisted students varying in experience with design software such as Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.

Peter Bella, assistant professor of visual communications and a 2017 symposium judge, said the poster should not be the voice of the presenter. The poster should be tailored to the audience and the experts who are going to be viewing it, because every discipline has their own set of expectations.

Bella said one thing he noticed in a majority of the posters was how they were missing visual guidance. If the speaker cannot convey the main message in under five seconds, the viewer will most likely move on.


Bella advised when the presenter states their topic, introduce it to the viewer in an easily comprehendible fashion, give the facts, and then a conclusion in an orderly manner. This enables anyone to understand the research without having to be an expert in the field.


Bella said the visual communications participant that placed this year did everything right when it came to design. Her presentation was executed in an orderly, guided fashion, and she knew how to present her research clearly.

Anderson said all students’ posters will be published and stored in the OPUS scholarly depository at IPFW with its very own link. The research along with the poster can be used to demonstrate students’ skills and abilities in their resumes later when applying for employment.