Presentation Guidelines

Plenary Presentation

There are a few rules for a good plenary presentation. Before considering these rules, it is important to check the presenting time. For CNS the presenting time for a plenary presentation will be 10-15 minutes as what you received by email.

Structure of a Presentation


Draw the attention of your audience with your title. Make sure it is brief and that it covers the contents of the presentation.


The introduction starts with what is known, followed by what is unknown about the subject. Remember: just give simple, necessary background information to explain your research question.

Hypothesis/ Research question:

State your hypothesis/research question as clearly as possible! Use a separate slide for it.

Materials and Methods:

Explain your experimental design for answering your research question. Clarify what experiments/techniques you used in order to answer your research question. State the function of every technique/measurement, and if necessary, explain why you have chosen certain techniques. Remember to keep this confined to essential details only.


Only report results that are relevant to your research question. Give percentages rather than exact data when possible and use graphs for your most important findings.


Give the answer to your research question. Also, make sure to repeat the question you stated in your introduction. Do not use more than one or two slides.


Explain the answer to your research question. If relevant, state some conditions that may have influenced your data.

Future prospective:

State the future prospective of your research shortly.


Show the references you have used and when necessary, also the funding.

Key points for a better PowerPoint presentation

Slide design:

Use key terms instead of whole sentences on your slides and, when possible, summarize your text using bullets. Watch out you do not use more than 6 bullets per slide and 6 to 8 words per line.

Colours & contrast:

Make sure the background color of your PowerPoint contrasts with the color of your font. It is common to use a light and simple background color. For lettering, choose a contrasting color differing from your background.


Use a simple font (for instance Arial, Verdana, or Calibri). The size should be at least 28 fonts for titles and at least 22 points for the text. Consistently use the same font face and sizes on all slides.


When you are almost done, check your slides. Make sure there is not too much information on your slides. Avoid typing errors and ask a friend to check your slides, since errors are easy to miss.

Key points for a better talk

Talk freely:

Never read your slides but talk freely. Remember that your slides are only there to support your words, not to replace your talk! If you read your slides and you, do it slowly and poorly, the audience will get bored and stop listening.

Be self-assured:

Speak with confidence, loud and clear. Do not speak too fast or in an informal way. Many speakers tend to make remarks during their presentations, disparaging their own data and visual aids. Try to avoid this! Maintain eye contact with the audience and use the laser pointer if you want to designate something on your slide.


Poster Presentation


*** Posters presentation will not be available during CNS-1

A poster presentation has three main goals: it stimulates interest and discussion, it provides you with feedback for the following research, and it generates contacts.

Presenting time: 5-7 minutes

Keep it short and simple (KISS). The goal of a poster presentation should be clear at all times. You are not going to explain every bit of your research, only a couple of things. What is the message you would like to give to the audience? What should they think about when they walk away?

Poster dimensions at CNS:

A0 poster size



Title and name of authors:

Keep your title short, a poster is like an advertisement for your work.

It is best to avoid acronyms and jargon when presenting to a general audience. It should be readable from a good distance: a size 85pt for the title is advised.

Never use ALL CAPS in titles; emphasize titles in one way: boldface, italics, or underline, but never use all three at once.

Do not forget to name the authors on the poster.

Example of a bad title: “Mural architecture of planula larvae of a cnidarian might be suggestive of the central nervous system’’. An example of a good title: is “The first brain”.


Write a concise abstract that communicates what you have learned on this one concept and how it relates to the greater picture of your field.

The abstract should be large enough to be readable from 2-3 meters away.

For more information see ‘’abstracts’’.


Define your audience. The amount of background material needed for a small subject-specific meeting will be very different from that needed for a large scientific meeting with many thousands of attendees. You are going to a student congress so you will need more explanation on the poster, as the audience is less specialized.

Consider whether you need to include every piece of data or supporting work — you do not need to tell the whole story on paper because you will be there to fill in the gaps.

Materials & Methods:

It is almost always useful to include a simple description of how you retrieved your data.


Highlight the peak, through, or other comparisons of interest with an arrow containing the value of that data point. It is better than making a reader work out the value from the axes.

Legends or keys to multi-colored line graphs give a viewer one more thing to interpret. If possible, annotate your data with labels directly on the image.

Use graphs rather than tables; avoid cluttered figures; arrange experiments to tell a story, not in the order they were performed; include enough data to defend your hypothesis; keep about a 50/50 ratio of graphics to text

Titles are the best way to quickly tell readers what they are supposed to take away from your data. Always title your graphs.


Even though it is the most important part of the poster, the conclusion is often placed at the bottom, where it is at people’s feet. We suggest placing it at top of the rightmost column—or, if you feel daring, start the body of the poster with it.

Make sure your conclusion is more than a restatement of your results. It should directly address the hypothesis you layout in the intro and abstract.

Limit bulleted lists to the conclusion section, if possible. In these, layout 4–5 summary statements that capture what your data means and its wider implications.

Make your poster visually appealing:

Sketch! A poster is in its very essence a visual medium. Make a sketch before you are going to work on it using a computer program. Know how it is going to look and see whether or not you like the sketch. Will the reader be focusing on the same thing as where they should focus on?

Make a good distribution – Aim for 40% empty space, 40% images, and 20% text.

Dump PowerPoint’s color pallet. Many people use PowerPoint to create their posters, but the program was designed for projecting images in a darkened room. The deep blues and fluorescent greens that look good in that setting often produce posters that are too dark and difficult to read. Stay away from primary colors on primary colors (no reds on blues, or reds on yellows). Choose more muted colors for a professional look.

Logos on a poster can interfere with the poster’s ability to communicate. Logos use up vital space on a poster where every square centimeter counts.

Do not place everything in a box.

Human faces and circles are effective focal points, they will directly attract attention.

Use high-quality pictures.


Keep text to an absolute minimum: write down what you feel is the absolute minimum, then force yourself to leave out half of that.

Long lines of text are more difficult to read, which is why magazines and newspapers always break up their text into narrow columns.

Left justifying text makes for an easier read.

Consider your font but remember you do not have to stick with just one. Make sure not to use more than two or three. Adding a little variety, and even downloading a font that is not available on PowerPoint, can make your poster stand out. Fonts that are often used are Sans Serif fonts like Helvetica or Gill Sans for the body and a Serif for the titles. Use anything but Comic Sans, which makes it look less professional.

Consider your font size: in low light conditions, or when scientists are reading over other people’s shoulders, larger fonts are essential. Guidelines are a font size of 85pt for the title, 36–44 for the headers, and 24–34 for the body text.

Stick with black as the text color.

Checklist before printing:

Give it a test run: project your poster on the wall of your lab and run through your presentation.

Check your file size: make sure you have not inserted a 500 MB image, or one that has low resolution.

Ensure that your axes are labeled?

Color check: make sure the colors you have chosen are readable in low light. It is hard to predict where your poster will be placed, so make sure your choices work in different settings.

Check the given dimensions: A0 size, portrait.

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