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Guide to Academic Posters and Presentations

Getting Started: Poster Design

Step 1: Think about your Audience

Fist, consider if this is a highly academic audience in a specific field (is everyone at the conference a biologist?) or if it's a more general audience that might include people who do not know your academic jargon. The SRCA Showcase audience is general and will include students, faculty, and community and alumni members who are not specialists in your field.

Second, choose 1-3 messages or points you want your audience to take away from your poster or presentation. In the end, these few points should be the most visible pieces of information -- either through large text or graphics -- and you'll want to plan how to make them really stand out. 

Step 2: Build from Scratch or Choose a Template

To start from scratch, open a new document in PowerPoint*.

To use a poster template, either get one from your project advisor or search and download a template in PowerPoint format (.pptx) from online. Several template styles are available at this #betterposter open access page and more traditional science poster styles are at Open the template in PowerPoint*.

*Every SUNY Oneonta student has access to the Microsoft Office suite of applications, including PowerPoint. Visit the Information Technology site if you need to get your copy.

Step 3: Use a Correctly-Size PowerPoint Slide

For posters made from scratch AND for posters based on a template, you MUST adjust the slide size to the preferred poster size -- for SRCA Showcase, that is 42" x 36".

To change the slide size, go to the Design tab in PowerPoint and choose Slide Size > Custom Slide Size > Width 42 inches and Height 36 inches. 

MS PPT Design tab and Slide Size dropdown option for Custom Size


Pro Tips

Work with a Color Palette

If you don't want your poster to match the auto-generated Microsoft colors or the template, we recommend updating your color scheme with a professionally designed color palette. Go to and find a group of colors that suit your topic, style, or vision. Make sure there is a mix of dark and light colors you can use for contrast.

On, drag and drop the palette you like right onto your PPT slide. Then, when you want to make a box, background, or title, you can use the Eyedropper color chooser to match colors directly from the color palette image! 


Get the Right SUNY Oneonta Logo 

Visit the SUNY Oneonta Style Guide for Graphics to download an official university seal, text logo, or Fast O logo. We recommend you choose and download the PNG image, which has a transparent background. 



Academic Poster titled
Example of graduate student qualitative poster
Academic Poster titled Breaking Codes of Silence: Talking about School Shootings with Teens through Young Adult Literature

#betterposter design ideas

Better posters generation 1:

Better posters generation 2:

Resources and templates: