Have you looked at the posters?

PostersTomorrow, the Annual Meeting of ESHRE finally gets under way. I am sure you have scanned the programme of oral sessions and made your itinerary, but have you also looked at the posters?

Let me persuade you to at least check them out and to attend the poster discussions on Monday and Tuesday.

But first, my DOI: I am a bit biased towards poster presentations. My bias could be because of the many posters I presented during my PhD (my subject was not very hot, I believe), and the nice memories of having to stand in front of the poster over lunch, chatting and laughing, meeting new people – and even the relief when a poster was lost during transport but made  it to the conference in time..

Anyway, since I started working with ESHRE, poster presentations at the Annual Meeting have been a point of discussion, the core of the issue being how to attract a broader audience. Ideas of breakfast sessions with croissants, wine and cheese posters, paper versus electronic posters . . . . Today, however, it feels as if the posters have been accepted for what they are, or are believed to be, “the second cut”, the leftovers.

From my experience, and a little bit of help from PUBMED, I would like to raise six reasons why posters are of value to the conference, and why you should invest a little time over the next three days to check them out:

  1. Posters have always been there, and are an essential part of the conference

Since the seventies, posters have been established as common practice in science and academia. Conference organisers use poster presentations to accommodate a large number of delegates within the limited time frame of a few days, thereby providing an excellent means for (young) doctors and scientist to participate actively at the conference. At the ESHRE meetings, 75% of the accepted abstracts are presented as posters. Not viewing the posters means you miss a large proportion of the science presented.

  1. The poster presenters

This is your chance to acknowledge the work of over 800 authors who have invested their time and energy in proudly making a poster of their work. Some of these authors will have scanned the web for information on how to make a poster appealing, while others may only have been satisfied after the 15th version.

  1. Posters are a great source of information

Or not?  In a recent study, podium presentations at the Arthroscopy Association of North America meetings were more likely to be published within three years than poster presentations (59% versus 44%, respectively). I checked the abstracts (i.e. a random sample of 250 titles) of the ESHRE Annual Meeting in Lisbon 2015 in a similar way: 32.7% of the selected oral presentations and 25.1% of the poster presentations were published two years after the conference. This is not too bad, right? Moreover, the median impact factors of the journals that published oral and poster presentations were similar, as was the time to publication.

  1. Posters facilitate networking

Why do you attend a conference? Of course, to learn and be up to date, but networking is probably your second answer. Poster presentations and discussion are considered a great way for two-way conference interaction and can be a catalyst for future collaborations. If you see an interesting poster, just contact the author through the app, or via e-mail to discuss the poster and at the same time expand your network.

  1. Posters can promote active learning

Unfortunately, studies have shown that passive poster presentations in itself are not very effective in promoting knowledge transfer. However, this changes when posters are accompanied by active interventions (oral presentation, physical interaction). To facilitate this, ESHRE is organising poster-discussion sessions per topic, where there is time for moderated discussions between the presenter and the audience. Check out the schedule and join the discussion.

  1. You can view all posters with one finger

As you know, ESHRE switched completely from traditional paper posters to e-posters at last year’s conference in Helsinki. I am not a fan of e-posters: they do not provide an opportunity to stroll through lanes of posters, take pictures of interesting ones, chat with colleagues and interact with presenters. However, they do take away the need for printing, transportation and disposal, and as such they fit in a paper-free meeting. Furthermore, the e-poster system ESHRE is using attempts to mimic the paper-poster experience and improve it; you can stroll through posters on one screen, e-mail the poster to yourself or your colleagues (instead of a blurry picture), send a question to the authors, but you can also easily find one poster, search all posters on a certain topic, zoom in or out, and watch videos.

In the end, there is only one thing for you to do. Check out the poster area in Hall 3 and join the poster discussion sessions on Monday and Tuesday!

Nathalie Vermeulen, ESHRE’s Research Specialist

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