At the Nashville meetings I helped judge the diverse array of posters and managed to see almost every one of these interesting visual displays of research. In New Orleans in 1996 I presented my research in a poster format. I am convinced that all conference participants benefit from this medium, and I have outlined the advantages below.
When presented as a poster, your research will receive four hours of exposure and discussion, and a well-crafted visual image will remain with visitors to your site for a long time. You can discuss your research with people who are most interested in what you are doing, and you will almost certainly meet new people with common interests. If you wish, you can hand out copies of your paper, set up your computer database, or collect addresses of people who want to maintain links with you.
At a meeting where up to 1,500 presentations are made and it is impossible to listen to everyone's research, posters are a very efficient medium. Most participants at SAA meetings have experienced the frustration of having to decide which of two simultaneously presented papers they should attend. Because posters are displayed for four hours, anyone who wishes to see your research can more easily schedule a visit to your site. Posters also help overcome the other frustration of conference participants--sitting through an oral presentation, only to discover that the topic isn't as interesting as it seemed to be. Many people attend poster sessions to scan a wide range of displays and then select a few for more detailed study.
Poster sessions indirectly benefit all participants at a conference because they use space more efficiently. A room that can accommodate 24 posters can be used during the course of one day for the presentation of 48 research topics. Even at maximum capacity (16 oral presentations per symposium), the same room would allow only 32 spoken presentations. If we can use our conference space more efficiently, we will be able to reduce the number of evening sessions--a time when most people would rather be socializing and networking.
A poster is not the best medium for all types of research, but if your paper is likely to be oriented toward data or other information that can be displayed graphically, please consider presenting your research as a poster in Seattle. We will be issuing helpful hints and guidelines to anyone who identifies the poster as their preferred mode of presentation.
Jon Driver is the program chair for the 63rd Annual Meeting. For additional information, contact him at Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, V5A 1S6, Canada, (604) 291-4182, fax (604) 291-5666, email email@example.com.