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What is the typical size for a conference poster? Is it "ask the organizers", or can I safely assume that I'll get a default size, and that there will be enough space to hang it at the poster session?

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You'll have to look at the conference announcement or contact the organizers. The space allotted to each poster is usually clearly stated in the conference announcement, and there are a number of different poster sizes being used, common ones being e.g. A0, A1. However, sometimes you are free to use the poster boards as you see fit (i.e. only provided a maximium limit).

If you are interested, here are also some resources/guidelines for constructing posters that I've used earlier:

  • Your last pdf: totally lost it at "[save] line art as a png (graphs)". Seriously? From a professional "Web and Graphic Designer"? – Federico Poloni Oct 31 '13 at 10:51
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    @FedericoPoloni Agreed, and the layout of the pdf isn't ideal in itself. I think the pdf is mainly useful too show examples of bad designs (which are still all too common at conferences). For instance, I recently saw a A0 poster in landscape format with lines of text set in ~14pt extending all the way across the poster. – fileunderwater Oct 31 '13 at 11:00
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    @FedericoPoloni yeah, the last link has a mixture of good and terrible advice – F'x Oct 31 '13 at 12:40
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    @fileunderwater: The PDF link seems to be dead ("server error"). – einpoklum - reinstate Monica May 2 '17 at 11:37
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There's no real “default” size. It should be communicated by the organizers, as part of the various practical details of the conference. If not, double check, but otherwise you can ask them.

If, for some reason you cannot ask, it is relatively safe to assume that it's either vertical or horizontal A0. So, if you could not get the information from the organizers and want to play it safe, restrict yourself to 84 cm in both directions, that way you'll be fine.

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    Great recommendation. On top of the poster's dimension, portrait or landscape is also a huge problem. I was once promised a landscape but ended up with a portrait... had to move the board next to a pillar so that the poster could stay up. Keeping it square is a very versatile idea. – Penguin_Knight Oct 31 '13 at 12:25

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