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The background story: I started submitting to a (quantum information/computing) conference in the COVID era, and the experience of online poster sessions was really horrible, at least for me. I largely felt that no one was really interested in poster sessions.

Recently, one submission was accepted to a top quantum information conference, but again not as a talk but as a poster. Unlike many conferences where all submissions not selected for talks get invited as poster sessions, this conference seems to do some vetting (I believe it is like 30~40% selection rate and talks are much less obviously), though I am not really so sure of that. So I was wondering if it really is worth doing a poster session in-person in the area of quantum information/computing. And I am asking for your advice, given that I have zero in-person conference experience and other people should have more understanding and experience.

I really would love to be in the conference in-person, but I would have to cancel some important engagements if I were to attend, so I want to weigh in relative importance.

By the way: the reviewer comment was not 'hostile,' though they had some reservations about general applicability, not logical/mathematical correctness. Since the conference has no rebuttal period, this is the final decision. So I am not so sure how I should consider the worthiness of the conference. Would my poster session simply be waste of time for everyone? To restate, the question stems from my past COVID era poster session experiences that were simply horrible.

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    I think the answer strongly depends on your own priority, your poster subject and the importance of the conference.
    – Nobody
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 8:36
  • Would your poster be on the last day of the conference? One thing I learned over the years is that the last day can be a graveyard in terms of attendance at both talks and posters.
    – Ed V
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 12:44
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    Presumably this poster will go into your vita, and benefit you forever. (Unless the custom in your field is that after the work is published in a journal, you never mention the poster session again... in that case it only benefits you for a short time.)
    – GEdgar
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 12:45
  • If you mean QIP, then almost every submission gets accepted as a poster. There is no prestige associated with having a poster accepted, but you can certainly try to use it as an opportunity to present your work to the community (a large part of which attends QIP every year).
    – J. P.
    Commented Nov 23, 2023 at 7:15

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In-person poster sessions are an excellent networking opportunity. In my personal experience, presenting a poster results in more feedback and valuable discussions than giving a talk at a conference. There simply is more time for these during a poster session than during an oral session.

OTOH, oral presentations still seem to "count" a bit more, when your academic performance is evaluated.

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To extend what Roland has already said:

Oral presentations offer an opportunity to broadcast your work to a largely captive audience. Everyone in the room 'has to' listen to you for 10 or 15 minutes, even if they mainly came to the session because of Big Name speaker. So they offer a great opportunity to advertise yourself and your work. On the other hand, the audience is largely passive: you talk, they listen (or fiddle with their phone). Usually you won't get much feedback or new conections.

Poster sessions offer more opportunity to engage with people: you can have a real conversation about your work, make new friends/connections, and get meaningful feedback about how people react to your ideas and what you might do next. The extent to which this happens depends on several factors, including:

(i) The organisation of the conference - are poster sessions integrated into the programme in a way that will encourage people to attend? Or are they squeezed into time where people will have other priorities (e.g. the 30-minute break between talks, where people are mainly interested in toilets and coffee).

(ii) Your personality - are you outgoing and willing to catch the eye of passers-by and 'encourage' them to talk to you about your work? Or are you someone who is going to hide in the corner and try and avoid talking?

(iii) The poster session itself. Ideally, you want to be in a session where there are other interesting posters on similar topics, so that your target audience wants to come along - and you want it to run at a time that doesn't clash with anything else that people might care about. Often some poster sessions in a conference will be really busy and vibrant, while others will be almost dead. With experience, you might be able to predict how a particular session at a particular conference will be.

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  • Maybe also worth mentionning: (iiib) If the poster session is well organized in topics, with posters on a similar topic put close to each other by the organizers, you might have other posters on your topic near yours, and this might create discussion with other poster presenters nearby, generating scientific discussions, that can be quite of interest when several posters discuss results on a similar hot topic.
    – PLD
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 17:12
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    @PLD Yes - but you don't want your immediate neighbours to be super-popular, because otherwise the crowd around their poster tends to block people from reading yours! It's a complex optimisation problem! ;-)
    – avid
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 17:18
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Unless obviously wrong or irrelevant, most committees will not screen out the chance of presenting posters in their conferences. In another word, accepted as poster is not as selective as contributing oral talk (when you would like to treat it as achievement), as Roland mentioned. This is because when you are giving a oral talk, every participant is spending their time on your work and the committee needs to make the best use of people's time and attention. It's often the broad interest, rather than work quality, that decides if your work is chosen as oral talk.

However, IMO it's definitely worth to present a poster as there are more chance to talk with people in the same specialized field. You can make sure people come to your poster are indeed interested in your work (or they can just pass by), and discuss with them really in detail.

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While I second Roland's and avid's answers, let me offer an additional perspective which neither of them mention.

If your eventual goal is to stay in academia, then your publication record matters. Since you seem to (broadly) be in a computer science field, conferences matter a lot. If this is indeed a top conference in this field, having a paper published in it will make your CV much stronger -- and once the conference proceedings are published, nobody knows any more whether a paper was presented as a poster or an oral. However, serious conferences require that at least 1 author of every paper attend the conference and present the work (or at least make their best attempt to attend -- if you end in a hospital the day before your travel, nobody will take it against your).

On the topic of the usefulness of the poster sessions themselves, there's definitely a discussion to be had: some people find talks more useful/engaging, some people think poster sessions are better because they can better facilitate the discussion, and some people swear that the whole point and primary benefit of (in-person) conferences are social events such as lunches and after-hour drinks. In my personal opinion, the casual opportunities to meet and talk to many different people really are at the heart of a good conference - if there's an interesting paper, I'll eventually read it anyway. So consequently, I found the whole experience of online conferences pretty bad all around - with the few online "poster sessions" I've witnessed suffering from the problems you describe - nobody engaged with them (likely because they didn't know how to).

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