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Until all conferences provide digital screens, this could happen. One may leave the poster at home/office or lose it in the train. I think what to do next should depend on the value of the work and the participation in the conference, the poster content, and the conference policy.

Options:

  • just talk about my work
  • present it on my laptop/tablet screen
  • print it on an A4 sheet, or get a larger sheet (e.g., from a flip-chart) and draw the outline and handwrite the key parts of my poster
  • withdraw from the conference (no poster, no presentation), but some people may be wondering why I'm not there.

What are the pros and cons of these options in regards to academic prestige and reputation? Usually, are there other better options?

  • 5
    Withdraw is the only bad option here! All the others are acceptable. As for academic prestige and reputation, I don't think anyone will care. – Emilie Oct 12 '15 at 10:55
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    There are also software solutions to generate a 4x4 or similar print out of 1 file/image on "standard" sized paper - you can get something like that printed at any office store easily, add some double-sided tape an a nice poster-board and your done – user2813274 Oct 12 '15 at 11:33
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    Although @user2813274 's solution is not pretty, it is not too uncommon. I know someone who actually won a poster award using a poster printed in greyscale on a series of A3 pages. – gerrit Oct 12 '15 at 14:04
  • "present with laptop" -- if that's the fallback, some kind of presentation as you would have for a talk probably works better. – Raphael Oct 13 '15 at 16:08
84

Print it locally.

Hopefully, your conference is in a city of some non-negligible size and not in the middle of nowhere. Find a copy shop in the city and print your poster there.

Large conferences may even have their own on-site printing, although a last-minute print job may be expensive or even unavailable.

Some people do this in any case, so that they don't have to travel with a poster.

(Your university/employer may or may not be willing to pay for a 2nd printing of the poster)

  • 10
    +1 Always bring a PDF and the src files of the posters and in case it is stolen, you can always print in a local copy shop. – Alexandros Oct 12 '15 at 10:57
  • 3
    Last week my poster got caught in the rain while walking to my hotel. I printed a new (nicer) version in a local copy shop in A0 format. – Danny Ruijters Oct 12 '15 at 11:59
  • 2
    Agreed. All four of the suggested options risk appearing unprofessional and unprepared, which is not a path towards building exposure for one's research and oneself. – user38309 Oct 12 '15 at 13:07
  • 2
    I did this a few months ago when I lost my poster in the airport. Do make sure to check the reprint, though: I didn't, and found to my horror that the local printer had corrupted the file and chunks of the reprinted poster were missing. I ended up filling them in by hand. – jakebeal Oct 12 '15 at 14:38
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    @ChrisH It was PDF, and it was actually quite resilient: the file was actually truncated by the printer, and what came out was the document specified by the first N megabytes. It was a quite bizarre failure... – jakebeal Oct 12 '15 at 15:52
19

There are two levels of issues that you may have to cope with.

First, let's look at what to do at the conference:

You already suggested some options:

  • just talk about my work

This might serve as a last resort fallback, but it probably does not leave too good an impression.

Maybe more importantly, talking about your work might be more difficult than expected, because without a poster, you won't be recognized as a presenter. In my experience, poster sessions usually work in a way that the audience slowly wanders around, looking at poster after poster. If someone from the audience has any questions or wants some explanations, they will look for someone standing around next to the poster they are currently reading. Hence, if there is no poster, no-one might stop to talk to you in the first place, because you will be assumed to be just another member of the audience looking at the posters around or vice-versa of you.

  • present it on my laptop/tablet screen

That might be an option. Maybe you should make up for not providing a large poster by being ready to also run a small demo of your work, if possible, and if allowed by the conference.

If you happen to carry around a portable projector, you could even truly replace your poster.

  • print it on an A4 sheet,

In this case, I suggest printing tiles of it on several A4 sheets, so you can reassemble the poster.

As suggested in gerrit's answer, you can of course also try and find a way to print the poster again in its original size, which I too find (visually) preferrable.

or get a larger sheet (e.g., from a flip-chart) and draw the outline and handwrite the key parts of my poster

That's quite a valid replacement.

  • withdraw from the conference (no poster, no presentation), but some people may be wondering why I'm not there.

There are always some planned attendees who are not there (visa issues, ...). People who have already met you during the conference might indeed wonder, but a simple explanation like "unforeseen change in plans" should be sufficient for them, if anyone even asks.

However, as there are various workarounds, as described above, the possible repercussions from this might be too severe as to not try and use the workarounds.

Second, there is the question about your home institution:

First of all, the poster is (probably) university property, paid for by the university. Some universities might not care about getting back the posters, others do. In the latter case, things are not much different than losing your office laptop, or any other piece of equipment. (In fact, along with the poster, you probably lost a university-owned poster tube.) Unrealistic as it may be, these pieces of equipment are often not insured for business trips, or at least for trips abroad.

As such, be ready to provide a replacement. I am not saying your university, or your department, or direct superior, could not be lenient if this happens once. But be prepared that you may not get reimbursed for printing another copy of the poster at the conference location.

Then, there might be the more severe issue that occurs if you went to the conference with only the poster to present and nothing else. Attending the conference is probably worthwhile for you just as well, but chances are the business trip to the conference was formally permitted because you were "required" to attend in order to present your poster. This is why I would urgently advise against the option to withdraw your submission, if there is any other way, as otherwise, you may be found to have violated the basis upon which your trip is funded and thus end up paying the whole trip and conference fee yourself.

  • 2
    Good point that the presenter might not get reimbursed. I added a similar point to my answer. – gerrit Oct 12 '15 at 13:05
13

I have actually done this before -- finally managed to get the blasted thing printed out by about three in the morning, shambled home, left the poster tube on top of my bag, and still managed to leave it behind when I left the next^W later that morning. There's a longer version of this story which involves much running around a building with flapping curtains of A0 paper, and mucho, mucho swearing.

Anyway, I managed to find and download a 'split up your postscript into A4' program, over the piece of wet string that claimed to be the rather remote conference's internet connection (no copy shops...), and with much help and sticky tape from the conference reception, assemble this into the original(ish) poster.

Upside: I had a poster that stood out! And a funny story to tell, which together meant that I probably got a rather larger and more sympathetic audience at the poster session than the (in retrospect rather dull) poster actually warranted.

If there's a moral to this, it this: conferences are social occasions, with human people at them. And if you can make a connection any way – whether it's a weird-looking poster, or a ‘here's me improvising with my tablet’ performance – you'll potentially make a bigger impact than if everything goes smoothly (well, that's what I told myself).

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    +1 for the final paragraph. The nice thing about poster presentations is that they're informal. That means people will forgive you if something goes wrong, and appreciate your creativity if you find some half-assed solution to present anyway. – Peter Oct 13 '15 at 19:29
2

It is possible to print a whole poster on A4 papers. It takes some number of them (5*5=25 for A0; it would be 4*4=16 with borderless printing) but that's something that is manageable. Then you only need scissors (to remove the borders on some sides) and glue or duct tape; and also some time. Reassembling the poster takes no more than 2 hours then.

This is certainly worse than re-printing the poster in one piece, but it's very likely cheaper (you usually pay less for 25 full-colour A4s from a laser printer than for an A0 poster from a huge prnting machine); certainly it's more professional than any of the options you list.

Also, depending on the branch of your research, it wouldn't be unseen to have an article printed in larger print (like A3 instead of A4) and pinned to the poster board in place of the poster. I've certainly seen this in math/TCS, and even in natural sciences once.

  • 1
    Indeed, careful with the last paragraph as it really depends on the field. I have seen only one "poster" that was actually a printed paper pinned to a poster board, and my immediate impression (corroborated by the very poor (not conversation-ready) English skills of the authors) was that they simply hadn't understood what a "poster" was supposed to be. (I'm in a CS field that is quite graphical and hence posters with too much text are frowned upon; other fields might differ.) – O. R. Mapper Oct 13 '15 at 9:25
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    Rather than taping the pieces together, I'd recommend trimming (if necessary) and then just pinning, stapling, or tapin the pages directly to the presentation board (if the conference provides ones). Taping the sheets together (to each other as a full-size poster) will be an exercise in frustration that will likely not end up looking good. – Mike A. Oct 13 '15 at 16:05
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    "not unseen" != "acceptable solution" – Raphael Oct 13 '15 at 16:06
0

I know this is not extremely likely to work, but if it does then it's a big win, so I'll just suggest it:

Ask the organizers to print it for you or to help you with printing.

Even if it's not a conference at which the organizers do the printing, they might still either have access to printing facilities for official conference materials, or at least, being local, be better equipped to help you get that printing done.

protected by Community Oct 12 '15 at 17:23

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