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I'm supposed to present a poster in an well-rated Computer Science conference, or rather in a workshop within that conference. This is the first time this workshop will have posters (the larger conference has had them for a while). However, I've not received any information about the logistics of getting the poster printed and delivered - just a general note, after my inquiring about it, saying that I'm at liberty to design it any way I like and in any dimensions I like. In a previous conference at which I presented a poster we were told to submit a PDF of dimensions X x Y by a certain time, and that was that - the poster was printed and set up someplace. The opposite case seems strage, ridiculous even: For 10 or 20 (or 100) people, coming in from different countries, to each have to arrange for the printing of a poster and either bring it from overseas in a special container or to have to coordinate with print shops in a city they don't know.

The conference is held in a couple of weeks and I'm getting worried... of course I've contacted the workshop organizers about this, but - was I wrong to expect this to be taken care of? Is there some kind of other option of arranging this which I'm missing?

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    just a general note, after my inquiring about it, saying that I'm at liberty to design it any way I like and in any dimensions I like – For me this would trigger an immediate reply asking them whether they are really really sure about this. – Wrzlprmft May 2 '17 at 8:49
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    You say it's well rated. Perhaps the WS organisers are chaotic. You might ask the conference main organisers. – Captain Emacs May 2 '17 at 8:53
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    Up to this moment I had never even heard of conferences printing posters for participants. – xLeitix May 2 '17 at 17:37
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    I think it's most likely that the conference organizers assume the attendees are familiar with common poster conventions are are assuming you will bring a typical sized poster and have not yet had someone take advantage of their lack of specifications to bring in a 6-by-6 meter monstrosity. As all the other answers have said, printing your own poster is the norm. Having a conference print a poster for you sounds like an absolute nightmare that you have no control over the quality of. The poster might look fine to them but only you realize that one of your figures is illegible. – Bryan Krause May 2 '17 at 17:39
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    I regularly attend a conference with an optional printing service. It's quite expensive and my institution wouldn't reimburse the additional costs. You basically see only emeritus professors and people who needed some last-minute printing (e.g. lost their print) at their counter. – Roland May 2 '17 at 17:40
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I'm answering from an HCI-related subfield of CS:

What you describe - attendees print and bring their posters themselves - is completely normal.

While I do not rule out it exists even in my specific field, I have never encountered a conference that would print posters for you. Any time I have participated in, or just looked at the CfP for a poster session, attendees were merely told the available board size (and thus, the maximum allowable size for the poster) and asked to prepare their poster in time for the poster session.

Typically, attendees then have the poster printed at their home institution (and get compensated by the institution as a part of the conference attendance cost). This has the nice side-effect that, at least in smaller places, you might already get in touch with a few conference attendees at the airport, because you notice the people walking around with poster tubes. At some point before the poster session (depending on the conference, already at the beginning of the conference), attendees will take a few minutes to affix their posters at the boards they have been assigned (or just at any boards, if the poster space works in a first-come first-serve manner).

The poster belongs to the attendee/their employer and they are free to do with it after the poster session what they like. A possible procedure that has been followed by many people I have been in touch with is to take the poster back to one's home institution and place it on some wall in or near one's office.

A word on your impression:

The opposite case seems strage, ridiculous even: For 10 or 20 people, coming in from different countries, to each have to arrange for the printing of a poster and either bring it from overseas in a special container or to have to coordinate with print shops in a city they don't know.

In a way, that's true. But then, note that poster printing (well, any graphics printing) comes with a certain deal of variety and "risks". Colours might be messed up, the size/margins might be unfitting ... add to that that different regions of the world are used to (and thus base their poster templates on) different paper formats. Thus, it is desirable to see the poster when there is still some time to make some corrections.

As for the special container - any university institute I have encountered owns several of these, for exactly this purpose. Note that if you want to bring back the poster (as described in my text above), you need such a container anyway for the way back, so there would be no point in carrying the container there without anything in it.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – ff524 May 3 '17 at 15:03
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A conference, or workshop where the posters are printed for you is very exceptional. It sounds reasonable to print all posters for the presenters locally but

  • you can print posters much cheaper at university than in any copy shop, because its subsidized
  • some prefer a cheap preprint, others are willing to pay for the nice glossy high quality print.
  • the posters are often created with very different software such as LaTeX, Inkscape, Corel Draw or even Powerpoint... Even if one requests an PDF version xy file: They all interpret the PDF standard differently. PDF/a tries to solve this and PDF/a verification tools exist, but hardly any program (and user) knows about it. NB: A higher version number in PDF represents more complexity (Javascript and the like) but not better compatibility.
  • some guests will try to send a 1 GB file, because they use a fancy bitmap background picture, others do not want to hand out the digital files.
  • most people prefer to have a final review on the printed poster and have a final chance to improve colours. Especially Windows users in our institute have often broken symbols in diagrams (black box ■ instead of µ).
  • additional staff (expensive) is required to print, to discuss with attendees about file standards, and to hang up the posters.
  • people often meet and discuss already when hanging up the posters (this is an additional poster session for free ;-) (thanks to O. R. Mapper for the comment. I share his experience.)

This is why posters are usually printed individually, if it is not a in-house workshop. However there are conferences with presentations on large screens instead of paper poster too.

Travelling with a poster is sometimes difficult and I have seen fabric printed posters very often, but also patchworks of many DIN A4 sheets to get one A0 poster.

Travel Fabric Poster

Image source: http://depts.washington.edu/uwposter/product/travel-fabric-poster/

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    @einpoklum There is not one PDF standard. – Jonas Stein May 2 '17 at 12:14
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    @einpoklum: "the time and hassle and extra money for transporting the posters" - what do you mean? Transporting a poster has never taken me any longer or caused any hassle, and with poster tubes for around 10€, the transportation cost is completely negligible compared to the number of trips such a poster tube can be used for. As for printing cost - while printing several copies of the same document significantly lowers the price per copy, I am not convinced the same is automatically true for printing one copy of many different documents. – O. R. Mapper May 2 '17 at 12:26
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    @einpoklum You seem to be the one splitting hairs all over this post because you aren't getting answers you're willing to accept. – user58748 May 2 '17 at 15:48
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    @einpoklum With respect, why are you bothering going to this conference at all? You make a list of minor logistics that most conference goers are very familiar with sound like epic trials and tribulations, which suggests you don't think it is worth your time. Several commenters and several voters have made clear that these things are normal for everyone else. I don't doubt you can come up with reasons for why it might be more convenient for you personally if conference organizers would print out your poster, but your question was "is that normal" for them not to do so: YES! it is normal! – Bryan Krause May 3 '17 at 17:19
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    @einpoklum You asked if it is normal (for people to print their own posters). The answer you got, over and over, is: yes it is. Why are you still debating with everyone? Did you come here looking for an answer your question, or just to rant about your own opinion looking for validation? – Bryan Krause May 3 '17 at 18:07
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Hello from the biology field! It's very common for us to print our own posters (I've actually never seen a conference where they do that for you, although I'm sure they do exist somewhere).

I wanted to add a small point to the other detailed answers: if the posters are printed in the attendee's institution, they then belong to said institution, and can be re-used at other conferences (which definitely lowers the cost and environmental impact!) and/or displayed in the corridors and other "social" places - in each lab I've worked in, we had walls covered in collections of previous posters, reminding people of past work, past colleagues, and helping explanations to visitors.

  • Actually, when they print the poster for you, they obviously let you take it after the conference, since the organizers are not making a poster collection and the convention hall will not house them after the conference ends. – einpoklum May 2 '17 at 13:00
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    @einpoklum: "they obviously let you take it after the conference" - if you take it after the conference, you need a poster tube for the way back. Now that you have to bring a poster tube anyway, most of your points related to the convenience of traveling without a poster tube would seem to become moot. – O. R. Mapper May 2 '17 at 13:18
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    @einpoklum yes, obviously they don't have a poster collection, but what I also meant is that in order to re-use the poster in another conference, you'd need to bring it, right? so basically the "conference-taking-care-of-posters" thing is only convenient if it's the first time you use this poster, and only because it saves you the cost and the "trouble" of having a loaded tube instead of an empty tube on your way there ;) – Kerkyra May 2 '17 at 13:59
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    @einpoklum but chances are, the second conference has different requirements (size, file format,...) and you have to work on the poster again. Also, it duplicates the costs of printing in terms of money and environmental impact (loooots of expensive paper and glossy inks on those shiny posters :-) ). I'm not saying that everyone has to care about that, but some organizers might! Also, the financial cost is always for you: either you pay a direct "poster handling fee", or the cost is averaged on a slightly higher attending fee for everyone at the conference... – Kerkyra May 2 '17 at 14:11
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    @einpoklum okay, I see what you mean, but for me it was never a hassle to walk around with a poster tube. Everyone does it anyway. Just keep in mind that for you to get rid of that "hassle", someone else has to take care of it (mostly unpaid volunteers organisers), so, well, you might want to do your part. But let's agree to disagree, we have obviously really different points of view and we both have made our points pretty clearly! – Kerkyra May 2 '17 at 14:53
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Speaking from the Applied Mathematics/Earth Science divide, the closest I've seen to the model that the question implies is where a conference will advertise a partner commercial poster printing firm, which will then have a physical presence at the conference, from which your poster can be collected. Actually placing the poster in the correct location remains the duty of the presenter however, and prices don't really seem all that competitive.

This tends to be linked to very large conferences, with multiple poster sessions per day, and to conferences which repeatedly use the same facilities year after year, and thus have built up enough repeat custom for both sides to keep up the relationship. When conferences are smaller, or cycle between multiple venues without revisiting, then it's possible a local member of the organising committee might have a recommendation of a local firm, but often, particularly if it's being held on a campus site, it's just left up to the individual presenters.

Having said all that, in the modern age it's fairly trivial to find a firm which will print and deliver a poster via snail mail. If you can arrange to get it sent to your hotel (for a large conference) or a friendly member of the organising committee (for a smaller one) then the same effect can be produced.

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I'm adding an answer of my own based on the reply I got from the workshop chairs and information I gathered from other sources.

First - as others suggest, it is indeed at least very common for conferences not to print posters themselves. It's apparently just as common for there to be absolutely no support from the organizers for poster printing.

But what was just as interesting was the following:

Up until not so many years ago, there were no/very few posters in the conference + workshops overall. More and more tracks and workshops of the conference started "amassing" poster sessions - but apparently it has not dawned on many people that this is now a "many posters conference" (I estimate over 100). In fact, the reply to my question about the possibility of the conference doing the printing was, that there are no resources allocated for it, but that it "would be a great because XYZ". So, apparently nobody has brought up the possibility of the conference organization including the centralized printing of posters.

So my bottom line is:

Sometimes, the option of "conference prints" has simply not been considered; and thus is the default rather than the norm. We can make a convincing case in its favor - especially in large conferences - and make it more common as well.

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    What are the reasons for the downvotes, according to the downvoters? – O. R. Mapper May 3 '17 at 6:54
  • @O.R.Mapper: Thanks for asking that, but - well, the downvoters don't get notified of your comment, so I doubt you'll get answers. I'm guessing some people disliked my argumentative tone in comments above and stuck it to me down here :-( – einpoklum May 3 '17 at 11:06
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    Everyone has been telling you it's the norm to print your poster at your institution and bring it to the conference. Yet, you say it is not the norm. Your answer (particularly its last paragraph) is factually wrong. Even at conferences with more than 10k participants you see only a tiny fraction using optional printing services. One important reason is that your institution usually doesn't pay for these services since they offer their own subsidized printing services to you. – Roland May 3 '17 at 11:38
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    @einpoklum I do not think the word "norm" means what you think it means. – Dan Romik May 3 '17 at 19:02
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    @O.R.Mapper I think they downvoted it because after all the answers and comments that OP got, this self-answer feels like it ignores all said and redefines what a "norm" is based on his own experience, not backed up by any sources, not even the rest of testimonies in this very page and, overall, it's a really poor answer that feels like half a rant, half a middle finger to the rest. – xDaizu May 4 '17 at 10:08

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