CCSA’s Issues of Substance Conference

Tips for Developing Your Poster

Here are some suggestions for developing an effective poster. Posters should be:

  1. Stand-alone. Posters will be affixed to standing boards, so there is no space for computers.
  2. Readable. Your poster should be easily read from 1.8 metres (6 feet) away. Type should be at least 24-point size. Use at least a 48-point type for headings and a 64-point type for the poster title. Include the authors’ names and affiliations. Consider using a serif typeface (e.g., Times New Roman, Baskerville) for body text and a sans serif typeface (e.g., Verdana, Arial, Trebuchet) for elements such as headings, titles and graph labels.
  3. Understandable. Focus on the key points and minimize jargon. Avoid using acronyms and abbreviations that make it difficult for participants to grasp your key points.
  4. Logically organized. Create sections with text and visuals that flow nicely from one to the next. To help separate your sections, leave a sufficient amount of empty space between them.
  5. To the point. Use components that bring a focus to your work. Highlight the most important elements of your work in a clear and visually interesting manner.
  6. Colourful. Use carefully selected graphics and thoughtfully applied colour to highlight key facts. Be cautious about the use of coloured text; it can be difficult to read unless there is sufficient contrast between lettering and background. Your best choice is a light background and dark text.
  7. Visually engaging. Passersby should be attracted to the poster by the large, clear graphs, tables, photographs or other images that pertain to your work. You can use your own images or find them at professional stock photo sites. Even without photos, data visualization and colour blocks behind important text are easy ways to enhance your poster visually.
  8. Conversational in nature. Is the language appropriate for attendees who are passing by? (The language of a journal article is not suitable for a poster.) Don’t include references and URLs on the poster. Instead, put them on a supplementary handout.
  9. Supplemented by a handout. Consider bringing at least 50 copies of a one-page handout that includes your email address or a link for more information. If you want your handouts translated, this would be your responsibility as the poster presenter.
  10. Open for questions. Attendees will want to browse many posters and ask questions during your session so if you’re providing a run-through ensure it is five minutes or less and highlights the key messages you want to convey.

What Software Can You Use to Make a Poster?

Microsoft PowerPoint is a popular, user-friendly option. Go to the Design menu, select Slide Size and then select Custom Slide Size from the dropdown options. Remember that posters can be a maximum of 94″ wide × 45″ high.

Other software programs you can use include Microsoft Publisher or Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop or InDesign.


These tips have been adapted from the following resource: 

Potent Presentations. (n.d.). Guidelines for posters. [Sponsored by the American Evaluation Association]. Washington, D.C.; Author.

Need Help with Your Poster?

Email us at or call 1-833-235-4048.

Poster Samples 

The following samples are of posters presented at previous CCSA’s Issues of Substance conferences. These examples may help presenters generate ideas for their posters for the upcoming CCSA’s Issues of Substance conference.      

Poster Example 1: Treatment for Youth Experiencing Harms from Substance Use across the Continuum of Care

Poster Example 2: Alcohol on Campus: The Canadian Post-Secondary Alcohol and Drug Use Survey

Poster Example 3: Defining Canada’s First Low-Risk Gambling Guidelines

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