Ready, Set, Present!

A display is a way for people to look at your experiment quickly. It should be accurate, attractive and professional. It should be easy for viewers to see and interact with. The display should allow the viewer to see and read the parts they are most interested in the order they wish to experience them. Traditionally this has been accomplished with a poster.

1. Write an Abstract

An abstract is a short (250 words or less) paragraph summary of your experiment. The purpose is to give a reader a quick idea of what you did and key findings.

2. Create sections for your poster board

Most of the content for your poster board is already written. You have it on your project page! Now you need to use many of the sections on your project page to create sections for your poster. You will eventually cut out these sections and attach them to your poster board. Below is a suggested minimum list of sections. Everyone's project is different so you may need to add something to this list for your project.

To actually create the sections you can try using Powerpoint or a Google Doc Presentation. The slide layouts and borders in presentation software make it easy to create neat sections. If you have a section containing a lot of text then then you should choose a word processor.

  • Name Plate (This goes in the top right corner of your board.) (If you include a photo, this helps you get remembered!)
  • Title (You can use your specific question if you wish)
  • Abstract
  • Question
  • Hypothesis
  • Variables
  • Background Research
  • Experimental Design and Plan - What was needed? How was the experiment conducted? Be clear and detailed enough that someone else could replicate the experiment. Use diagrams or images to show the set up of materials.
  • Graphs
  • Data tables
  • Pictures of the experiment
  • Written results section
  • Conclusion sentences
  • Discussion (What happened? How did it compare to what was expected? What interference or errors occurred? Could the experiment be improved?)
  • Acknowledgments (Credit and thank any individuals or organizations that have provided assistance during the project.)
  • References (Cite any sources used – APA or MLA style)

3. Edit

Edit, proofread, rewrite.

4. Peer Edit

Have a friend who is not part of your project read your work to you. Discuss any changes that would improve your project then make the changes. Consider the following:
  • Word Choice
  • Fluency
  • Mechanics
  • Use of science vocabulary

5. Diagram your layout

Take the time to plan where each section will go on the display board. Consider the following:
  • Create a logical flow to your work based on your project. For example the hypothesis should be near the question and the graph near the written results.
  • Keep a consistent margin around the sides of the board.
  • Center style layouts are most expected by viewers. Display boards are typically 3 sided so you can center in each panel
  • Measuring is better than "eyeing" it. - Measure those margins to get things even and straight.
  • Balance larger elements with something smaller

6. Design

Design refers to the visual appeal of your project. While your focus should be on high quality content the visual presentation can enhance the readability of the project. Here are some guidelines.
  • Make text big. Someone should be able to read headings from six feet away and text from four feet away.
  • Leave space - Don't cram your poster full. Leave space around the different sections
  • Use color appropriately - Keep to a simple color scheme and don't color backgrounds behind text. Color choices should be guided by the project itself whenever possible.
  • Choose Fonts carefully. Font choice should be professional and appropriate to your project. Use serif-style fonts for any large areas of text like paragraphs or longer. Serifs are the little feet that you can see at the bottom of letters. The little feet create a visual line helping the reader track across a page of text. This text is an example.
  • Use consistent fonts - Headings should be the same font and body text should be the same font. Headings and body text can be different from each other.
  • Use bulleted lists rather than long explanations. Lists are quick and easy to read and draw the viewers eye. Even with sections like the discussion which might be lengthy you could summarize a list of key points on a separate section and include the list on your board. If you have lengthy items you can always print these out and have them separate with your display.
  • Use borders - Borders help to focus the viewers eyes where you want them. You can create borders by gluing your text or graph onto a slightly larger piece of colored construction paper.

7. Print - Cut - Assemble

After you have your pieces, lay them out dry on the board to check to see if your layout will work. Make adjustments if needed. Lastly glue the pieces on. WARNING - Do not close the display board until the glue is dry.

8. Prepare for the oral presentation

When you present your poster you will have an audience. Your audience will consist of fellow students, teachers, parents (yours and others'), and community members. By now your poster should be in top condition and it is time to get your message into shape as well.
Here are some things to consider:
  • Dress for success. This is not about what you think looks good on you, this is about what adults (and older ones, at that) will think of you as they meet and greet you for the first time. Is your shirt tucked in? Do you have a professional-looking outfit on? Is your appearance clean and would it be acceptable in an office, bank or church setting? If you are going to the valley fair, this is key to winning the money.
  • Be ready with a firm, confident handshake and a smile! Believe it or not, after what you look like, these two items are very important! Don't be wishy-washy or too strong - practice, practice, practice. Stand with your arms uncrossed and don't fidget. If you smile or grin, you're showing your audience that you are happy they are listening to you and grateful for their time. Smile - even if you're not feeling it.
  • Understand that it's not your brains or even necessarily your project that will get you noticed. If you want a large audience at our KMS fair, or to win money at the valley fair, it's a proven fact that the kids with the best scientific projects don't necessarily win if they have a personality of a wet sponge. If you are upbeat, positive and show interest in your project, you will get noticed. You will be in the running for some serious money!
  • Speak Up. If no one can hear you, what's the point? It's crowded, confusing and really, really noisy during a science fair. Some people know that no one can hear them, so they speak louder, which causes others to talk even louder. People are coming and going, you're a little nervous and may be feeling intimidated. Once you get through your first "customer" or judge, you'll do fine. Just make sure they can hear you.
  • Don't rock the boat. People can get ill talking to a person who is constantly shuffling their feet or swaying. Stand still. Hands out of your pockets. If you can, stand in front of your poster and move to the side a bit to show it off.
  • Go For It ! If you are at the valley fair and you want a judge to come see your project, you need to set the bait just like someone fishing. Here's an example: You see an adult with a judge name tag in the doorway. You don't have anyone with you at present and decide you want to get her attention. Walk up to her, extend your hand for a shake and say hello. Just before you let go of her hand, invite her to come see your project and rock back gently on your heels. Because you haven't let go yet, she'll get the subliminal, slight message that you really want her to follow you.
  • Eye Contact Have you ever talked to someone and he didn't meet your eyes? It probably felt like he wasn't really paying attention to you or that you weren't that important to him. If you want to be successful at the KMS fair, and - more importantly - win money at the valley fair - you NEED to make that audience member or judge feel like there is no one else in the world you'd rather be talking to. This means that you MUST make eye contact.
  • Get your spiel ready. Yep. This is more than just, "Hi! Would you like to come see my science fair project?" These are some things you should be ready to say:
1. Greeting (Hi! Hello! Good morning! Good afternoon!)
2. Introduction & Handshake (Your name, school, grade, etc.)
3. Small Talk (weather, sports, the fair, etc.)
4. Invitation (get them to come to your project)
5. Participate in answering their questions and if they don't have any, hit the highlights. Play up how your project benefits the community or science.
6. Thank your audience for their time and be really upbeat about how much you appreciate the fact that they came to talk to you.
  • Never, never, never, never let them see you fool around. If you are representing KMS anywhere, you want to leave people with a favorable impression of you and your school. Keep the horseplay to 0. If you are tired, so be it. Keep your behavior in check until the end.

Be creative, engage your viewer, deliver your message.

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