General Etiquette > All In A Day's Work

Poster presentation etiquette

(1/3) > >>

Here's a topic I haven't seen on here. So I work in science, and a couple times a year I go to scientific conferences for professional development, paid for by my boss. I always take a poster I've made that explains my project. The conferences have a big hall where everyone hangs up their posters in numbered spots and attendees can look them over. There's a couple hours set aside when people are specifically supposed to be standing by their posters to answer questions from other interested attendees.

I've been to over a dozen conferences but at the last one, I had the rudest person I've ever encountered. Now I'm worried that I will see this specific person again at the next conference, or someone like her, and I'm wondering what kinds of things I can politely say to her. I'm honestly not sure if there is a polite way to say, "Leave me alone now," during a stated poster session, when the purpose is to talk with other people about your project; unless maybe someone else comes along, and you can be like, "Nice chatting with you, but I want to give this other person the chance to ask me questions."

She started out nice, interested, asking a lot of questions, which is good. Her specialty was one particular thing, which accounted for about 10% of my project and was largely done by collaborators (not me). I explained this to her but tried to answer her questions about it anyway, and I thought I answered them pretty well; I also encouraged her to contact my boss if she wanted to know more (which is what my boss says to tell people). Then she started asking such nitty-gritty detailed questions that I'm not sure my boss even could have answered them, and getting frustrated when I couldn't answer them.

Then there was some confusion about the terminology she was using--she was like, "What did you do about X?" and I said, "Oh, we did Y and Z," and she was like, "That doesn't make sense. What did you do about X?" Then I said, "Hmm, I guess I'm not sure what you mean by X then, could you explain it to me?" And she got all huffy and was like, "X is X! You know? It's X! What did you do about it?"

It all seemed to boil down to the fact that she didn't like our method because it wasn't what she would have done, even though we followed the method of a leader in the field (as I pointed out). Keep in mind this is all just about 10% of my project, which she had interrupted my overview speech to focus on. Then, when it became obvious to her that I wasn't able to tell her what she wanted to hear, she said in a patronizing tone, "Well, why don't you tell me about the parts of this project you actually did," suggesting that because I wasn't an expert on the 10% she was interested in, I actually hadn't done anything at all.  >:(

I just kept a smile plastered on my face and suggested, about a dozen times, that she take her questions to my boss. But I was pretty upset afterwards.

For what it's worth: there was no language barrier (which sometimes causes difficulty in understanding and tone) and she was about my age, maybe a bit younger. She told me she had just finished her advanced degree and was starting her post-degree job, and her boss had been nice enough to let her come to this conference even though she was brand-new. Also, there was no one else around that she seemed aware of (like, someone she was trying to impress).

If someone wants to engage in a topic that is not relevant to your subject, just keep repeating: "I'm not the appropriate person to discuss this topic with.  You might want to find someone else here at the conference that focuses on that subject.". Follow up with, "As I said, that is not the subject I'm here to discuss.". And then "I'm sorry, I don't understand why you are so determined to discuss this with me.  I've stated it is not relevant to what I'm presenting."

And then physically turn away from her/him. 

It' s been great talking to you. I need to go check out a poster. I'll talk with you later. Are you presenting here?

Then take off for five .minutes and then return.

In my experience, a little butt kissing does wonders.

"Wow, that's a really valid point. I'll have to discuss that with my co-authors once the conference is over."

If they feel like they've pointed out a hole in your project and you have to go home and fix it, then they've won and they can leave you alone. And then you've won, because they've left you alone.

Or just start asking about her research. No one can resist that, and then you can say, "Oh did you get a chance to look at all of the other posters? I think I saw one that is right in line with your ideas."

I've presented about 30 years of posters and talks by now.  There are some that won't be satisfied with whatever answer you give.  So listen to what they say, give them credence and ignore when they walk away.  There are a fewer people who early in my career who used to do this to me, but once I let them know I know my stuff, then they backed off.  I don't think i have been challenged during a presentation in over 10 years now because they know that I don't trip up. 

However, I will give you one of my pet peeves.  I want to know information about a poster and will ask what method is used and the sensitivity of the method.  Many times, a get the 'deer in the headlight' look and the poster presenter says...'well, I didn't do that so I don't know'.  As far as I am concerned, if something is on the poster, it is fair game and the presenter should be schooled in how they got the data that they are presenting....even if it is only 10% of the poster.

For Deetee, in a scheduled poster session, you cannot take off and leave your poster during a scheduled poster presentation.  You have to stand in front of the poster for the 90 minutes and be 'on' for everyone and anyone who comes by. 

Another really don't want to blow off or be rude to anyone.  Scientific fields are incredibly small and everyone knows everyone.  That would be the best way to burn bridges that you may find yourself needing in a couple of years.


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Go to full version