Research essentials

How to prepare conference abstracts and poster presentations

Hints and tips on preparing an engaging and targeted abstract for a conference presentation, as well as creating a high-impact poster.

Hints and tips on preparing an engaging and targeted abstract for a conference presentation, as well as creating a high-impact poster

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An effective way of disseminating nursing research is to present it at a national or international conference. This article outlines helpful hints and tips on preparing an abstract for a conference presentation, and how to best create a poster presentation.

Geek speak

Poster presentation

Designed as a poster to present abstract of a research project at a conference

It explains how to prepare an abstract that conveys what motivated you to undertake the work, its relevance and the implications for children’s nursing.

For a successful abstract application, it is important to be well informed about the theme of the conference and match it appropriately to the presentation topic. Conferences provide very clear guidelines on the submission of abstracts that need to be followed.


One key element of an abstract is to make it engaging so that the reader grasps the relevance and importance of your work.

Make sure the title of your presentation conveys the essence of your topic, but also fits with the conference overall. You also need to consider how it will look in the conference programme. Will the title be competing with other sessions that run parallel to your slot?

Geek speak


A short synopsis of the study's aims, methods, findings/results, conclusion

In the background section briefly set out what is known and, more importantly, what is not known about your topic of research.

The methods section only requires a few sentences to describe the overall methodology and your method of data collection.

The findings/results section will be the longest part of the abstract and needs careful organising to ensure that you are providing the main conclusions from your study in a coherent way. Your biggest challenge will be in how succinct you can be by sticking to the word count, while managing to convey the main findings. Submitting an abstract that is under the word count is fine, but going above it will mean it is likely to be rejected.

The conclusion should only be a couple of sentences long; one sentence concluding the study and one sentence on the implications of your findings for practice.

Points to consider

Brevity and clarity are the two skills that need to be used in preparing an abstract. Keeping to the word count can be a challenge, and once you have prepared the abstract you need to check that it is coherent and flows well. Even though the abstract has distinct sections, it needs to read well as a whole.

Ask a colleague to read your abstract before you submit it, preferably someone who has successfully submitted one themselves.

When preparing an abstract it is helpful to have someone who is not in your field of practice to read it to see if they can grasp the meaning without explanation from you and check it for typographical errors.

Poster preparation

PowerPoint is a helpful tool because it enables you to import photographs as well as graphs and offers several colour themes. Before starting, ask colleagues if you can see posters they have prepared or presented and ask them for tips on preparing yours. The main challenge is to get the balance right between the amount of information you want to get across to your audience and the overall appearance of the poster.

Your poster will be viewed from a distance, so it needs to look inviting to encourage a conference participant to stop and read it.

Top tips

  • Carefully read the instructions provided by the conference organisers before starting your poster
  • Look at other posters with a critical eye – what makes them appealing to read? What format works well? What headings work well?
  • Jalalian (2012) and Mott (2014) are two texts you could use that offer more comprehensive help in structuring your abstract


In preparing a poster you could start with the information used in your abstract and build on it. Posters with too much information or small text will not attract many readers. Colour is an important element of your poster, as is the balance between text and images. Use colours that complement one another. When structuring your text use some colour from your themes in your main headings. In this way the presentation looks more coherent.

Find out what size your poster needs to be and also the size and style of font required.

Before completion, you may need to include key references as well as acknowledgements of support you received to undertake the study or project you are reporting on.

  • Jalalian M (2012) Writing an eye-catching abstract for a research article: A comprehensive and practical approach. Electronic Physician 4, 3, 520-524
  • Mott S (2014) The process of writing an abstract. Journal of Pediatric Nursing. 29, 4, 383-386

Joan Simons is assistant head of department at the Open University for and on behalf of the RCN Research in Child Health community

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