Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking about research poster design, due in no small part to my intention to submit an abstract for a conference poster. The abstract is due next week and, while I could submit an abstract and then design the poster, I need to have a concept for the poster at the very least to write the abstract. My abstract and, therefore, my poster, might not be accepted, but regardless of this, I wanted to see this as a learning opportunity. Unfortunately, I am utterly inartistic, have very little spare time, and last week was beginning to think ‘maybe I’ll not bother’.
Then I went to a yoga class. I don’t do yoga. It came on the back of an impromptu invitation – one I didn’t have the heart to turn down. A mere two hours later, my colleague and I were entering the hall of humiliation – me in my yoga-inappropriate denim dress, him in his lab coat (ok, that’s not true, he had removed his lab coat, leaving me as the most inappropriately dressed person in the yoga class).
By the end of the session, my colleague was hooked. I, on the other hand, realised that I had spent the entire session thinking about the PhD. Honestly, there’s nothing you can’t link to a PhD.
The class was a mix of abilities – some of us could touch our toes, my colleague could touch his knees. Our instructor, while trying not to laugh at us, was encouraging. She reminded us that we are all different and that we should do what we felt comfortable doing – push yourself, but not to the point where you’re injured. I have to remind myself constantly that I shouldn’t compare myself to other students, that I should push myself to do the best that I can, not what I think everyone is doing. When you’re doing your PhD part-time, you get to the point where, one by one, the full-timers you started with complete their studies. You, on the other hand, are not even half-way through. You can choose to look at that one of two ways. You can let it get you down and spend your days wishing you were full-time, or you can remind yourself that studying part-time is a good thing. Your project will have taken around double the time, your empirical data is likely to have been collected over a longer period, and you’ll have had double the time to pick up extra knowledge and understanding along the way. You are also more likely to have a job already – something a lot of full-time students still have to figure out.
Something else I noticed during the yoga session, was how difficult I find it to be serious. I like to have a laugh. I laugh with my friends, my family, my colleagues, and my students. I’m not scared to laugh at myself, and I don’t mind people laughing at my mistakes (like when I held up my wrong left arm in the yoga class). Don’t get me wrong – I can be serious when I need to be, but I think people are often too serious, too much of the time, and all too often, that seriousness becomes plain dull. Take presentations, for example. I see presentations at conferences that are serious. That’s fine if the subject is riveting in its own right, or if the presenter looks like Jude Law. If not, sorry folks, I’m switching off. Now, I admit that perhaps my presentations sometimes go too far the other way…but I like to make them a little bit entertaining.
How, though, do you make a poster presentation entertaining? This is where my lack of artistic talent, I think, lets me down. I can come up with creative ideas in my mind, but I can’t physically recreate those ideas on a poster. So, having made about eight different poster designs over the past few weeks, I’ve come to the conclusion that my final poster is not going to be entertaining. It’s going to be simple, to-the-point, and mainly black and white. Because it’s me, though, it won’t look too much like a traditional research poster (I just can’t help myself). I might also stand next to it doing a yoga pose – just in case anyone gets bored.