18 May 2017

Lessons from “Stone Cold” Steve Austin: There’s just one bottom line – and it should be your title

Margaret Moerchen wrote:
Every poster needs an executive summary like this!

I appreciate the sentiment here. Summaries are good. Highlighting those summaries is also good. But this doesn’t go far enough.

Four bullet points is too much.

Let’s turn the mic over to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who famously pronounced:

Would Austin get the same reaction from the crowd if he said, “And those are the bottom four lines”?

Do we say, “Get to the points?” “Cut to the chases”? No. It’s singular in every case.

Here’s what I would suggest. Drill down those four points to one. Looking at the points above, I might suggest: “New techniques to measure carbon contents in vapor bubble,” or “Carbon content in the Hawaiian plume may be higher than in the MORB mantle.” Which I’d use would depend on whether I wanted to emphasize the techniques or the preliminary results.

Then, instead of sticking that one point away as a bottom line, make that one point the title of your poster. Don’t make people with 30 seconds hunt for your most important thing. Make it literally the first thing they read.

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