Press "Enter" to skip to content

The Unposter

Welcome to the In Beta WCPT 2019 unposter. This is our attempt to do something different with the traditional conference poster format as we question whether the traditional academic conference is an effective way of disseminating ideas and instigating change in practice.

The argument

Our abstract contended that conferences are an ineffective and financially and environmentally costly way to organise information sharing in an age of accessible digital media. The funding model of conference attendance and therefore the viability of large, costly international conferences requires a high percentage of delegates to also be presenting work. This results in crammed schedules of presentations in ever decreasing time intervals and row upon row of poster displays (over 500 each day at WCPT2019). The predominant mode of delivery is didactic information transmission – a slow death by a thousand powerpoint slides in the seminar room followed by navigating a vast forest of densely worded posters in the coffee break. This prevailing structure may be moderately beneficial in supporting academic impact. However it is ineffective at promoting change in practice and runs counter to evidence-based pedagogical models of participant-led, active learning that most of us would advocate in our teaching practices. More damningly, it serves to undermine the potential for interaction and networking that evidence suggests is key for learning but that less experienced delegates are likely to be excluded from.

WCPT posters
The poster display area at WCPT2015 (image from

We propose an alternative approach based around active learning principles to facilitate openly-accessible conversations between physiotherapy educators. Discussions are based around a problem or challenge arising from a contributor’s practice with colleagues invited to share their experience and knowledge to create shared learning in search of potential solutions. We have demonstrated that this is feasible to host and share conversations through digital technology (eg this discussion on teaching critical thinking). Changing how we view and credit non-traditional forms of academic knowledge dissemination has the potential to decrease the need for conferences to be based around knowledge transmission. This could enable physical conferences to move towards more active learning approaches incorporating discussion and collaboration such as our In Beta Experiments on Physiotherapy Education Unconference.

The unposter

The idea behind our unposter is threefold

  1. To present a manifestation of how digital media can expand the reach of the ideas that have traditionally been shared through a conference presentation or poster.
  2. To throw out the didactic conventions of academic posters and create a poster which was interactive, requiring thought and input from the person viewing it.
  3. To use the poster as a catalyst to discussion between people without requiring them to be in the same physical space.

The content of the unposter is digital. This website is part of the unposter and you can engage with the four components below. It’s pretty easy to present ideas in different formats and to encourage discussion and comment online and we’re all used to doing that, so on a website it doesn’t feel particularly innovative. On a poster that is harder and so it’s understandable that most people default to a standard poster format of two or three blocks of text livened up by one or two pictures. Rather than do that for our physical poster, we have used augmented reality to allow delegates viewing the poster to interact with the digital content in the same way that you can here. Whilst this will hopefully look pretty neat, our point is not to argue for every poster to incorporate augmented reality, but to show the redundancy of physical posters for information transmission in a digital world.

Unposter draft 2
This is the physical poster that was displayed at WCPT2019
This is a demo version of the poster showing how part of the augmented reality worked with the physical poster

The content


Please think about your experiences of conferences. These may be from attending multiple conferences, or from not being able to attend. You might have only ever followed conferences on social media or been key note speaker to thousands of delegates. We would like to know what you feel the benefits of conferences are, and the frustrations. Please share your thoughts and read other peoples’ answers on twitter using the hashtag #unposter


Michael and Ben make the argument for why we don’t need more conferences.



To our suggestion for an alternative approach that we have taken with In Beta.


So…. having thought about conferences and the potential for digital technology to replace or transform aspects of the traditional conference structure, have we convinced you?

Do we really need more conferences? Cast your vote at

Further reading

This Google Drive folder contains the articles that have influenced our arguments on the unposter.

Leave a Reply