8 Ways to Say “I Don’t Want To Answer Your Question” At Your Next Poster Session

Letcher, S. et al

8 Ways to Say “I Don’t Want To Answer Your Question” At Your Next Poster Session

Posters are a great way to present new discoveries and network with other scientists in your field. However, some of your more interrogative colleagues seem to prefer grilling you incessantly. If you’re tired of saying “That’s a great question, and definitely an area for future research,” try these 8 alternate responses instead to breeze through your next poster session.

1. Guilt Trip

Stare at them, audibly sigh, and say “do you know what I’ve been through to get this data? The animal sacrifices I’ve made?” Oh what, they just asked you to describe your methods? Double down and tell them all the ways the instruments failed you.

2. Show Off Your Intellectual Superiority

Stare into the distance, furrow your brow, and start tracing the air as if you’re doing calculations, then loudly exclaim “Good suggestion, but DAMN IT, no – there’s no way that would work. I just can’t get around the numbers.” Move along, idiot!

3. Distract Them

Avoid their direct question and go on a long, unrelated tangent, ending every sentence with “…if you know what I mean” in an almost sexual way, but not quite. They’ll be left trying to figure out what you do mean and have no time to continue questioning your science. 

4. Go For Flair

Ignore the question and loudly exclaim, “Details don’t matter here – can’t you SEE the implications? This is a complete paradigm shift, a scientific revolution! Don’t be left behind!” Commit to this by bringing previous papers related to your work, tearing them into confetti, and throwing them into the questioners’ face. 

5. Create Conflict

Look at the poster next to you, then stage whisper, “I would answer that, but I don’t want to get scooped. You know how this field is.” Bonus – now you can actually start a fight with your poster neighbor, and deter any visits whatsoever!

6. Borrow From Politics

Tell them that of course you know the answer, but it’ll be more rewarding for them if they “do their own research.” Academics love to learn, how can they argue with that?

7. Hide In Fear

Create just enough space between your poster and the wall to fit your body, squat in front of it, and stand up to slide behind the poster. Whoops, where’d you go?? Maybe now they’ll actually read the poster.

8. Make Them Uncomfortable

Nod, smile, and say: “Great question! Before I answer, I must use the little boys/girls room.” Then stare at them until they leave. 

If all else fails, fetal position is always a great option! Best of luck, the ability to communicate well is one of the most important aspects of being a successful scientist.

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