Host a poster exhibition in Sway and Teams

Tuesday 11 August 2020

As part of many research degrees, students may be required to produce posters to showcase their work. This year, we helped one of our academic colleagues put together a virtual poster exhibition for their students.

The format

As with any event, you need to have an idea of how the session will run and note down all the timings. For this event, the organiser needed to consider:

  • the date and time of the poster exhibition
  • how many students would be taking part
  • what information the students wanted to share with the attendees
  • how the students would interact with the attendees
  • who would be invited
  • whether there would be an introductory or closing group event so the organiser could say a few words to everyone

Setting the event up

A central point of information

If there’s a lot going on during your virtual events, i.e. lots of different sessions and stalls for attendees to interact with, you should have a central point of information for them to go to before, between and after sessions. This could be a webpage, a PDF that you’ve circulated, an email, a blog post – anything. It’s helpful to have all the information about schedules and web links on a single page so it acts as a virtual programme.

For this, we used Sway. We’ve mentioned this in an earlier blog post about internal newsletters. It’s free, part of Microsoft 365 and quick to put together. It’s also accessible and visually appealing by default so less work for us. A Sway can include:

  • links
  • photos
  • videos
  • embeded content

This makes it a great platform to host your event information. You can limit it to University of St Andrews staff and students as well, so it’s great for sharing internal information.

You can share the ‘collaborate’ links with students or other staff if you like. This means they could personalise their own section of the Sway and:

  • add the session link to their paragraph once they’ve set it up in Outlook
  • add a photo or video of themselves
  • add a paragraph to summarise their work or themselves to entice people into their session
  • ask for feedback by linking to a Microsoft Form (also free and easy to use)
  • link off to a OneDrive for Business document which details more about their project

If you’d rather set it all up yourself and just let them turn up on the day, then that’s fine too.


This is an earlier template we created using three different layouts:

  • Posters listed with a link to the student session and a link to further information on OneDrive
  • Posters shown as a large image with information about student and their project, including a photo
  • Posters shown as thumbnails with relevant links added into the captions

Once you start using Sway, you’ll discover there’s loads of different styles and layouts you can create.

Teams meetings for breakout rooms or smaller sessions

You’ll need a new Teams meeting for each individual session. If you have 30 students with 30 posters, you’ll need 30 Teams meetings.

Once you’ve set up each session and invited the relevant presenters, adjust the Meeting Options. This changes what guests can do during the smaller sessions and whether you want your students to admit them or just join immediately.

Once you’re happy with your meeting permissions, copy the hyperlink into your Sway. To do this:

  • go into the Outlook appointment
  • right click ‘Join Teams meeting’
  • select Copy hyperlink
  • paste the link into your Sway (it looks better if you embed it in other text – the link is very long)

If you want a larger session with everyone in it, set this up as well as meeting and embed the Join link in the Sway as well.

During the event

Communicating with the students

Set up a group chat on Teams with your students or use an existing Team to check-in throughout the event. You can also drop into their sessions throughout to see how they’re getting on.

What the students need to do

Ask the students to sit in their designated virtual meeting space and share their screen, showing the poster. Ask them to turn their webcam and microphone on so that they can engage with attendees as they drop-in throughout the event.

Some attendees may wish to type, rather than chat verbally, which is fine as well.

Finishing their sessions

If you have a post-exhibition group event for everyone to join, you could always supply the students with text beforehand which they can put into their meeting chat once the poster browsing time has ended.

For example:
“Thanks for viewing my poster and joining my session. My lecturer has arranged a post-exhibition event, which you can access using this link

This means if people lose track of time and continue to join poster sessions, they can find their way back to the larger event more easily.

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