We surveyed physicians presenting abstracts at the 1995 Society of General Internal Medicine annual meeting to determine whether the oral or poster format better achieved their presentation goals. Poster presentations better met respondents' objectives for feedback and criticism and for networking and developing collaborative projects, while oral presentations better met their objectives for national visibility and sharing knowledge within one's field. Sixty-nine percent of respondents preferred to present oral abstracts. The majority of these presenters preferred to present their research in an oral format although poster presentations still played an important role for them, particularly as a venue for feedback on their work. As meeting size increases, different presentation formats should be explored that best meet the needs of the academic community.