A few times a year, The University decides to show off the fact that it has grad students who do things. The upper administration never quite stoops to interacting with us directly, but they decree events like "Graduate student showcase" or "Science extravaganzapalooza" or some such silly name. There are generally long-winded speeches, fancy food, and, oh yeah, a poster session to show off what the graduate students are up to. So that graduate students actually bother to attend, the poster session usually includes a competition for various cash prizes and shiny certificates printed on stock paper from Office Depot.
Most graduate students in the sciences who have been around long enough to have a bit of data, also have a fairly decent, fairly recent poster. At least at my school they do. We have an annual shindig that we are supposed to have posters for anyway, so most of us have posters that are less than a year old literally sitting there on the wall. So you would expect that tons of grad students would attend these poster competitions, right? It is simply a matter of dressing up slightly (or not) pulling the poster down from the wall, walking a block or two, standing there for two hours, and walking back. It gets you out of the lab, it's good practice for bigger conferences, and there is free food. Yet despite this, hardly anyone goes. I don't get it, personally. I have won close to 1k in book store certificates and travel grants for a total of 8hrs of work. That's like a 8% raise when you are on a grad student salary! It's nice resume padding and helps you improve your poster and communication skills so you can look super-professional at big conferences, where prizes or no, the impressions you give are important.
The thing that really torques me off, is the other students who say things to me like "How do you always win all these prizes? I wish I could do that." I respond appropriately in person, but this is almost always coming from people who never go. You can't win if you don't play, guys.