Typically academic posters are designed on that rule of thirds principles, with some variations of course.
The poster below is a classical example of an academic poster in a landscape format : header with 3 columns underneath. Some academic posters in the landscape format will have 4 columns of information. That’s okay too.
There are not hard and fast rules on which layout style that must be used, but consult the conference or event that you are attending to see if they have any prescribed format rules.
Pay attention to the conference guidelines concerning the size of the poster and follow them exactly. In general, you will want to leave one-inch around your poster so that you are able to tack it to the cork board, but you will want to make sure your poster is a full size and takes up the space you are given for best visual impact.
In Publisher, you are able to create a custom size of your page.