Basak is making products in Microsoft and organising events as a part of XX+UX — a community of women in UX.


As a conference speaker, what is your take on presentation?

Giving a good conference presentation is not easy. I am still learning every time I speak at a conference. First, as a presenter you are a storyteller and you need to craft a compelling story with takeaways. It’s not all about what you know or what the audience wants to hear from you. It’s about having a “hook,” building a bond with people and reinforcing your point of view with an engaging and authentic tone.

It can create a lot of pressure, too. I constantly reiterate the fact that the audience is there for a reason and I have to make sure they get value for their time and money, while I am striving to make a long-lasting, meaningful impression on them. But, what can feel like pressure is at the same time very encouraging, driving me to work harder, to practice the art of presentation constantly and to stay hungry for more knowledge to share with a crowd.

Outside of the conference context, I also believe that it’s very valuable to learn the skills to be a good presenter and public speaker, because you can easily apply them to your everyday life too. From good body posture to gaining a confident voice, it changes you for the better. It can be very rewarding and fruitful.

It’s about having a “hook,” building a bond with people and reinforcing your point of view.

What are the most common mistakes and how to avoid them?

Not being prepared and not knowing your territory properly. Not to fall in this common pitfall, plan your talk ahead of time. Do extra research if necessary. There is no shame in reading and gathering more material when you feel like your content is too thin. As long as you come fully prepared, fresh and ready to address the crowd, you are on top of your game.

Another common mistake is managing the time poorly. This one can be tricky. It’s so easy to lose the track of time in a presentation. The worst situation to be in is when the organizer starts to wave that “two minutes” card at your face, and you realize you have ten more slides to go, start to panic and rush through your slides. The rest is a train-wreck obviously. Rehearsal and keeping an eye on the time helps.

There is a reason why people say that practice makes perfect.

Related to mismanaging the time is misjudging the pace of your talk. You talk a little faster than you should without realizing. Because your brain is wired that way: you are in front of a huge crowd, adrenalin is rushing, your palms are sweating and you are nervous. I used to struggle with this a lot when I first started to present at conferences. Over time, I managed to solve it with self-control, monitoring my breath, and taking pauses when I need to.

Finally, bad slide design is a very common mistake. People really forget the power of the right amount of text, font size, color contrast, effective imagery and resolution in presentation design. Slides are not cheat sheets for you; they are for your audience to learn from and stay engaged. I sometimes catch typos in slides and it drives me nuts. These might sound like little details but it adds up to your style and the impression your audience gets of you, and it can be resolved with just a little more time and care in the slide design and editing. It’s critical that the audience doesn’t lose the point entirely because of poorly designed slides.

A compelling flow is what makes or breaks a presentation. Mastering your flow takes time and is an on-going effort.