9 Differences between Presentation and Public Speaking?


People often confuse presentation with public speaking. After all, both require you to speak in front of an audience. But, there are subtle and important differences between a presentation and public speaking. It is better to understand this difference so that we can prepare accordingly and get the best results!

So, in this article, I will be sharing with you a few key differences between a presentation and public speaking. So, let’s get started!

1. Communication Format

Traditionally, Public Speaking is giving a speech face to face to a live audience. It comprises various forms of spoken communication skills ranging from imparting a speech or debate to motivational speaking to storytelling to Ted talks to entertaining such as a standup comedian.

However, with technological advancements, such as video conferencing, the concept evolved. In modern times, public speaking can be defined as any form of speaking between the speaker and the audience.

On the other hand, a presentation comprises spoken and visual communication. It may be a slide show or an audiovisual presentation. The topic is presented not only verbally but also by displaying content in writing supported with charts, tables, images, or text. 

2. Skills Required

Image showing crowd responding to the presentor
Image Credit – Jamie Lopes

Public speaking is the act of presenting a topic verbally. It is often used as a medium to transfer information, but most importantly, to motivate and encourage the audience.

That said, the only input that goes into public speaking is the speaker, his or her verbal talent and style of communication, all elements displayed collectively as a package.

Whereas presentation requires the presenter to combine verbal and written content and to work with visual presentation programs such as Microsoft power point or Google slides.

3. Time for Preparation

Public speaking is more of an art than just a skill. While you are expected to do a good job when you have time at hand, but a good orator is the one who has the skills to resonate with the audience even when he or she is put on the spot!

At times public speaking may be spontaneous such as extempore. Extempore is a speech that is delivered without preparation. The speaker is given a topic on the spot and is given a minute or two to prepare on the same.

Compared with this presentation is a prepared act. Before the presentation, the presenter is ready with all the required information and facts intertwined in a pre-defined sequence. More often than not, a presentation is on a specific topic and the presenter is given ample amount of time for preparation.

4. Creativity Index

Public speaking is an art that is creative. It may be formal or informal in nature. The style of delivery of every individual is different from others. Every speaker possesses few unique qualities and has complete freedom to design his or her communication style.

Presentation is usually a formal offering. It is a form or act that has to be delivered according to certain pre-set instructions and guidelines. The presenter has limited scope and freedom to divert and add creativity to the presentation. For instance, the most common scope of limitation is the amount of time available to deliver a presentation.

5. Purpose of the Speaker

Image Credit – Product School

One of the forms of public speaking is debate. In a debate, every participant speaks either in favor or against the topic. The participant has to convince the audience to agree with his stance – whether right or wrong!

Most forms of public speaking work in a similar fashion. The purpose of the speaker is to convince the audience to agree with the stance of the speaker.

However, in a presentation, a topic is presented comprehensively. The topic is explained in detail highlighting various related points such as advantages, disadvantages, improvement areas, resolution plan, targets, or rewards. The primary aim of the presenter is to educate the audience on the topic, and perhaps drive a call to action.

6. Elements for Effectiveness

Effective public speaking requires the speaker to deliver so efficiently that at the end the audience stands out thrilled, amazed, and persuaded.

An impressive delivery secures more marks than intelligent content. A number of elements such as spontaneity, presence of mind, voice modulations, facial expressions, eye contact, or body language go into the making of an effective speaker. For example, in a singing reality show a participant is judged not only on the basis of his voice quality but also on the way he presents himself while singing, popularly known as the X factor.

Unlike public speaking, a presentation focuses more on content rather than on communication style. The key responsibility of the presenter is to provide the audience with detailed information on the topic covering all its aspects.

An example that may be quoted is that of an author narrating a story through a kid’s YouTube video. In the video, the author narrates the story using various voice modulations to make it entertaining for the kids and to make them feel every emotion of the characters. This case portrays the modern form of public speaking where face-to-face interaction has been eliminated.

At the same time the author presents the story using text, pictures, animations or effects in the video to make the kids visualize the characters and understand the flow of the story. 

7. Size of the Audience 

In public speaking, a speaker can address an audience ranging from a group of few people to a large gathering with thousands or millions of people. An interview wherein two people are in conversation with each other or a motivational speaker addressing a huge crowd may both be considered examples of public speaking.

On the other hand, a presentation is made to a defined set of people organized together in a small or mid-sized group with a limited number of members. To cite an example, students presenting a case study to the classmates or an advertising agency presenting to its prospective client.

Most large forms of presentations won’t usually exceed an audience that can fill an auditorium often limited to a few hundreds. Whereas, for public speaking, the audience can be a large gathering of thousands of people in a ground!

8. Type of Audience

Image Credit – Airfocus

Generally speaking, the type of audience present during a public speaking event is usually a group or a mass of unknown people. The speaker is neither acquainted with the audience nor related to it in any way. For instance, when a spiritual speaker addresses a group of people he is not familiar with the members of the audience.

As against it, in case of presentation the audience comprises a set of people who are familiar with the speaker. Citing the example of a business presentation, say a supervisor presenting to his team the road map to be followed to meet the annual targets, the presenter and every individual in the audience are connected to each other in professional capacity.

9. Motive of the Audience

In public speaking, the people listening to the speaker do not have a common vested interest and every individual in the audience has his own personal motive to fulfill. To elaborate, using the prior example of a spiritual speaker, it is possible that one individual may have resorted to spirituality to overcome his condition of depression and another individual may be listening to the speaker to learn how to control his anger.    

Contrary to the above, in the case of a presentation, all the members participating in the presentation and the speaker have a common vested interest towards which they all intend to work collectively. Drawing from the prior example of a business presentation, the supervisor and all the team members have a common goal of achieving the annual targets.

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