Presentation vs Report Writing: What’s the Difference?


I was sitting at my desk today while I stumbled upon a question by one of our patrons. It got me thinking if there was ever a difference between a Presentation and Report Writing? So, I did some research, and here’s what I found out!

The main difference between a Presentation and Report Writing is that a report is usually fairly extensive and gives a detailed account of the information on a particular topic. Whereas, a presentation is mostly a synopsis which highlights the key points that are important for the audience.

Since one of the key objectives of both – a presentation and a report is to give information to its intended audience, people often tend to confuse between the two. So, let’s understand the nuances in further detail.

Key Differences between Presentation and Report Writing

In order to make sure that we don’t end up creating an incorrect document the next we are tasked with an assignment, it is important for us to understand the differences between a presentation and report writing.

1. Purpose

As I mentioned earlier, one of the purposes of both a presentation and a report is typically to provide insights or useful information about a certain topic.

However, the purpose of creating a presentation is to share information in a short period of time; usually not more than 15-20 minutes. Thus, it ends up being a synopsis of a topic rather than giving a detailed account on a particular topic.

Report Writing on the other hand goes into the intricacies involved within a particular topic.

For a research oriented report writing, the purpose of the report is often to capture the detailed account for the research conducted including (but not limited to) purpose of the research, methodology adopted for conducting research, observations and findings, discrepancies (if any), and the conclusion.

Writing a report often scientific approach and requires a technical understand of the subject.

2. Depth of Information

Another difference between a report and a presentation is the depth of information that is shared in the two types of documents.

As mentioned in the previous point, a report goes in great depth capturing the thought behind almost every single action taken by the researcher; thereby giving an in-depth understanding on the topic.

A presentation on the other hand picks up key pieces of information and aims to provide very specific details usually in the interest of the available time of the audience.

A typical example of a report would be a corporate annual report which explains the details of actions taken by the organisation and how it performed. This information is shared across multiple paragraphs usually accompanied by a table giving the performance details. Whereas, a presentation of the annual report only summarizes the key points on the performance of the company throughout the year.

3. Information Delivery

A person giving a presentation to a large audience

Another major difference between a presentation and report writing is the mode of information delivery.

Since a presentation is a piece of summarized information, it requires a person to share additional information while delivering the presentation. A presentation mostly contains visual cues along with a few points on each slide, which is accompanied with a talk given by an individual giving the presentation.

A presentation can be given in-person to a small group of people or even to a few hundred individuals in a large auditorium. Alternatively, a presentation can also be delivered online to several thousands of people across the globe using different softwares.

A report on the other hand doesn’t necessarily require to be presented. Since it contains detailed information, it can be independently read by people at their comfort.

Reading a report can take time as it is often spread across several hundreds of pages.

4. Method of Engaging the Audience

Yet another difference between a presentation and report writing is the manner in which it engages its audience.

A presentation depends upon the skill of the presenter to engage the audience. A person giving a presentation not only needs to make the presentation visually appealing, it also requires the presenter to entertain the audience by means of story-telling and humor (as deemed necessary) while delivering the presentation.

A report on the other hand depends on the capability of an individual to command a language to engage its readers. It needs the person writing a report to have a good grasp of the language in order to describe the information accurately and as briefly as possible while holding the interest of the audience.

In a research study done in order to compare the understanding capability of science students based information consumed in the two formats – Presentation versus Report format, it was observed that students understood the topic better when it was explained through a presentation rather than a report.

Perhaps, one can conclude that presentation is usually more engaging than a detailed report.

5. Skills Needed

A cropped image of a person holding a pen while writing with a coffee mug in the background

Lastly, another difference between a presentation and report writing is the skills needed for each of the two activities.

Creating an effective presentation requires not only design skills, but also mastering the art of giving presentations! While the task of designing a presentation can often be outsourced, the knack of picking the correct topics to be covered in the presentation can’t be outsourced and is dependent on the presenter.

As a presenter, you don’t necessarily need to have great writing skills, but you surely need to know the art of story-telling, and leverage this for giving a presentation.

On the other hand, report writing requires creative (sometimes technical) writing skills. One also needs to be analytical.

How to Choose between a Presentation and a Report? Which is Better?

Choosing between creating a presentation or writing a report can be a difficult task for some. But, not being able to do so correctly can often lead to drastic (sometimes even embarrassing) circumstances.

Here are a few questions that you should ask yourself before starting creating a presentation or writing a report –

  • How much time do I have with my audience?
    If you have only about 20 to 30 minutes with you audience to share the required information, it is perhaps better to give a presentation than to write a report. A report (unless written in less than 10 pages), will usually take more than this much time to be completely understood.
  • Does your intended audience prefer to read or to hear/watch?
    People have their own preferences when it comes to consuming information. Some people like to read, while others prefer hearing or visual comprehension to gain knowledge. Be sure to ask them their preference, and make your decision accordingly.
  • What are you good at – Presentation or Report Writing?
    If the above two questions are not important or if your audience doesn’t have a preference, a good way to start would be to focus on your strengths. Ask yourself – what are you more comfortable with? Is a creating and delivering a presentation? Or, is it writing a report? Make a decision based on your capability. A little introspection can definitely go a long way in helping you choose the right direction.

How to Create an Attractive Presentation?

If you end up deciding to go down the presentation route, then we’ve got you covered.

The main objective of this site is to help you create better presentations!

Thus, be sure to check out a few other posts on this website that provide little ninja tips on how you can make your presentations attractive in a few easy steps!

A good place to start would be by reading this post –

Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any specific questions. We would love to help you create better presentations!

Final Thoughts

As we understood in this article, even though delivering a presentation and report writing have a similar objective of sharing interesting information, they both have their differences.

Knowing what mode of information sharing to choose can often be critical. Thus, I hope this post has helped you understand some of the key differences between the two and how to choose whether to create a presentation or write a report.

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