You have just been assigned a topic and you have the option to either give a presentation or speak publicly about it. It is your choice. You may think to yourself how do I choose? Aren’t they both the same? And if they are not the same then which would be the best option for me?

It is a common misconception that all forms of public speaking are the same. However, this is not the case. For example, giving a presentation and public speaking are very different, even though they both require you to speak in front of others. Knowing the difference is essential and it enables you to address your audience in the most appropriate way.

If you would like to know more about those differences you have come to the right place. This article will discuss exactly what public speaking is, what a presentation is, the similarities, the differences between the two, and the benefits of knowing them.

What Does Public Speaking Involve?

Public speaking involves giving an oral presentation by using excellent communication skills in front of a group of people. It requires enthusiasm as well as the ability to engage and connect with the audience. Public speaking should also be very natural; however, you must be able to express your thoughts in a coherent, and easy-to-understand manner.

What Does Giving A Presentation Involve?

Presentations are more technical. Giving a presentation involves speaking with a specific objective in mind that is based on a main idea or concept. At the same time, you must coordinate various slides or images to reinforce emphasize the objective and show the possible outcome.

What Are The Similarities Between A Presentation And Public Speaking?

Before we discuss the differences, it is important to briefly discuss the similarities that have caused many to be confused. The similarities are:

  • Both public speaking and a presentation involve a person talking to multiple people at once, expressing their thoughts while awaiting a response from those listening.
  • Both require excellent communication skills.
  • It is important for both that you try to avoid using little “filler” words, such as “uh” “like,” and “you know.” These tend to be very distracting to the audience regardless of the form of public speaking you choose to use.
  • Often everything will go smoothly, but sometimes there could be a mishap. These things happen whether you are giving a presentation or public speaking. The key is to be ready to joke about it. This will help you to be less flustered. By laughing along with your audience, you can defuse the mishap and move forward without becoming even more flustered and nervous.

What Are The Differences Between A Presentation And Public Speaking?

What Is The Difference Between A Presentation And Public Speaking?

Now that we know the similarities, it is time to discuss what sets a presentation and public speaking apart. The differences between the two are as follows:

1. The Format Of The Communication Style

Traditional public speaking requires that you speak in front of a large audience or a crowd. This can include anywhere from giving a simple speech, entertaining others as a comedian, or addressing an entire nation. With modern, advanced technology you can do so by means of video conferencing.

Giving a presentation requires a little more. Instead of only involving spoken communication, visual communication is also needed. It may be in the form of a slideshow or an audiovisual presentation to display what you are discussing. You can choose from a variety of ways to do this including images, charts, text, tables, etc.

2. They Require Different Skills

With public speaking the attention is entirely on you while you are conveying your information to motivate or encourage your audience. This being the case, your verbal skills and the style of communication is very important. Finding the balance between the two can make you even more effective as a speaker.

When giving a presentation you must combine verbal skills along with written content and different technical aspects to present your information. There are multiple programs designed for enhancing visual presentation including Google slides and Microsoft PowerPoint. PowerPoint is used very commonly and helps you create different slides that are aesthetically pleasing to your audience and easy to understand.

3. Measurability Of Effectiveness

The effectiveness of a public speaker is measured by how you are able to interact with your audience. Everything comes into play. The way you make eye contact, your body language, your tone of voice and facial expressions. Also, your ability to be spontaneous makes all the difference. Keeping your audience engaged and, on their toes, will not only entertain them but it can also persuade them and keep them hanging on your every word.

In contrast, a presentation is more so about the content that is being delivered rather than the way it is communicated. A presentation is viewed as being effective if the presenter provides the information in a highly detailed and thorough manner by means of visual aids.

4. The Amount Of Time Needed For Preparation

When it comes to public speaking, most of the time you are given the opportunity to prepare beforehand. However, there are other circumstances where you may be put on the spot and have to do an impromptu speech. Spontaneity is important because as a public speaker, you may be given a topic with only a couple of minutes to prepare a speech, so you need to be ready to expect the unexpected.

In contrast, you have ample amount of time to prepare for a presentation. This being the case, you can prepare the information in advance with all of the necessary information, facts, and visual aids that you plan to present. You will also be given the specific topic that must discussed in advance.

5. Audience Size

When it comes to being a public speaker, you can be used to address an audience ranging in size anywhere from a few people to millions of people.

For a presentation it is the complete opposite. It’s a limited preset organized group of people, a smaller more intimate group. For example, this can include presenting a new business proposal in front of a potential client. Generally, a presentation will not exceed a group of a few hundred people in the audience.

6. Location

When giving a speech you may be at a podium on a stage facing an audience. When giving a presentation you are usually standing in a conference room or sitting across from clients in a smaller setting.

7. Creativity Window

Public speaking is a creative and skillful art. It can be done in a formal or informal way. You have a lot of freedom. It’s really dealer’s choice in the way you chose to design and present your communication style.

On the other hand, presentations tend to be more formal. Presentations often come with preset guidelines and instructions that need to be followed. You do not have the freedom that is allowed for public speaking. Your creative ability is also limited.

8. Your Target Audience

When it comes to public speaking, the audience is usually filled with unknown people who do not have a relationship or acquaintance with the speaker. However, when delivering a presentation, the audience will consist of people that the speaker is familiar with. Also, the audience will be familiar with or have a connection to the organization or the topic.

9. The Overall Goal Of The Speaker 

As a public speaker, your overall goal generally tends be to convince your audience to agree with the information that you are delivering, even if it is sometimes just your opinion. This can come in many different forms with the most popular being in the form of a debate.

When it comes to giving a presentation, your goal is different. Your goal is to educate your audience, with the end result possibly moving them to take action. If you are giving a presentation, you will have to explain the topic that you are presenting in detail in order for them to take the intended course of action. You would highlight the advantages, disadvantages, ways that there can be improvement, ways to resolve any issues that may come up, and the benefits of doing so.

10. The Goal Of The Audience

For the public speaking audience, each person has their own individual goals. They are working to improve their lives, but each person can walk away with a different goal after listening to the same speaker. They are not interested in doing things collectively, instead, they all go their own separate ways.

In contrast, with regards to a presentation, all those involved have a collective interest and goal. And in some way, they work in harmony to achieve the goal.

Final Review

Although presentations and public speaking have some similarities, they are different. Public speaking focuses on your communication skills, your ability to connect to your audience and the art of persuasion. While doing so, you can address anywhere from a few people to millions of people at a time. A presentation combines communication skills along with the technical aspects of electronic or written visual aids within a limited group with common goals. 


Now that you know the difference between giving a presentation and public speaking you will be able to successfully plan accordingly for your audience. Whether you are giving a presentation or speaking publicly you can tailor your delivery method to be more effective! Those in your audience will be impressed!

For more resources to develop your public speaking skills while you are in the comforts of your own home, please check out the article ‘Online Resources for Public Speaking‘. If you would like to leverage the best presentation software for your next big speaking engagement please read the article 'Best Presentation Technology tools'.


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Posted in  Public Speaking Topics   on  January 4, 2022 by  Dan W ,   What Is The Difference Between A Presentation And Public Speaking? [The Top 10]

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