Presentations Vs Public Speaking: Which is Which?

They’re the same thing, aren’t they?

Sure, there are lots in common – both need to be heard, both need to be seen as credible etc. so many of the skills of one are transferable to the other – but on that basis, trucks and cars are the same too: both need to steer, carry things, accelerate and brake. In reality of course, you’d not use a car to carry a few tonnes of rubble and you’d not use a truck to pop down to the shops.

So what are the elements in common, what are those elements which are unique to each and – perhaps most importantly – what happens when you use the wrong tool for the job? Let me say at the outset that I’m not sure there’s a definitive answer to any of these questions and some of the definitions I’m going to use are simply mine, formed to give a handy vocabulary for the discussion.

That said then, (for me) presentations tend to be more likely to be technical and detailed, perhaps to a smaller, more involved audience. Examples would perhaps include things like making progress reports on a piece of research to the agency who has commissioned that research: there’s a specific, detailed agenda, such as whether or not you’re on timetable, over budget, making progress etc. as well as the presentation of the results of the research itself. It’s likely that the commissioning agency will be at least partially responsible for the agenda in these circumstances. In short a presentation is likely to be more technical, detailed and interactive.

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