Presenting vs. Speaking

Although people often speak about a PRESENTATION and a SPEECH as if they are the same thing, they are quite different. They have different goals.And they use different techniques to achieve their different goals.

The primary goal of a PRESENTATION is to communicate information or to teach people skills. When you’re giving a presentation, you are in effect a teacher or a trainer.

A PRESENTATION can be as brief as a two-minute update at a staff meeting or as long as a five-day or two-week seminar.

Status reports, briefings, training seminars, breakout sessions, product demonstrations, sales presentations, round-tables, research paper presentations, lectures, chalk talks, teleconferences, and webinars — all are PRESENTATIONS.

To improve the PRESENTATIONS you give:

* Keep them practical. Provide information or skills that will help your audience solve a problem or achieve a goal.

* Give participants a say in determining what they want to learn and how they want to learn it.

* Build on people’s experience and knowledge.

* Make your session highly interactive, with time for questions, discussion, and activities.

* Make use of all audio-visual resources available: PowerPoint slides, handouts, flip charts, white boards, video, and the like.

A SPEECH is less about imparting information and skills and more about creating a change in how your audience thinks and feels.

A SPEECH should always be brief, rarely — if ever — exceeding 50 minutes. Most speeches, especially those given by leaders, should be 20 minutes or less. (Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech lasted six minutes. The Gettysburg Address took two minutes. Roosevelt’s address to the nation after Pearl Harbor — “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” — was seven minutes.)

Toasts, acceptance speeches, keynote addresses,  commencement addresses, eulogies, tributes, after-dinner speeches, motivational and inspirational speeches, pep talks, and political speeches — all are SPEECHES.

To improve the SPEECHES you give:

* Develop one — and only one — idea. (But make it a good idea.)

* Keep it short and simple. Use a clear outline and parallel structure. Repeat yourself often.

* Use visuals aids in small doses, if at all. (Avoid using PowerPoint as much as possible.)

* Tell stories. Stories help make any speech come alive in the hearts and minds of your audience. They are the most effective tool in a speaker’s toolbox.

* Be personable. (Your relationship with the audience is paramount.)

* Appeal primarily to people’s imaginations and emotions.

These ideas are courtesy of Chris Witt from

‘Til next time.


Darren Fleming



Posted in public speaking, public speaking tips, Understanding your audience

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