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What’s the difference between a speech and a presentation?

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Ancient Greeks made speeches to share their ideas

What is the difference between a speech and a presentation? Well, if I’m honest, these days people use the two terms interchangeably. Quite often, someone might be making a speech, and they’ll call it a presentation. Or somebody might be making a presentation. They’ll call it a speech. So don’t blame yourself if you’re a little bit confused as to what the difference is, but if we go back to the day, say, of the ancient Greeks, like Plato and Socrates and Aristotle. And they’d be standing amongst their peers and sharing their ideas. Of course, back in those days they did not have PowerPoint. They didn’t have Keynote. So all people had were the strength of their ideas, the ability to put a good debate together, a good arguments, and they would go for it. And they would be sharing what they thought, trying to persuade people. And they were giving speeches.

During a presentation you physically present something

Now, if we flash forward to today, we have a lot of tools at our disposal that we can use to present information to people. So for example, you may have PowerPoint slides or Keynote or Prezi, or we may have handouts to give to people. And we might be saying, “Okay. Follow along in the handout.” So when you’re physically presenting something to people, that’s where the term presentation has come from. So a presentation is when you’re physically presenting something. Maybe you are there to make a sale. Maybe you’re there to give a lecture, or maybe you’re there to present some information, some other information. That’s the presentation.

Best men make speeches, they don’t present material

A speech. If you think about, perhaps, someone getting married, or making a toast. And maybe the best man standing up to make the best man’s speech. Typically he wouldn’t have slides. He wouldn’t have a handout. Sometimes, I’ve been to some weddings where people do have something on the projector, and they’re showing funny pictures or telling emotional stories. But it’s not necessary to have those slides or those visual aids in order for that speech to take place.

A toast is typically a speech not a presentation

Likewise, if you are standing up to say a few words and make a quick toast to a friend on their birthday, let’s say. Again, that would be called a speech. Okay. A toast would be more likely to be a speech because it’s very unlikely, if it was done spontaneously, that you would have slides and presentation materials and other things to offer to the audience.

Presentations tend to involve slides or other material

So I hope that makes sense. If you are giving a speech, tends to be much more free flowing. You may not have any materials apart from the ideas in your head, and the ability to share your argument or to share your opinion. Whereas when it’s a presentation, you would likely have some slides or a handout or something to physically present to your audience. It could even be a demo, like it could be a model of something. Or it could be a demonstration of how something works. And that you would refer to as a presentation. Hope that helps see you next time. Bye.

Shola Kaye is an award-winning speaker, author and professional speaker coach with clients around the world. Her work has been mentioned in Forbes, Harper’s Bazaar and on the BBC.
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