Speech Versus Presentation

Woman presenter

Often in my presentation workshops and private speaker coaching sessions I am asked, “What is the difference between a speech and a presentation?” If you Google this question you will see many similar responses. A speech is only words with no slide support. A presentation is interactive with the use of slideware.

Today’s business world requires a hybrid scenario. We want to effectively communicate ideas while ensuring audience connection and retention in order to achieve our goals. Not everyone is an orator who can engage people for 30 minutes or more, so we tend to rely on slides for support and audience engagement. Used sparingly and selectively, slides can help underscore a message or illustrate an example.  Most importantly, however, you need to deliver your ideas with dynamic speech and animated body language. Breathe life into the content.

  1. Think conversation, not presentation. In the wise words of renowned writer and activist Maya Angelou, “People may not always remember what you say, but they do remember what they feel.”  It is difficult to bring passion into your words and engage people if you sound like a lecturer or appear detached from your content.
  2. Minimize the use of slides. The overuse of slides is a detriment to presentations and yet it is still one of the most common traps of the presenter, and is tedious for the audience.
  3. Do more homework. Spend more time on knowing your content rather than building superfluous slides and relying on reading bullets during the delivery.  A presentation slide show is not a rescue tool or a teleprompter.
  4. Balance text with images. Sometimes it is more expedient and compelling to use graphics rather than embarking on verbose explanations. When you do use bullets, keep them brief and make the font at least 32 point size.  Using one statement per slide with an accompanying image can have greater impact than a list of points.
  5. Share stories. Instead of simply delivering stark information use stories to support your ideas.  Corporate Storytelling is successfully on the rise.  Stories are easy to retain, easy to share, and more likely to be remembered.  They are an effective way to communicate benefits and consequences without being strident.
  6. Engage the audience through interaction. Ask consensus questions. Invite your audience to imagine or recall an event, or to consider a possibility or hypothetical.  This reinforces the conversational approach.

Recommended reading: Presentationzen by Garr Reynolds

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