What is the Difference between Public Speaking and Presenting?

After my post last week (Presentation and Public Speaking Terms to Know), a reader emailed me asking, “What is the difference between public speaking and presenting?” Admittedly, I did not know because, in today’s common language, people use the two words interchangeably, although they have two distinct differences (see below). When it comes to coaching public speaking and presentation skills, there is a big difference, and I luckily and subconsciously nailed it. (Hint: The difference between the two types of coaching is actually my biggest pet peeve with “public speaking consultants”.)

Let’s start off with the official definitions. According to web_offer_banner_video_6steps_communicationDictionary.com:

  • Public Speakingnoun
    • 1. the act of delivering speeches in public.
    • 2. the art or skill of addressing an audience effectively.
  • Presentingverb (used with object)
    • 1. to furnish or endow with a gift or the like, especially by formal act: to present someone with a gold watch.
    • 2. to bring, offer, or give, often in a formal or ceremonious way: to present one’s card.
    • 3. afford or furnish (an opportunity, possibility, etc.).
    • 4. to hand over or submit, as a bill or a check, for payment: The waiter presented our bill for lunch.
    • 5. to introduce (a person) to another, especially in a formal manner: Mrs. Smith, may I present Mr. Jones?
    • 6. to bring before or introduce to the public: to present a new play.
    • 7. to come to show (oneself) before a person, at a place, etc.

Obviously, today’s language uses the word presenting and presentation differently then each word is defined. The biggest difference between the two terms, public speaking is a noun and presenting is a verb. Thesaurus.com doesn’t even list presenting as a synonym of public speaking. The noun version of presenting is a presentation, which just means “an act of presenting or the state of being presented”. 

So I dug into the unofficial references (e.g. Google) and found that difference between presentation and public speaking training is quite grand, and you need to know what differentiates them before you ever hire a consultant for a presentation.

Public speaking training involves the physical aspects of speaking such as vocals, eye contact, hand gestures, and body language. I call all this “Mechanics” in my S-I-M-P-L-E philosophy.

Obviously, that is just one part of my philosophy, so what does the rest of my acronym cover? It covers presentation training, which also includes developing a speech goals & thesis, crafting an outline, developing a visual aid like PowerPoint slides (if you need a visual aid), practicing your presentation, delivering the presentation [that part overlaps with public speaking], answering Q&A, and debriefing your presentation.

My S-I-M-P-L-E philosophy covers the entire skill set a speaker needs. Many times people think they need help with the mechanics, but I find 9 out of 10 times that they are uncomfortable with the physical aspects of speaking because they haven’t done the proper preparation for the presentation such as brainstorming, creating goals and an outline, and actually rehearsing the presentation.

As you can see by the number of links to my other blog posts, I have a holistic view of speaking and my S-I-M-P-L-E philosophy stands for:

  • Strategy
  • Interest
  • Mechanics
  • Personal
  • Language
  • Engage

Now you know the difference between public speaking and presenting. If you’re interested in learning more about my S-I-M-P-L-E philosophy and curriculum, check out my independent learning presentation skills course, SpeakU, or download one free presentation guides from my library.

Additional Resources

  • Get strategies and best practices for developing winning presentations by downloading one of my presentation ebooks.
  • Master winning presentations by graduating from SpeakU!
  • Want even more presentation skills and tips? Follow Speak Simple on Facebook and SlideShare.

How Speak Simple Can Help You

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