It’s easy to see the similarities between a speech and a business presentation. They both involve a person talking to multiple people at once, having their thoughts known out loud and expecting a response from them. But this is where the similarities end. Believe it or not, a “speech” and a “presentation” are not the same thing. Its one thing to present something in front of a group of people and it’s a whole different thing to get up on a stage and hold a speech.

Presentations are a bit more technical. They’re focused on a single subject and they’re centered on a major idea or concept. A speech on the other hand, feels like a more natural kind of presentation. You may have your ideas laid out and organized, but you must also be prepared to improvise, answer questions on the spot and act more natural. Here are some guidelines on the main differences between a speech and a presentation.

The Head

A business presentation often involves a person who’s supported by a single thing that differentiates it from any other form of public speech – a presentation. That’s right, whether it’s a few slides with diagrams or a yearly report, it always comes down to being backed up by visual stimuli for the group of people you’re addressing. And that’s where we come to the second thing that divides “a speech” and “a business presentation” – a group of people. Not a crowd, a group. It’s usually a group of investors, sales technicians or just an intern’s report of the company’s state of affairs. A business presentation is targeted at a small, well-known group of individuals who know what they’re in for, and for whom you specifically prepare a presentation. It takes knowledge of a certain field to successfully prepare a business presentation, so this is something that caters to, as the name says, business people seeking to make profit and develop their work.

The Tail

At the other end of the spectrum we have “a speech”. Given what we know about presentations so far, it’s easy to fill in the gaps and form a clear picture of what a speech is. A speech is targeted at a crowd, and it involves the speaker creating a vivid picture in the listeners’ heads by telling them about a certain topic. Whether it’s their vision of a better tomorrow, a straight-forward healthcare system for all, or man’s journey into the stars, the speaker engages the listeners and never lets them go. How? By something we call “persuasion”. Throughout history, we have examples of great speakers shaking the world with their words. Those words were often used to do both great and terrible things, but one thing they all had in common, was that they were persuasive. A speech is always intended to invoke action.

It doesn’t matter which sort of action; a donation to a children’s home or being a more responsible driver; the speaker concentrates on one topic and gives you his ideas, also known as his “What-How-Why”. These people are called “thought leaders”, because they think differently than most. It takes guts to walk up to a stage and talk to a murmur of a crowd, but more than that, it takes courage to express original ideas. We all remember Gandhi, but unfortunately, not everyone remembers Mike from down the street. A speech is only as effective as its speaker. Confidence equals influence.

The Choice

Now that we’ve looked at what “a speech” and what “a business presentation” means, we can easily choose which one we’ll use when expressing ourselves. They are far from the same, and learning to effectively pick and use different techniques of public speaking will often make a difference between a failed contract and a successful business venture.

Honing your skills and practicing to become a skilled speaker is fundamental in the business environment. A good presenter and public speaker is someone charismatic, eloquent and calm. If you can do that and not think about your fears, than you have the highest chances of succeeding and attaining your goals. Use your fear to your advantage, and make it a trump card. This is a sure way to achieve greatness in every endeavor.

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