There is a lot of debate right now at a popular social media site whether there is a difference between the speech and the presentation. In truth, the answer might depend on what country you live in.

Here in the States, we look at the speech as something that is probably ‘written’ out. Whether it is given word-for-word is another issue. Eulogies, toasts at weddings, sermons, graduation speeches, the State of the Union Address, and all those speeches we are hearing in the political scene are formal deliveries in which the speaker is most likely standing at a lectern.

Those who are gifted at giving a speech do not sound like they are reading or speaking from memory. They know their material inside and out and they treat their audience as if in conversation. And, they speak from their heart with emotion just as if they were talking to you. When President Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address in 1863 – which he was still penning on the train to Gettysburg – he read it, although I am confident he did not sound like he was reading it.

While both presentations and speeches can be either information or persuasive, the presentation is not as formal as a speech. I think you will find today that most presentations are geared for selling. Usually the speaker has something at the back of the room in the form of books, cds, DVDs, or a sign-up sheet for the next bootcamp! The presentation should never be read or memorized but should be spoken around blocks of information in which the speaker often adds or changes material according to the reaction of his/her audience.

In most cases, a speech does not involve visual aids. Politicans give speeches; financial advisors, on the other hand, give presentations and are often quick to begin with their Powerpoint slides before they even open their mouths to speak. Several years ago when I spoke to the Board of Education about the need to retain special education, I was giving a speech. Today, when I talk about the speaking voice or public speaking skills, I am giving a presentation.

Whether you are delivering a speech or a presentation, your goal in both cases is to inspire your audience. It may be to change their minds or to describe a particular topic or to sell a product at the back of the room. Whatever your goal, understanding the difference between the two is a necessity if you want to be successful public speaker.

Author's Bio: 

The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. To get started improving your presentation skills, click Voice Training and Presentation Skills for Nancy's free ebook.