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Are You Delivering a Speech or Giving a Presentation?

lecternWhen asked to stand and speak to an audience, be it to 4 people or 400, you must decide whether you will be delivering a speech or giving a presentation because the two are different. [Having recently heard a commercial in which the speaker talks about giving a meeting, I disagree. We hold meetings; we deliver or give speeches; and, we give, make, or deliver presentations.]

Often used interchangeably, the speech and the presentation are not one and the same. Barack Obama delivers a very dynamic speech; however, his ability to give a presentation needs work because he does not speak well ‘off the cuff.'

Why the big deal? Because speeches should be read; however, you shouldn’t sound like you are reading. And that ability takes practice. [Listen to audio books: good readers don’t sound like they are reading. Authors, who sometimes read their own works, often do.] With the speech, your script should be typed in a readable font, like Arial or Verdana, and in bold. By the way, as you age, you will discover the font getting larger!

Presentations, on the other hand, should be spoken, not read, in which you talk around bullet points that you have on note cards – bullet points that are very easy to see at a glance. Bullet points are not sentences; they usually consist of one or two words, or a phrase, that denote a paragraph or more of information.

While both speeches and presentations need practice – lots of practice – the issue with your speech is to become extremely familiar with your words, much like playing a piece of music in an orchestra in which you have not memorized it but you are familiar enough with the phrases or lines to know much of it without needing to look at it. The same holds true for the speech. You know much or all of the sentences but you still need to refer to your script to keep on track.

Why not memorize your speech? I do not advocate memorization because there is a tendency to sound rote (and the greater likelihood of not being able to find your spot should you forget where you are). In addition, while most speeches are not as long as presentations, try memorizing 10 or 15 minutes of material! You will end up spending so much time in the process of memorization, that you will lose the ability to say your words in a communicative manner. The result will sound memorized. Instead, know your material to the point that you can speak your words looking more at your audience than at your script.

On the other hand, giving your presentation will be different in that you will be talking around bullet points. Aside from your 3 to 4 lines of introductory material which I do want you to memorize (getting through your opening flawlessly will bolster your confidence), you should never memorize or read a presentation, again because you are ‘talking’ your presentation. In that sense, were you to give your presentation on several different occasions, it would sound different each time.

Practice your presentation in blocks: practice and memorize your opening; practice each subsection or subtopic of your development as a complete whole in itself being able to cover the bullet points you have listed for each block or section; practice your closing. If you can approach your presentation by means of these blocks, you will find it easier to keep on track and you will be more comfortable with your delivery.

So the next time you are to address an audience, either deliver your speech so that you do not sound like you are reading it, or give your presentation by means of bullet points around which you speak. And, in both cases, treat your audience just as if you were having a conversation in your living room.

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