Public Speaking vs Communication: What’s The Difference?

Difference between Public Speaking and Communication

We communicate almost every day in our life. With our family, friends, colleagues, and other people for daily needs and exchange of ideas, thoughts, and opinions. How then, do you think is the act of public speaking different from that of communication?

The main difference lies in the way of communication. Oral or verbal communication is often a back-and-forth exchange of thoughts and opinions between two or more people and is generally an everyday phenomenon. On the other hand, public speaking is also a type of oral communication wherein one person, generally, the speaker takes on the task of addressing a crowd and trying to motivate or educate them on a certain topic.

CategoryPublic Speaking Communication
1. Number of People More Fewer
2. Length of Conversing Long and on one personShort and Back and Forth
3. Mode of CommunicationGenerally in-personIn-person, call or text
4. Receptiveness Less due to more audienceMore due to less people
5. Mode of Delivery Mostly Formal Formal or Informal
6. Practice Requires extensive practice Does not require practice

Let’s look at an example to clarify this theory further. So, a colleague talking to their boss regarding the duties that they have completed for the month will be an example of communication, whereas when a boss schedules an event or talk to address all the colleagues in the office to guide them about their duties and responsibilities associated will be a form of public speaking. 

A lot of people often misconceive the idea of public speaking and communication. Even though they might be related on a continuum of conversation, they are fairly far away from each other.

Differences between Communication and Public Speaking  

1. Number of People

Verbal communication generally involves two or more people and a flow of exchanging conversation in terms of ideas and opinions whereas public speaking involves one speaker and a large number of people as the audience. Here there is less exchange and the focus is on hearing the speaker speak on the topic. Thus, communication generally involves fewer people whereas public speaking involves more people.

Number of people involved in communication and public speaking

2. Length of Conversing

Verbal communication can be seen as a short back and forth conversation as both the parties speak within a short span and the focus isn’t only on one person. On the other hand, a speech or talk is considerably long and the speaker has to speak for at least 5-7 minutes if not any less. While communication may go on beyond 5-7 minutes, it does not involve one person speaking at length which is the main difference between that and the latter.

3. Mode of Communication

When you communicate with friends or colleagues, it can be either telephonic, via texts, or in person. Thus, various modes of communication that are available in interpersonal communication are limited in the case of public speaking. Mostly, public speaking happens in an in-person setup. Although with the advent of technology, recorded videos are available, that’s rarely the only way of delivery.

4. Receptiveness

When two or more people communicate amongst themselves, they can make out if the other person is understanding the context and is being receptive to it or zoning out of the conversation. This is not possible with each individual in a public speaking setup. While the speaker can glance around to see the faces and get a jist of the crowd, receptiveness is better understood in interpersonal communication and not much in public speaking.

Mode of communication in public speaking

5. Mode of Delivery

Communication can be formal or informal depending on the context, that is with friends, colleagues, or boss. Public speaking on the other hand is mostly formal, and there are certain etiquettes and ways of presentation that the speaker has to follow. Pace, tone, and conduct are thus of more importance in public speaking as compared to interpersonal communication.

6. Practice

You generally don’t have to rehearse and practice the content that you are going to speak with your friends, family, or colleagues. On the other hand, public speaking requires multiple rehearsals and extensive practice of the content that has to be delivered so that the speaker doesn’t forget or fumble on stage, and thus gives an excellent delivery.

If you want to navigate ways to rehearse your content before the final presentation, head on to the article on 13 Tips For Rehearsing A Presentation where we guide you with tips and tricks for a smooth practice before an effective delivery!

I hope you have gained a lot of insight into how the two types of discourse are perceived but differ considerably in their delivery from the following pointers. Even though they have significant differences, they also share some similarities. Let’s move on to that next!

Similarities between Communication and Public Speaking

Public Speaking and Communication
1. Involve People
2. Builds Connections
3. Motivates, Educates and Inspires People
4. Includes Feedback
5. Helps in Persuasion

1. Involves People

The act of interpersonal communication and public speaking involves people. While the number differs, there are people at the other end who you are trying to communicate or converse with.

2. Builds Connections

Both ways of conversation can help build strong bonds and relations. You can bond over informal chats with a friend or a colleague and on similar points of view with the audience through an interactive chat. Thus, both forms help in building connections with people.

Public speaking and communication builds connections

3. Can be used to motivate, inspire or educate people

Informal communication and public speaking can be used to motivate, inspire and educate people. You could help a friend understand and encourage themselves towards something and you can use the same tactic with a larger audience.

4. Involves Feedback

Whether it is a conversation with a friend or a speech, both modes of communication involve verbal and nonverbal feedback. You can ask your friend or the audience to either verbally tell you or fill out a form, or you can take up the task of gaining nonverbal feedback by understanding the facial expressions of the recipient.

Thus, the act of communication can be a complex one, and understanding the minute differences that make up different types of conversations can be a task. But here is a simple way to understand – Public speaking is also a type of communication. However, it is a more formal, large scale, and organized flow of content as compared to a conversation which is usually informal, small scale, and free-flowing.

5. Helps in Persuasion

Both forms of conversation, whether an informal one with a group of people or a public speech can persuade people. You can use the right kind of information, tone and voice modulation to bring the audience to terms and believe the content of your topic. Of course, this should be used with caution and not to gain any advantage.

Why is then communication easy and public speaking so hard?

A lot of people can easily communicate with their peers and colleagues but shiver at the thought of giving a speech or talk. There is a composition of social, self, and biological factors that can affect the ability to publicly speak, and some of them include –

  • The Self-efficacy or our own beliefs about how well we can do the task
  • The evolutionary predisposition to a new stimulus
  • Lack or inadequate rehearsal of the content

and much more! If you too are wondering why this task seems like an ordeal to you, check out the article on 9 Reasons Why Public Speaking Is So Hard where we explain the reasons for difficulty with public speaking and how you can take a step to overcome it!

Importance of Communication and Public Speaking

As we come towards the end of the article, it’s vital to look at why the two modes of conversation are important. Both, interpersonal communication and public speaking can help us in the following ways: –

1. Enable us to put forth our viewpoints clearly

Both the forms of communication, when practiced can allow us to express our opinions to our peers or large audience, thus enabling us to converse, motivate or educate others. When we lack effective communication skills, we often forgo mentioning the important points and thus can’t express them clearly.

2. Allows us to contribute to social groups

No one enjoys standing silently in a social group. Thus, via effective communication, one can contribute to the conversations and be an active member of their circle. This can also be used to an advantage when you want to motivate, persuade or inspire people toward your opinion.

Public Speaking and Communication help in Career Advancement

3. Helps advance in career development

One needs to speak professionally in either interviews or selection rounds, to colleagues or supervisors for effective communication of work. Hence, that is only possible when one is well versed in the way of communicating with people. If one ignores the importance of communication here, chances of being unnoticed and dissatisfaction can arise.

If you want to know more about the importance of communication, check out this article on 13 Reasons Why Communication Is Important In Life, where we tell you exactly why you need the right kind of communication in life.

To conclude, communication and public speaking are basic elements of conversing with people. One needs to be well aware and adaptive to the two modes to effectively function well and put forth their ideas and opinions. One should, therefore, try to build a strong base for communication on an interpersonal level and gradually transfer that when taking on a public speech or talk.

We hope this article helped you better understand the difference between communication and public speaking, along with its commonalities, importance, and need in everyday life.

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