Presentation Skills Vs. Conversation Skills

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conversation skills vs presentation skills

Presentation Skills Vs. Conversation Skills

Communication is all about exchanging thoughts and ideas with other people.  You may be in a conversation with someone, or you could be presenting to an audience. Both of these are forms of communication.

However, each form of communication requires you to use communication skills differently.  This could be because of several reasons such as:

  • Your audience
  • The content
  • The context

It is important to understand the difference between conversational and presentation skills. Below we will discuss this difference and how you can apply it.



1. Tone of Voice

Your tone of voice can be used to showcase how you feel about your message.  There are varying types of tone of voice:

  • Professional
  • Funny
  • Serious
  • Formal
  • Casual
  • Excited
  • Sarcastic

Your tone of voice will be different when presenting vs. when you are in a casual conversation.

Presenting – When you present information to a group, your tone should be more professional. This is because you represent your company and yourself in the workplace when you present. You will want to vary your tone to keep your audience interested.  This means not being monotone. For example, you may start your presentation with a story to emphasize your point. You can vary your tone with different voice pitches. Such as starting with a lower register and then working your way up as your build excitement. One thing to note as you vary your pitch, you still want to remain professional.  

Conversation – Conversations allow you to explore almost all of the different types of tone of voice. This is because conversations range from simple exchanges about weekend plans to stories about past heartache. Your tone of voice may change to a more serious tone as your conversation moves forward, or you may recall a funny story and interject with a lighter tone. The key is to make sure you use your tone to emphasize your message.

Your tone of voice should always reflect the message you are trying to send. This goes for both presenting and conversations. 


2. Listening

Listening can help you understand how your audience feels about your message. However, there is a difference in how you approach listening when presenting vs. in a conversation.

Presenting – Even though you are most likely the only person speaking during your presentation, it is still important for you to be listening to the audience.  This is because your audience will show you whether they understand your message or resonate with your message.  For example, when you give a presentation, and your audience claps loudly about one of your points, you can feel confident they understand and resonate with your message.  However, if you’ve just made an important point and see the audience staring back at you blankly, or worse, nodding off, then you know your point has not resonated with them. It can be hard to change course in real-time, but the more you pay attention to the audience’s cues, the more you will adapt when giving your presentation.

presentation skills vs conversationConversationListening is a critical skill necessary for conversations. This is because you cannot truly connect with someone in a conversation if you aren’t listening to what the other person is saying.  For example, let’s say you are in a conversation with your coworker.  They told a story about a recently-finished work project that was really difficult.  You, as the listener, need to be practicing active listening.  This means making eye contact, nodding your head as they speak, and responding in a way that shows you heard and understood their message.  If you didn’t actively listen and then interjected with a story unrelated to work projects, your coworker would feel like you didn’t care about their story or them.  It is so important to practice active listening in a conversation.

When you listen to your audience, you will be able to tailor your message so everyone can understand your point.


3. Delivery

How you deliver a message can significantly impact whether your message is understood or not. This is because your intent doesn’t always match your impact. Your delivery is more about how you say your message.

Presenting – When presenting information, your presentation needs to be very clear and effective.  This is because you want your audience to understand your message.  For example, if you present your company’s performance to a group of shareholders, you want to make sure they understand how much growth the company has seen over the last year.  If they don’t, the shareholders may feel like the leadership isn’t doing their jobs. Presenting information requires you to be clear, concise, and effective.

Conversation – Your delivery is just as important when you are in a conversation.  You still want to be mindful of your intent matching your impact.  Casual conversations can lead to job opportunities and more.  Your conversations will be better when you are mindful of your delivery.  For example, if you are telling a story that is meant to be serious, you wouldn’t deliver it in a joking manner. If you do, the people you speak with may be confused about your intentions.

You can practice your delivery in both instances by recording yourself speaking.  Listen back to the recording and see if your intention matches your impact.


4. Body Language

Your body language during a presentation and conversation can enhance your message. 

Presenting – When you present, you want to have confident body language.  This means standing or sitting up straight, with your shoulders back, and your head held high. You can also use your body language to emphasize your points.  For example, you can hold up fingers when speaking or show differences with your hands. Be mindful not to make large gestures or exaggerated facial expressions. You always want to keep in mind your professionalism.

Conversation – Your body language during a conversation is similar to tone of voice; you can explore the different types of body language. Casual conversations allow you to have exaggerated facial expressions and grand gestures. However, if you have conversations in the workplace, you will want to keep your body language more professional. For example, you will want to keep your arms relaxed at your sides rather than crossed when listening to someone. This shows you are open to the other person’s message. You will want to maintain good eye contact and present yourself as confident when you are speaking. 

Your body language will help you emphasize your message and show others you are open to their message.


5. Audience

presenting skills vs conversation skillsWho you are speaking to or with is your audience.  Your audience will determine many different aspects of your message.  For example, explaining how your product works will be much different if you speak to a group of investors rather than your peers.

Presenting – You want to keep your audience at the forefront of your mind as you present. This is because the entire presentation is for them. For example, if you have a lot of technical terms related to your new technology, you will want to simplify them, so your audience understands what you are saying. However, if you are presenting to a group of peers – you wouldn’t necessarily have to simplify those concepts. Another thing to remember is why your audience is listening to you.  If your audience is there to get an update on the progress of your project, you won’t want to go off on tangents. You need to stick to the point when presenting.

Conversations – Even though conversations are less formal, you will still want to keep your audience in mind. While your conversations don’t need specific points, you will still want to make sure you aren’t speaking just to speak. Make sure you don’t dominate the conversation and allow others to talk. For example, if someone is speaking about a restaurant they went to last weekend and you just remembered a story about that restaurant, don’t interrupt them. Wait until they have finished to tell your story. Your conversations will also be different depending on who your audience is.  For example, the conversations you have with your boss will look different from the conversations you have with your peers. 

The way you present to an audience will look different than casually conversing. However, you always want to be mindful of who you are speaking to or with.

Conversations and presentation skills may be different; however, they require strong communication skills. The more confident you are in your communication, the better presenter and conversationalist you will be.


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