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What's the Difference Between a Formal Speech, a Sales Presentation, and a Technical Presentation?
by Barbara Rocha

Call it anything you want. It’s still talking.

The simple answer to that question: the audience. You can use the method of organizing we’ve talked about (which is also in Getting Over Yourself: A Guide to Painless Public Speaking and More) for all of them. Just keep in mind who you’re talking to.

The organization is essentially the same for all of them: the opening should get them to listen. You need to know where you’re going and then get there. There needs to be a logical flow from point to point. The close should leave them feeling complete–you’ve given them a reason for listening and connected everything to their work or lives.

As always, it should be credible, conversational, convincing. And you need to be sincere. If you use visual aids, they need to be relevant and meaningful to your audience.

So any differences are audience-driven. Who are they? Why are they there? How much do they know? What’s the reason for their being together? What are they expecting from you? What kind of people are they? (Plus what time of day will you be speaking?)

Your answers will direct your choice of examples and the facts you need to include. Whatever those answers are, your approach should be conversational because that makes you more believable and credible. Your version of conversational may vary with the audience, but that doesn’t mean giving up being yourself. If you start using words and word patterns that aren’t natural for you, you’ll succeed in making yourself stiff, unnatural, and paranoid.

Your own natural speech patterns vary depending on whether you’re talking to a 5 year-old, your brother, your grandmother, a coworker or your boss. They’re all you; you just adjust your style, your words, and your examples based on the audience.

Keep that in mind when you’re organizing any kind of talk. Get off yourself. Focus on the audience and how you can help them. You’ll find there’s not that much difference in the rest of the process.