The difference between public speaking and performing comes down to intention and the manner of presentation. Performing entails theatrics, rehearsed monologues, practiced interactions, and a polished face to the audience. Public speaking can certainly include some of those elements, specifically when featured as a Keynote Speaker at an event, for example. But, in general, public speaking has a broader scope and includes everything from being able to facilitate group discussions with ease, confidently answering questions on a subject matter, or presenting a proposal to a committee.

Public Speaking, in the most general sense, means speaking to a group of people as opposed to one-on-one conversation. Giving a toast at a wedding, saying a prayer at the beginning of an honorary event, or even reading names off at graduation all fall under this category. In addition, presenting your sales numbers to upper management, presenting your ideas at a conference or teaching a group of peers in your industry would all fall under the public speaking category. Sometimes public speaking does entail memorized or rehearsed elements, but it’s more the act of speaking and being able to communicate, rather than performance where we put the emphasis. Meanwhile, when we talk about performing, by and large, we mean instances where we are entertaining and employing theatrics to engage our audience. It is typically a less personal interaction and a  presentation that is done with showmanship being the goal rather than merely a way to communicate.

Certainly, there can be a bit of cross over between the two, but let’s address the primary difference between performing and public speaking. When performing, we tend to be focused on a rehearsed scenario and or material with an anticipated outcome. For example, we memorize and practice a monologue that is sure to bring laughter at the clearly defined punch line. We learn to pause long enough for the big laugh, then continue talking. Because we are performing, we’re not interacting directly with our audience.

With public speaking, although we do practice our speech or our material, we lean more heavily on poise and polish and the manner in which we deliver our message. Trained public speakers can do well in front of any size of audience, regardless of the subject, because they’ve learned to master their nerves and have learned how to carry themselves. Great public speakers have learned how to facilitate and manage audience interaction, whereas a performer focuses solely on their performance without it being necessary to directly engage with their audience. Comedians would be the exception here as they are experienced in both well-rehearsed material and mastery of audience interaction.

The mistake that amateur public speakers make is thinking that they have to be funny, that they have to entertain and be both performer and public speaker. This simply is not true. One does not have to be funny to be a great public speaker. In fact trying to be something one isn’t is a surefire way to fall flat in front of any audience outside of a theatrical environment.. The best public speakers embrace who they are and they play to their strengths and remain professional. Enthusiasm and passion are far more important for a public speaker to possess than one-liners, especially when it comes to business environments.

Hiring a public speaking coach can help you correct bad habits and help you hone your skills. In addition, a public speaking coach will provide you tips and tools for handling difficult situations and give you the confidence for all of your future speaking opportunities. If you’re interested in learning about our Public Speaking Coaching, contact Leah Hoppes at or call + 1888.723.7194