Key Differences Between Public Speaking and Oral Communication

Public speaking and oral communication are distinct terms that are often wrongfully used synonymously. It’s partly due to the lack of knowledge about the basics of public speaking that novice speakers or audiences put both the terms under one umbrella. But, if you’re starting to learn more about public speaking, we’re going to present you with some must-know differences between public speaking and oral communication. 

Before we jump into the differences, let’s dissect and understand both the terms separately. 

What is Oral Communication?

What is oral communication

Oral communication is what you do on daily basis with your boss, colleagues etc.

Oral communication refers to any communication that’s done verbally without using the written word. It can be an interview, a phone call among two friends, or a group’s casual discourse. Meaning, a conversation among individuals irrespective of being one on one, directly or over the telephone, is an example of oral communication.

Oral communication is used to share ideas, thoughts, and information. It helps in defining our relationships with people, comprehending reality, organizing ideas and sharing experiences with one another. All in all, your oral communications throughout the day shape your attitude towards the world. 

There are two parties in a typical oral communication—an orator and a listener. An oral communication can immediately set the tone of relationship between the orator and the listener.

It’s usually used in meetings or gatherings. In most professional meetings, oral communication is preferred as it allows you a better opportunity to connect with the listener, increases the level of understanding and also transparency, moreover builds trust. 

There are five types of oral communication:

– Elevator pitch

– Formal conversations

– Informal conversations

– Business presentations

– Speeches

Oral communication is a quick and easy way of presenting your thoughts. You can easily convey ideas directly to anyone you want to. Plus, it is a secure form of communication for discussing critical and confidential topics as there is a low risk of misunderstandings and no trail of evidence. Another nifty advantage of oral communication is that it’s the best medium of expressing your feelings if you wish to resolve conflicts.

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What is Public Speaking?

What is public speaking

Oration refers when you address the live audience on a certain topic.

Public speaking, which is also known as oration, is when a person communicates orally to a live audience. The idea of effective public speaking comes from thinkers & leaders of Rome who believed that one can successfully leave a mark on the listener’s psyche through oration. 

The act of public speaking is ‘rhetoric’ as the orator can use it to fulfill their desired objectives which is usually to motivate, inform and educate the audience. 

Public speaking plays a crucial role in the professional world as nearly 70% of senior executive roles involve some form of public speaking. 

Good public speaking skills can lead you to places where super communication won’t. It creates opportunities and also augments the quality of personal and social life one leads. 

Main Differences Between Public Speaking and Oral Communication 

Difference between public speaking and oral communication

Let’s understand the main difference between oral communication & public speaking.

Now that you have a fair understanding of both the terms, it’s time to dive into the differences between public speaking and oral communication. It’s important to understand that the differences between public speaking and oral communication lie in the objective, audience, mode of delivery, type of content, and a few other aspects. 

– The main aspect of public speaking is the involvement of a live audience. On the other hand, oral communication can be carried out with or without the presence of a live audience. 

– Another difference between public speaking and oral communication is that public speaking’s purpose is to inform, motivate and convince people whereas oral communication is preferred by professionals to set a tone and communicate efficiently.

– Public speaking has a higher rate of distortion. Since it’s rhetoric, a good orator can spill any sort of information they like to skew the audience’s preference in their favor. It’s not ideal but there’s a possibility. On the contrary, oral communication is usually carried out in professional settings. Thus, it has a lower rate of distortion.

– In addition to date, if you consider the qualification required, there’s a big difference between public speaking and oral communication. When you think about a public speaker, it’s usually a person of high credentials who is potentially a thought leader in their field. Whereas, for oral communication, there is no necessity of literacy. 

The Bottom Line

Even though public speaking and oral communication are often interchangeably used, they are not the same thing. It’s a basic mistake committed by amateurs and professionals. 

Though public speaking is a type of oral communication. It possesses its own distinct features which makes it different from other forms of communication. It literally means speaking to the public. Ideally, the public is a live audience who is interested in listening to your thoughts about a particular issue. 

There’s spontaneous and genuine feedback, the tone is informal, the audience is not intimidated by you. They can put forth their views on the topic or engage with you as well. 

Oral communication and public speaking have their own advantages, disadvantages, purposes, and objectives. But one common thing is that whether you want to excel at oral communication or become an amazing public speaker, you’ll need a lot of practice to achieve that. 

Want to Learn More About Public Speaking?

Hopefully we cleared your doubts about these two forms of communication by highlighting the differences between public speaking and oral communication. Now that you know which one is what along with the purpose they serve and setting they are used in, you must have a clear picture of which one aligns with your vision. 

In case it’s public speaking, you can learn everything about this elaborate craft through field experts. Though it won’t make you a professional in a day. Public speaking is partly about the skills & techniques, and majorly about the practice involved. 

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So, if you want to go all in on the public speaking profession, connect with us and we’ll lead you to our most advanced online public speaking course. You’ll learn the fundamentals of public speaking along with peers from different walks of life. It’s a valuable experience packed with learnings. 

Sign up today and begin your public speaking journey!


As someone who wants to be a public speaker, there’s a long list of things you should do. But there’s also a list of things you shouldn’t, including interchanging the terms public speaking and oral communication. Both these terms have distinct implications as they differ in their motive, style, content, audience, and several other aspects. We hope this helps you take the right foot forward in the direction of learning public speaking.

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About Author

Jeremiah O`Brian
Master Teacher  | USC School of Dramatic Arts

Jeremiah O’Brian is a faculty member at the USC School of Dramatic Arts. His exceptionally diverse background – from gritty nuts-and-bolts firefighting to film and theatre credits and accolades – is bolstered by his several graduate degrees.

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