What is the difference between essay and presentation?

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Simply put, an essay is typed or written onto paper, while a presentation is given verbally. A presentation can be about an essay that was written, and it can also contain a written accompaniment, such as a PowerPoint presentation.

I would argue that it is a lot easier to write...

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Simply put, an essay is typed or written onto paper, while a presentation is given verbally. A presentation can be about an essay that was written, and it can also contain a written accompaniment, such as a PowerPoint presentation.

I would argue that it is a lot easier to write a paper than to give a presentation. When writing an essay, you have the opportunity to lay your thoughts and your argument out cohesively. While giving a presentation, on the other hand, you may be nervous, which could cause you to lose your train of thought or stumble over your words. Doing a presentation is far more interactive than writing an essay, as somebody could stop you in the middle of your presentation to ask a question.

Both writing an essay and giving a presentation require a great amount of research and preparation, and don't ever fall into the trap of thinking that you can "wing it" through a presentation.

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For the purpose of this answer, I am assuming that an essay is written down on paper, and a presentation is given live by a person in front of an audience. I need to specify that because I don't want somebody thinking that this answer is going to compare a PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation to an essay.

A key difference has already been stated. A presentation is done in front of an audience. That audience might be classroom peers, a group of board members, or an audience at a conference. A presentation is given verbally; therefore, it presents information in an auditory format. A presentation will also convey information visually as well. This is completely unavoidable because things like kinesics, eye contact, platform movement, and gestures are all being taken in and analyzed by an audience. Non-verbal communication is key in a presentation. If the information is brilliant and earth-shattering, but the presenter looks bored and is dressed like a vagrant, the presentation may not be well received. All of those non-verbals are critical to a presentation. Word choice, organization, and transitions are also critical.

In an essay, most of the focus is on the organization, diction, and flow of the words on the page. Formal writing grammar is now very important, though it need not be advanced. Tone is also important in an essay, but it is much harder to implement because it must be done through the writer's word choice. In a presentation, tone can be conveyed through word choice, volume, gestures, eye contact, and other things.

Finally, a few similarities. Both formats are designed to convey information. Both formats can be very effective, and both formats can be incredibly difficult to master.

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Both are means of displaying information.  The essay is more driven by writing and the written word becomes critical in this format.  A presentation is much more fluid and can be interpreted in a variety of ways.  There can be a great deal of variance in final product of a presentation, using verbal, dramatic, question and answer, technological or other modes of communication.  Unless specified by an instructor, there is less in way of specific formal guidelines as opposed to an essay, which is much more strictly defined and whose conventions are shared on a larger level.

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