Interpersonal Communication vs Public Speaking

Interpersonal communication is intimate and often private, focusing on relationships and information exchange. Public speaking, however, targets larger audiences in formal settings to persuade. Differences include audience size, speech duration, and formality. Both skills are crucial for personal and career growth.

Both forms of communication, interpersonal and public speaking, serve unique purposes in our daily lives. While interpersonal interactions foster personal connections and deeper understanding, public speaking reaches broader audiences, sharing ideas and influencing many. Mastering both is essential for effective communication and personal development.

At a Glance:

  • Interpersonal communication is personal and intimate.
  • Public speaking is for larger audiences with a persuasive aim.
  • Differences: audience size, duration, emotional cues, and formality.
  • Both forms aim to inform, build relationships, and persuade.
  • Strong interpersonal skills underpin effective public speaking.
  • Improving verbal communication, active listening, and body language can enhance both forms.
  • Both are essential for personal and career success.

The Differences Between Interpersonal Communication and Public Speaking

Effective communication, whether one-on-one or to a crowd, is a cornerstone of human interaction. While both interpersonal communication and public speaking are fundamental forms of conveying messages, they vary significantly in their dynamics and requirements.

Audience Size

Interpersonal communication is often a one-on-one or small group exchange, be it face-to-face, over the phone, or through text. The dynamics change with fewer participants, as the dialogue is often more direct and personal. Public speaking, on the other hand, caters to larger audiences, where the aim is to engage and captivate many listeners at once, often with a singular, cohesive message.


Interpersonal conversations can range from brief exchanges, like casual greetings, to longer, in-depth discussions about personal topics. These interactions are usually spontaneous and can ebb and flow naturally. Public speaking, meanwhile, demands extended, well-structured speeches that are pre-planned and often rehearsed, making the process potentially more daunting and demanding.

Emotional Visibility

In interpersonal settings, emotional nuances can be shared through tone, facial expressions, and gestures. But in non-face-to-face settings like phone calls, these nuances can be missed or misinterpreted. Conversely, public speaking demands a visible alignment of body language, tone, and content. The speaker needs to effectively convey their message and ensure the audience interprets it as intended.


Public speaking usually operates within a framework of formality. This could mean adhering to a structured format, using more polished language, and following presentation etiquettes like speaking clearly, maintaining eye contact, and ensuring minimal reliance on notes. Interpersonal communication, however, can be more relaxed and might not always adhere to such formal structures or etiquettes.

The Similarities Between Interpersonal Communication and Public Speaking 

While interpersonal communication and public speaking may seem divergent in their applications, they share a foundation of core principles. These underpinnings play a pivotal role in making any form of communication effective, irrespective of the audience’s size.


Both interpersonal communication and public speaking center on conveying ideas or thoughts. The primary goal in both scenarios is to relay information in a relatable and comprehensible manner.

Relationship Building

While personal conversations focus on strengthening individual bonds, public speaking aims to establish a connection with a broader audience, fostering trust and mutual understanding.


Personal interactions often involve influencing someone’s viewpoint or decisions. In public speaking, the intent broadens to persuading a larger group to align with a particular idea or action.

Information Dissemination

Both modes serve to inform. Interpersonal chats might share important details with an individual, while public addresses cast a wider net, aiming to educate or convince a more extensive audience.


Entertainment elements can be woven into both. Personal dialogues might integrate jokes or tales, whereas public speeches often captivate with humor, anecdotes, or other engaging components.

In essence, the similarities between interpersonal communication and public speaking underscore the universality of communication principles. Recognizing these shared attributes provides a holistic approach to enhancing our skills, whether we’re engaging in a personal dialogue or addressing a larger audience.

The Importance of Interpersonal Communication and Public Speaking 

The importance of public speaking and interpersonal communication is often underestimated. Although both forms of communication are important for different reasons, they are essential for:  

  1. Personal Growth: Public speaking lets you share your thoughts with many people, helping you gain confidence. Talking one-on-one helps you make and keep friends.
  2. Getting Better: Speaking in public teaches you new things, and talking with people helps you understand feelings and emotions.
  3. Work Success: Many jobs need good public speaking skills. Talking well with others helps you work in teams and can lead to more job opportunities.
  4. Making an Impact: When you speak in public, you can convince many people. Good conversations help you make strong connections.

So, which skill is more important? The answer to that question depends on your individual goals and needs. If you are a teacher, for example, then interpersonal communication skills are probably more important than public speaking skills. On the other hand, if you are a salesperson, then public speaking skills are more important.

The bottom line is both forms of communication are essential for your success. Public speaking is a must-have skill if you want to get ahead in business or politics, while interpersonal communication is key to developing meaningful relationships.

How Interpersonal Speaking Relates to Public Speaking 

The relationship between interpersonal communication and public speaking is a close one. In fact, interpersonal communication can be seen as the foundation for public speaking. It is impossible to be an effective public speaker if you cannot connect with your audience on an interpersonal level.

Therefore, if you want to improve your public speaking skills, focus on improving your interpersonal communication skills. And you can do this by:

Practicing verbal communication 

The words you use can are important in interpersonal communication. When you are speaking to someone, you need to make sure that your tone of voice is positive and that you are speaking at a comfortable pace.

You should also avoid using words such as “um” and “uh” as they can make you sound unsure of yourself.

Practicing active listening

When you are actively listening to someone, you are not only hearing what they are saying, but you are also paying attention to their nonverbal communication and listening for deeper meanings.

This is important as, during a conversation, you need to be able to understand what someone is saying and why they are saying it.

In addition, active listening ensures that you can quickly detect when your message is not being received by the other person. If you notice this happening, give them a chance to ask questions or clarify anything they are not sure about before continuing.

Practicing emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand what you are feeling and why, as well as being able to read other people’s emotions.

When you have emotional intelligence, you can use it to better connect with your other people. In addition, by understanding the emotions of others, you can better adapt your message to resonate with them.

If you are able to do this, you will be seen as more relatable and trustworthy by your audience.

Practicing positive body language

Your body language can say a lot about how you are feeling, and it can be very influential in creating a connection with others.

When you practice positive body language, you are sending the message that you are open and interested in what the other person is saying and that you are approachable.  

By following these tips, you can improve your interpersonal communication skills and use them to become a more effective public speaker.

In Conclusion 

Both interpersonal communication and public speaking are important in our day-to-day lives. It is therefore necessary to understand the differences between these two forms of communication so that you can know when and how to use them most effectively.