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Is "giving a speech" meant to be about a setting with a bigger audience than "delivering a talk"? I just googled both phrases and it looks like "giving a speech" is more for inaugurations and some large political events, while "delivering a talk" seems to incline toward a university setting. But then I also saw some examples of professors giving speeches at universities. So I am not sure now.

Or is it like "delivering a talk" implies a more free setting, in which listeners can interrupt the speaker and ask a question?

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    Both your comments on the connotation of those phrases are correct. As you state, a "speech" tends more towards a monologue, and a "talk" might have some Q&A, dialogue. Since large groups may prohibit audience participation, "speech" would be more likely. Language is flexible, though, and this is not an absolute rule. Jul 14 at 4:34
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    Speeches are generally very formal and a person stands to deliver it. A talk is generally more informal and can be delivered sitting down.
    – Lambie
    Jul 14 at 12:32
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This is more a matter of connotation than definition.

A talk (or sometimes "presentation") is usually more casual, with more chances of audience interaction, and often focused on transmitting technical information to the audience.

A speech (or "address") is generally a more formal event that conveys the speaker's intentions or desires without defining specific actions, and doesn't allow for much or any audience commentary.

There isn't a sharp dividing line, though, and many talks don't take audience questions, while many speeches end with a question session. Some events could be described either way.

As an example, if a guest speaker is brought in to explain the plans for how to repair a damaged bridge, that's likely to be referred to as a talk. If a guest speaker is brought in to talk about what he wants to do to improve the city's economy, that's likely to be called a speech. For a speaker who comes in to explain their proposed plan for building a new highway, especially if the plan has not yet been approved, it could be either one.

I feel today there's a tendency to try to avoid the word 'speech' whenever possible, because speeches have a reputation for being long and boring, while talks are seen as engaging and interactive (even when they aren't). Another common term that gets thrown around today in lieu of 'speech' is "town hall meeting", which suggests that everyone will get to say their piece, even though it usually doesn't allow any audience interaction at all.

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A speech is more of a one-way thing - generally a political or at least ideological thing from a leader or someone in a similar position. Feedback is not usually expected or welcomed, the point of the exercise is to disseminate an opinion, though often masquerading as facts.

A talk on the other hand, is generally more informative - maybe not a formal lesson, but very similar, with an intention to inform and teach rather than to indoctrinate.

As is often the case, actual usage tends to overlap massively between the two.

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  • Tons of people give speeches that are not political or ideological.
    – Lambie
    Jul 14 at 12:34
  • @Lambie Examples? Jul 14 at 12:37
  • Large events held by trade or professional associations, where the president of one gives a speech. The Annual Trade Show of the Plumbers of America [I just made that up.
    – Lambie
    Jul 14 at 12:38
  • @Lambie What would be said at one of those speeches that wasn't ideological? Jul 14 at 12:40
  • Come on, Mike. What plumbers say could be about the business of plumbing, which is not exactly "ideological"; though, of course, all speech is "ideological" if you push the envelope.
    – Lambie
    Jul 14 at 12:42

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