One question has been raised in a number of my custom workshops recently so I thought I’d share it and the answer with all of my subscribers. The question is in regards to presenting the same topic to different audiences: audiences that may have different roles, may have different knowledge levels, or may need to know different levels of detail about the topic. Is there a way to not have to create a new presentation for every audience? The answer for many situations is Yes.

Before I get to the solution that works in many cases, let me review what presenters tell me are the advantages and disadvantages of creating a new presentation every time. The main advantage is that it allows you to make sure you focus on the goal and content for each audience without taking any shortcuts. Often this advantage is outweighed by the disadvantages of the time it takes to create each presentation, keeping all the different versions straight so you use the correct one, and the duplication of effort when a slide needs to be updated. Because of these disadvantages, presenters are looking for a simpler, easier way.

For as long as I can remember, PowerPoint has included a feature called Custom Show. This feature allows you to create and name a custom show that contains some of the slides in the file, arranged in whatever order you want. This overcomes many of the disadvantages of separate presentations. When one slide is updated, it is automatically updated in all custom shows, since they use the current version of each slide when displaying the show.

Because you can name each of the custom shows, it is easy to keep them straight and show the one you want for this audience. Creating custom shows is much quicker than creating multiple presentations, so presenters save time. An added benefit is that if you want to add a slide for just one group, you can add it to the file, add it to your custom show, and it does not impact any of the other custom shows.

Another benefit of creating custom shows is that you can print the custom show easily. In the Print dialog, you will find each custom show listed as an option under the “what to print” list. I use this all the time when I create handouts for my workshops. The handouts are copies of most of my slides, so I create a custom show named “Handout” so I can print it easily.

If you want to create a PDF version of your custom show to share with others, it is just as easy. When you save the file as a PDF, go into the PDF options and you can select to save one of the custom shows instead of every slide. This allows you to create different versions for different audiences that receive the presentation electronically.

How can you get started using custom shows? Start with this tutorial from on creating a custom show and then follow the link at the bottom for a tutorial on showing the custom show. These tutorials are for PowerPoint 2013, but if you need the tutorials for PowerPoint 2010, follow the link near the bottom of the page.

Next time you need to present different content about the same topic to different audiences, see if setting up custom shows will save you time.