Customize Your Presentation for Your Audience

by Gilda Bonanno LLC
One of the attendees at my presentation skills training program shared an example of what can go wrong if you don’t customize your material for your audience

Robby McQueeney, a Cape Cod historian, collector and photojournalist, is known as The Dune Tramp, because he focuses on the dune shacks on the beaches of Outer Cape Cod, Massachusetts. 

He usually presents to audiences in or near Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where people are familiar with the dune shacks. 

Earlier this year, he did his first Dune Tramp presentation in Connecticut and here’s what happened:

I knew going in I should alter my explanation of Cape Cod topography, by starting in Connecticut and not on Cape Cod.

However, it wasn’t until I was getting into the stories of the shacks that I realized there were a lot of references that weren’t familiar to a non-Cape audience.  So, I starting having to edit on-the-fly, and it got a little choppy.

I had several references to the infamous Art’s Dune Tours in my talk. Everyone on Cape Cod knows Art’s, whether they’ve taken the tour or not.  When the first reference to Art’s popped up, I asked if anyone had ever taken a tour. Silence. So, I stopped mentioning Art’s. But they were tied explicitly to three photos I was showing. I ended up just generalizing and moved along, a bit awkwardly.

Also, many times throughout my show, I referred to the National Park Service and Cape Cod National Seashore.  Again, Cape Codders know all about the logistics of these organizations and about the 42,000 acres conveyed to the federal government in 1961. But the audience outside of Cape Cod does not, and so in hindsight, I also should have briefly described the logistics of the National Park Service/Cape Cod National Seashore.

My lesson learned is to give thought, before every presentation, to the type of audience I expect: location, age, knowledge base.  (So I can leave the dancing shoes at home!)

Moral of the story: if you change your audience, consider the appropriateness of your material, and fix it ahead of time!

The Dune Tramp’s example can apply to you.  Before your next presentation, meeting or training program, think about your audience and how you can customize your material so it makes sense to them.  This customization will make for a happier audience and prevent you from having to make changes in the middle of the presentation.

Thanks to The Dune Tramp for sharing his lessons learned.  What lessons have you learned about giving presentations?
Find out more about The Dune Tramp at

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