In the age of information, competition for attention is high. How do we make sure we’re engaging people on important issues, like microplastic pollution, in an effective way? A way that inspires people rather than turns them away?
“People want to connect with people,” is a statement echoed by many of our eXXpedition Ambassadors who go on to speak about their experience and educate audiences around the world on the microplastic issue.
Our co-founder Emily Penn believes it’s not what but how we communicate that makes all of the difference. When we’re advocating to stop plastic pollution, we are asking people to have a change of heart, change of mind, and often, make a sacrifice. That’s why sharing our personal stories can resonate more deeply with an audience than an impersonal lecture.
In a recent community hub session, Emily shared her tried and tested formula for how to set up a successful talk. But before we dive into that, here are a few quick tips from our ambassadors:
“Great storytelling isn’t just about the story”
“Be honest, be vulnerable”
“Speak from the heart”
“Make it as interactive as possible”
“No matter how heartbreaking the issue is, keep a message of hope”
Emily’s 3 Components for a Successful Talk:
Prompt: What made you fall in love with the ocean and understand the need to protect it?
Starting your talk with an anecdote or personal story is a proven way to get your audience hooked from the beginning. Set the scene by engaging people’s senses, Emily talks about hearing a “thump” on the side of the boat that turned out to be plastic pollution. In our community, this is what we call a SHiFT moment, the moment everything changed for you and made you decide to become an advocate.
You can also go back in time to your childhood, what about your upbringing formed your connection with the ocean? This will help people reflect on their own bonds with nature.
Prompt: What were some of the different solutions you’ve explored?
A talk needs to resonate with a wide range of people and while “feel” will connect some of your audience, it’s also important to also provide interesting facts for those who want to be engaged intellectually.
When choosing your facts, think about what will make them powerful and/or memorable. Is it newly discovered information? A surprising metric? Known information reframed in a thought-provoking way?
Some examples are:
“80% of ocean plastic pollution comes from land.”
“Plastic is a material made to last forever, used for items designed to be thrown away.”
The information you’re providing needs to answer the question, why do we need to act differently? You can weave in your own experience with the science and get into specific findings. However, if you’re not a scientist, don’t fret. Focus on your personal experience of discovering this information and how it made you feel, or tailor the facts to your “superpower.”
Prompt: What is your call to action?
After leaving your talk, what is it that you want people to do, and how can you set them up for success? If you conclude your talk asking people to write to their MP about plastic pollution, maybe a few really engaged audience members will go home and put the time and effort into drafting a letter. But, if you end your talk on a slide with a QR code that takes them to a webpage with a pre-drafted letter to their MP (auto-generated by postal code) you’re going to have a lot higher participation.
We not only need to explain why we’re asking people to take the action but also help them feel empowered to take it.
Emily says, “Don’t be afraid to push the impact up to the source [of the problem].” You want to talk about a spectrum of solutions but also trust that you can motivate people to take big actions.
Emily’s last bit of advice is; to tailor your presentation to your superpower, practice, practice, practice and don’t forget to frame solutions as exciting opportunities. We “get” to be a part of solving one of the biggest challenges humanity has ever faced, we get to make history.
MORE ABOUT SHIFT HUB EVENTS
eXXpedition runs regular events for our community and beyond. Keep an eye on our social channels for updates on upcoming public events, and browse our blog to find out the highlights of our community events and keep up with eXXpedition news.
Thank you to 11th Hour Racing who are supporting this work.