Effective Activism: Interacting and Engaging with the Public
Posted in: Activism
This blog is the first installment of a series we are doing focusing on effective activism. In this series, we will outline tips and strategies for being an effective activist while doing vegan outreach at an event, at the grocery store or with friends and family at a get-together.
While I am not an expert, I have been a vegan activist for almost two years now and have had success talking with hundreds, if not thousands, of veg-curious folks. I like to think the conversations I have with people leave a lasting impact, planting seeds of compassion for animals. This first blog is going to outline how to best interact and engage with people when at an event.
The best thing you can do to be an effective activist is to be prepared. Don’t roll out of bed the morning of an event without a plan. If possible, think about the event the night before or even the days leading up. You want to be prepared with a game plan of how you will interact with the veg-curious folks. For example, if the event is focused on sustainability and environmentalism, refresh your memory on facts about how terrible animal agriculture is for the environment and how much difference an animal-free diet makes. There is no need to watch Cowspiracy each time, but a quick glance at facts online is a good idea. If the event is focused on companion animals, switch your focus to the loving personalities and intelligence of farmed animals and how relatable they are to the cats and dogs we care for at home. If you are prepared, you will feel a lot more confident to approach people.
Which leads me to my next point…
While being at a VegFest or other local event with friends you haven’t seen in a long time is exciting, it is important to remember why you are there. Your job as an volunteer is to do everything you can to advocate for the animals. That doesn’t mean you can’t interact with your friends at the booth; it just means that the vast majority of the time you should be focused on interacting with people coming to the booth. For example, if you are talking to a friend at the booth and a group of people walk by you should definitely stop talking to your friend and try to interact with that group of people. Most of the time when someone walks by and looks at the tent they are curious about the organization.
Animal Advocates of South Central PA does a great job at stating our mission on the tent, but we as volunteers have so much more knowledge than we could ever fit on a poster. And if you feel like you would be annoying the person, you wouldn’t be. If they were not interested they would not have come to the tent! Countless times I’ve interacted with people that were just walking by and they say, “I’m not vegetarian but I’ve thought about it before, do you have more information?”. Bingo!!
Okay, so now you are confident and prepared…
Someone walks up to the table. You stop the conversation with your friend about Lord of The Rings plot holes as you notice the person. What do you do? How do you open the conversation? How to you introduce them to veganism? It’s a lot of pressure to expect that the interaction you have with someone will cause them to go vegan, sometimes it can and sometimes it does not. The main thing to remember is to plant seeds. The fact that they stopped at the table and had a positive interaction with you will plant a seed in their brain that will grow and develop over time. You just have to be yourself. And if you have trouble with social interactions, be the activist that you wish you have a conversation with before you went vegan.
If someone walks by the table and doesn’t necessarily stop, or stops near the table while waiting for a friend, try to make eye contact. Once you make eye contact with them you can coax them over to spin the wheel or watch one of the videos. Here are some good starting phrases but I encourage you to use your own and say what feels right in the moment:
“Hey, have you heard of our organization before?”
“Hi there, do you know anything about animal agriculture?”
“Hello, have you ever thought about going vegetarian/vegan?”
“Would you like a pamphlet? They have a lot of good recipes and more information about us.”
“Would you like to spin the wheel and win a prize?”
“Would you like to earn a dollar by watching our virtual reality video?”
Be prepared by refreshing your memory on pertinent topics, socialize less and interact with new people more, while interacting with people remember to be a positive example of veganism. By following these simple tips, you will be more confident when talking with people. Above all, it is good to remember who we are doing this work for – the animals. We are their voice.