How to give a great talk about plastic

This section includes a template presentation and talk that you can use to engage people at events on the Plastics campaign.

Friends of the Earth gets lots of requests for speakers at events on plastics, so as well as helping you with the talks you organise, we’ve put this together so that we can call on our brilliant local groups to help out with requests too!

This talk is designed to last about 10 minutes – but you can shorten or lengthen it depending on how much time you’ve been given.

This guide should give you a starting point for planning your talk and some top tips and advice to help you deliver it with confidence.


We’ve made a PowerPoint presentation to support the talk which you may want to use.
Please bear in mind that in many cases you won’t have the option to use PowerPoint  – and in some situations it’s better to give a talk without the distraction!

It’s up to you to find the method that makes you feel the most confident when giving your talk.
Good luck – and please write to for any further help or guidance.

  1.    Introducing yourself and the topic – 2 minutes

Introduce yourself, if possible with a short personal story or something emotive before you launch into the heavy stats and details. Studies have shown that sharing a personal story can help build a rapport with your audience and get people tuned in to your talk.

My name is xxx, and I’m a volunteer with xx Friends of the Earth. I’d like to tell you a bit about my own personal story and how I came to join my local group/ campaign on plastic…

[If you have any personal experiences of the harmful effects of plastic waste it would be great to share this, even if it’s just how watching Blue Planet 2 made you feel!]
TOP TIP: This part of the talk could also be a good point to say a bit more about the work of your local group, especially if you have any really good success stories to tell.

  1.  The problem of plastics (3 minutes)

This part of the talk is all about explaining the problem, and creating the sense that action needs to be taken.

So what’s the problem with plastic? The problem is plastic is everywhere, and it’s not going to go away for a very long time.

Take the average plastic bag – used for just a few minutes, it won't disappear for hundreds of years.
And because it stays in the environment for so long, eventually it finds its way into the oceans, polluting them and killing marine wildlife.

The vast majority of plastic waste doesn't get reused or recycled. It's out there lingering in the natural environment – polluting our soils and seas.

Up to 12m tonnes  of plastic ends up in the sea each year, weighing the same as about 60,000 fully-grown blue whales. This includes tiny bits of plastic from cosmetics, bathroom products and tyres. [PowerPoint slide 1]

It’s difficult to avoid, with products from tea bags to toothpaste tubes having plastic in them. 

[Top tip: you could also mention some plastic fails such as shrink-wrapped onions, bananas in plastic tubs, newspaper supplements and magazines wrapped in plastic bags [Powerpoint slide 2]

         3. What people can do to reduce their plastic use (3 minutes)

This bit of the talk is about the practical things everybody can do in their own lives to reduce the amount of plastic they use.

So what can we all do about it? There are loads of things we can all do in our daily lives to avoid plastic. We can easily refuse plastic straws and carrier bags. And there are some nifty alternatives to plastic like getting your veg delivered fresh in a box.

Re-useable coffee cups are great – lots of coffee shops will even give you a discount if you use them. And there are some really good plastic-free and re-useable water bottles on the market right now too.

For more tips you can have a look at our blog, ‘9 really good alternatives to plastic’ [PowerPoint slide 3].

And if you really want to take the plunge you could join the 8,000 people who have signed up to #PlasticFreeFriday, which encourages people to go plastic-free for one day a week.  [PowerPoint slide 4]
4)    What our group is doing and how you can get involved (2 minutes)

This is the really important bit. So make sure you’ve saved plenty of energy for the end. Here’s where you get to tell people about all the brilliant things you’re doing and most importantly of all, how they can get involved.

What you want people to do will vary a bit depending on who you’re talking to but we’ll assume you’re talking to a room full of people who want to hear about your campaign and do their bit to help. So let’s leave them feeling up for it and with plenty of ideas and options to get involved.
So think through first what the things are that people can do, starting with some really simple things. Remember you are likely to be talking to some people who have never taken part in a campaign before so give plenty of options and keep them nice and easy!

All these changes to our own lifestyles will help. But what can we do right here in [your town] to tackle plastic pollution? The good news is there are things we can do right now to reduce how much plastic ends up in the ocean. And the more of us who work together right here in [your town], the more we can achieve..

XXX Friends of the Earth is planning a [big public meeting, film screening in the town centre, stall, day of action etc etc] and we need you to get involved.  

It doesn’t matter how much time you have – there’s plenty of jobs to be done both big and small.
If you’d like to help out with any of the things we’re planning, or would like some advice or help to get something happening in your neighbourhood, please [sign up/ talk to me or someone else from the group.

Top tips for public speaking (adapted from Global Justice Now’s speaker training for activists):

  1.      Preparing your talk. Write out your whole talk beforehand. But write it in the way that you think you will say it. Embolden or highlight key parts so it is easy to see them when you look down at your notes. Try not to fall into reading the speech word for word – deliver it in as natural a way as possible.
  2.      Start and end with a bang: People remember the beginning and end more than anything in the middle. The beginning is the most important.
  3.      Key messages - Decide and deliver three key messages for your talk that you want people to take away. 
  4.      Who is your audience? Prepare with them in mind. Think about what that particular audience wants and what is going to get them involved.
  5.      Get people on your side. Getting people to like you can be about being honest and sharing how you feel. Emotional connection is more effective than facts – telling a story – painting a picture – sharing something about yourself.
  6.      Logistics. Make sure you know where you are going and how to get there so you can turn up a little early and be as relaxed as possible.
  7.      Practice. At the very least re-read it a few times thinking about how it sounds spoken.
  8.      Memorise your opening. The beginning of the presentation often carries a rush of adrenalin. Learn your first few sentences so well you don't have to think about it. This empowers you to start strong and make a confident first impression.
  9.      Getting people to take action / what’s next. Make sure there is an ask or something they can get involved in. Communicate the ask in the right way, not forcefully or apologetically. Aim for what you have said already to have inspired them so the ask is naturally something they want to do. Ideally the ask should appear worthwhile and like their individual input will make a difference.
  10.    Posture. Stand front and centre. Don’t fold your arms too much. Don’t slump and rock back and forth, be natural. If you’re not sure what to do with your hands hold them together lightly above the belt. The key thing to remember is if you are interested in what you are saying then your hands will look after themselves.
  11.    Pace. Varying the pace and pitch is the most important thing here but a good pace is 140 – 170 words per minute, not too fast or too slow. Slower than this risks putting the audience to sleep and faster risks not being understood.