How to Tailor Conversations to Your Audience


Remember when we said that the first thing to do when starting a conversation about conservation is to know your audience? 

No matter the situation, you can have effective conversations about ocean conservation. However, it is crucial that you know your audience.

Also remember how we gave you little to no advice on how to actually accomplish that?

…for now common sense can help steer you in the right direction.

Well, here we are to let you in on a few secrets on how to tailor your conversations to specific audiences. (If you haven’t already, we recommend you start by reading our post that summarizes the Top 5 Strategies for Casual Conservation Conversations and How to Initiate a Conservation Conversation).

Audience 1: Parents or Grandparents

What have you been up to? Did you learn anything new at school today? Did you have a good time at the beach with your friends?

These are all familiar questions that have the potential to spark great conversations! Some family members may be involved in the sciences, and if that is the case then great! Full steam ahead. However, more commonly our family members are not trained marine biologists that are up to date on all the current conservation topics. This is where you come in.

  • They don’t need to know every little detail. Our families care about what we have been up to and what we are passionate about, but to a point. Highlight the key concepts you want to express, otherwise you may lose their engagement in your conversation, as well as decrease the likelihood that they would want to engage in that type of conversation with you again in the future.
  • They feel comfortable around you. This can work to your advantage or disadvantage. On the plus side, they feel comfortable talking to you and are likely to have open conversations. However, this also means they will be more opinionated, they may be more likely to play devil’s advocate, or they may be more comfortable interrupting you. These can all make conversations challenging, but can be avoided if you actively keep these challenges in mind.
  • It is hard to teach old dogs new tricks. This is definitely not true of everybody, but many people are are stuck in their ways by the time they reach adulthood. I have met many parents and grandparents who do not like to be told that they should be changing some of their habits for conservation. They don’t understand why they should have to stop doing something that they grew up with, because “it didn’t cause problems back then, so why is it a problem now”? Two go-to points I make to comments like that are that 1) many actions can take decades to show the consequences, and 2) something may not have caused problems with fewer people on the planet because fewer people were doing said action (there are way more people on the planet now!).

Audience 2: Friends or Acquaintances

Similar to our family members, our friends come from a variety of backgrounds as well. I suggest following similar suggestions with friends as you do with family, but with a few exceptions.

  • It is surprisingly easy to teach young dogs new tricks. During the first few decades of life, we are constantly deciding who we are, what we believe in, what is important to us, how we live, and what we want to do. This is why it is sometimes easier for younger people to change their habits and opinions: we are still in the process of figuring everything out and may just be unaware that our oceans are in need of love!
  • Work fads to your benefit. I’m not saying that conservation is a fad by any means, but it is true that certain aspects of conservation can come in and out of fashion. You may not be able to convince someone to care about the “small and slimy” sea critters even if they may be even more in danger of extinction, but that’s okay! We simply want to spread awareness and get people excited about what they think is interesting! If the less-than-glamorous Pacific Lamprey doesn’t do it for them, then tap into the current conservation fads, such as coral reefs, sharks, polar bears, sea turtles, or whales! Find what gets your audience excited!

Audience 3: Coworkers 

The most important piece of advice I have for the workplace is to be polite, stay professional, and avoid controversial topics. The workplace is not the ideal place to get into heated arguments. Try to keep conversations light, interesting, and strictly informational. We just want to get people excited about our oceans!

  • Get involved in a team-bonding activity. Team-building activities are something that companies love to do! Suggest your next team-building activity be something conservation center. These can involve beach clean-ups, half marathons, or visiting the local aquarium. These activities will also open up the opportunity for discussion about conservation to people who may not usually think about that topic.
  • Know your information. It is always important to be knowledgeable about the topics you are discussing, but in the workplace this is especially crucial because you do not want to jeopardize your reputation at work.

Audience 4: The Public (at an Outreach Event)

When talking to the public at an event, it is most important to always stay positive, polite, accurate, and engaging. There will be MANY more posts on how to talk to the public about conservation, but for now just remember to smile and you will be fine!

Audience 5: Random Strangers

Stuck in an elevator? Waiting in line for coffee? Sitting next to someone new in class?

Just because you don’t know somebody doesn’t mean you can’t have a great conversation with them! We are huge fans of making friends, and we think its completely normal to strike up conversations with people you don’t know. Lead this conversation using tools discussed throughout this post, but most importantly don’t feel like you need to push your opinion on people. Let the conservation develop and end naturally.

A word of caution: please be safe and responsible when meeting new people, stranger danger is real!

Any other suggestions? Comment below!

Follow our blog (bottom of page) and Instagram (@beforthesea) for more tips on how to have successful conservation conversations!


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