- Always look professional and clean-cut.
- While leafleting, try to be outgoing and friendly.
- If you have a conversation with someone make sure to stay focused.
- Don’t engage with hostile people.
- Be very polite and make it easy for them to take the literature.
Here is the section about the how-to, the italics are my additions:
Simple and Effective Leafleting Tips
1. Always look professional and clean-cut. Even if this means dressing in a way you wouldn’t ordinarily dream of, it’s important not to give passersby a reason to quickly dismiss you and the vegetarian message. Promoting compassion to animals sometimes requires sacrifice from each of us, and changing our appearance for public outreach is a minor—but important—one to make. Keep in mind that since we’re trying to legitimize vegetarianism, we need to appeal to the “average” person. Activists have found that the general public is much more open to considering becoming vegetarian if we look as mainstream as our message of compassion should be.
I don’t think it’s as important to look “professional” as it is to fit in with the crowd. If you’re wearing a business suit at a punk rock concert, you just look weird, not “legitimate.” Likewise, if you bare your tattooed arms while leafleting in the Financial District of Manhattan, you stand out as “rebellious” and may not reach the mainstream, average passerby. I leaflet in jeans and a t-shirt when on college campuses. I dress business casual when leafleting to average adults on the street. I try to blend in.
That said, be yourself and wear what you’re most comfortable wearing. You’re more effective when you’re comfortable and confident than when you’re itching and uncomfortable. Likewise, it’s more important to get out there and advocate for animals wearing any old thing than it is to avoid activism worried that you’re not “professional” looking enough.
2. While leafleting, try to be outgoing and friendly. Many people may just walk past unless you approach them in a positive and pleasant manner. A simple smile can have a dramatic effect on how people perceive you and serve as an encouraging invitation to take a brochure.
A smile is essential. It makes you seem approachable and the result is that more people will accept your leaflets. There’s an added benefit: a smile puts you in a better mood, which makes it easier to do the hard work of animal advocacy (source). The more you do it, the easier it will get.
3. If you have a conversation with someone make sure to stay focused. It’s fine to have a quick conversation about the weather, the football season, or some neutral topic to connect with the person with whom you’re speaking. But try to avoid a spirited discussion on abortion, the death penalty, or any topic other than animal abuse. Never lose sight of why you’re there: to expose the misery endured by farmed animals and to promote vegetarianism as an easy, immediate solution.
Personally, when I leaflet, I try not to say much at all. Because I’m representing not only the animals but also animal organizations when I’m out leafleting, I simply try to avoid getting caught up in any conversation. My main focus is to present a leaflet, not a discussion. (That’s just me personally and isn’t appropriate for everyone.)
That said, I do recommend that you prepare a few “elevator speeches.” Try to identify your core vegan beliefs and form them into a simple sentence or two. Use this to answer “why are you a vegan?” Likewise, have a website address or book title at the forefront of your mind that you can use to direct people who have further questions. Don’t try to answer everything yourself. Feel free to say, “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” when you encounter difficult questions. And then try to steer the discussion back to simple things everyone can do: eat fewer animals, eat more plants.
4. Don’t engage with hostile people. Be careful to pick your battles. A good conversation with a person clearly interested in the issues is worth having. A lengthy discussion with someone only interested in hurling “what ifs” at you is not worth having. If someone yells at you, talks in a belittling manner, or tries to provoke you into a heated debate, it is best to either ignore the person, if possible, or just to say, “Thanks very much for your comments. I have to get back to leafleting now.” We know it’s tough to just turn away and ignore people, but trust us: If you talk with them, they will only become more belligerent, and you will not change their minds. Additionally, no matter how nice you are, the impression people passing by will get is one of you being the instigator, since you’re the one asking people to change their habits. The focus will be placed negatively on you, rather than on animal suffering.
Excellent advice. Hostile people will just get you down and drain your energy. They don’t deserve your time or energy. Just ignore them. Move to a new spot if you have to.
5. Be very polite and make it easy for them to take the literature. When we refer to people as “ma’am” or “sir” and say “thank you” or “have a great day” to those who take literature, we are seen as well-mannered, well-meaning individuals concerned about alleviating suffering, rather than “radical militants” who the public is all-too-eager to dismiss. Also, try to place the leaflet directly in front of the passing person’s stomach so it’s easier for them to take the brochure from you if they choose.
I don’t think there is necessarily a problem with being perceived as a radical. In fact, that’s appealing to some people. It’s contextual. Sometimes rage is not only justified, it’s effective. It just all depends on the situation. However, in general, “be polite” is sage advice. In the vast majority of situations it’s better to be overly-polite than the tiniest bit rude.
However you choose to advocate for animals, whether you leaflet or blog or protest or something else, do it now! It’s much more important to get out there and do it (and learn from doing it) than to wait for the perfect opportunity or the perfect outfit or the perfect companion or whatever is holding you back. Just get out and do it!
* image is borrowed from Vegan Outreach