TEDx style talk on GoJelly solutions to plastic pollution

23. 1. 2019

Senior Research Scientist Rachel Tiller – who leads GoJelly work on the socioecological system (WP7) was invited to be one of the plenary speakers of the Fulbright annual conference in Puebla, Mexico, having a TEDx style talk. When asked what her reaction was when first invited, she said “I immediately became excited and then instantly very nervous since – well – I love TED talks, and the imposter-syndrom kicked in fairly fast. I therefore decided to do what a book reader does best – buy books. I figured that yes, I could watch as many TED talks as possible but it probably helps to read as well – because – well reading helps everything.” According to Tiller, the book “TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking”
These are some of the tips that Tiller found particularly helpful:
1. make it personal – bring in a story about yourself to make people more familiar with you. “During my talk, I told a story about my family travel to Greece and my own experience with plastic pollution to set the stage”, Tiller explains. “It made it personal right from the start, and made it easy to relate to for the audience”.
2. Have some good jokes – This was a tip that was made many times in the book, and Tiller admits that this on was difficult for her. “ I am not a comedian, but found myself researching good one liners but nope – I am just not any good at it. Turned out, making fun of yourself also works – so if nothing else, people were laughing at me (and with me), especially when I made a joke about holding a jellyfish on a boat smiling for Instagram, even though I was about to throw up from being sea sick”, she says.
3. Dont lecture – share an idea! Now this was advice that Tiller liked the most – and that went straight to the heart of the GoJelly project as well. The book was filled with good ideas as well about how to reframe an issue, give metaphors, make the audience relate to the issue differently. “I made a metaphor about how GoJelly is a tool to help turn off the tap of an overflowing bathtub – as in plastics pouring into the oceans. This is an idea towards a solution to plastic pollution, rather than us throwing ourselves on the floor trying to mop up the water that kept coming – as a metaphor for beach clean ups and other methods of collecting plastics at sea”, Tiller says. “I also got a lot of laughs when I showed a picture of one of our reserachers stimulating release of mucus, and said I could just imagine commercial fishers in the Arctic all sitting around in ice storms stimulating jellyfish” she laughs.
4. Rehearse, rehearse and rehearse some more is the last advice Tiller found especially helpful. “At first, my goal had been to just memorize everything – but that does not always work the book said – and they were true. I rehearsed and knew what I would say on each slide and had it all memorized in terms of order and content – but I am too spontaneous to be able to memorize a script – I could never be an actress in other words”, she laughs.
The books has many more tips of course – and refers to many great TED talks and what worked – and did not work – for these and how much preparation goes into them. The talk went well as well, and Tiller was pleased with getting laughter at the correct places she had hoped for and that she got her message through as well – “…though it was still a depressing talk”, she says. “There is after all really nothing funny about plastic pollution”.