Changing the Story: Talking Rubbish on the Tedx Stage

Taking the stage at last year’s TedX Perth event has to be one of the highlights of the year. On behalf of the zero waste and plastic-free community, the opportunity to share the message about living with less waste with 1700 people was pretty mind-blowing.

From a personal perspective, talking in front of that many people was pretty mind-blowing too!

I never thought of myself as a public speaker. At school, if asked to speak in front of the class, I’d end up bawling until I was allowed to sit back down. (I’m sorry, classmates, for having to put you all through that.) And yes, this was in my teens.

When I first began writing this blog back in 2012 it was completely anonymous.

I’m not someone who loves the limelight.

My first public speaking opportunity came in 2013, when Plastic Free July asked me to talk for 5 minutes in front of 60 people. The only reason I said yes was because I felt that the message I had to share was more important than my personal fear of embarrassment/humiliation/self-doubt.

I remember pacing in the toilets beforehand, heart racing and sweaty palms, panicking about standing in front of all those people.

After that 5 minute talk, where I spoke too fast, flailed my arms wildly and trembled, a radio host who was watching asked me for a pre-recorded interview. I said no.

He approached me again as I was leaving. After some persuasion about how important the message was, I reluctantly agreed.

Then the next community group or organsiation asked. And the next.

And that is how this non-public speaker became a public speaker. Whenever I was asked to speak or present, I’d remember that the story and the cause is the most important thing, and I’d bite my lip and agree.

And in time, with practice, I got better. I learned to slow down. I learned not to panic. I felt more confident in myself, and in what I was talking about.

I still flail my arms uncontrollably! Something to work on ;)

Now, I love to speak to others. It’s a way to amplify the message. I can do what I do, and tell all my friends, but the impact is limited. When I start to speak to people who don’t know me and share my story with them, that’s when the message really starts to spread.

If you’re passionate about the plastic-free life and the zero waste movement (or something else!), then I encourage you to get out there, into your community, and spread the word. You don’t have to take the stage at a big event (at least, not at first)! I have spoken to groups as small as 15 people.

The opportunities are everywhere: at your local library, the farmers’ market, your workplace, a local school or community group. Your message is too important not to share.

You don’t have to be a public speaker. I wasn’t. You don’t have to love standing in front of an audience, or have confidence in spades. I didn’t. I’m just someone with a message I want to share. That’s all you need to get out there and make a difference.

Now I’d love to hear from you! If you get a chance to watch the video, I’d love to hear what you think! And if you’ve tips for keeping flailing arms at bay, I’m all ears ;) Have you personally had any experiences of speaking in public? Is it something that you embrace, or that you dread? Is it something you’d like to do in 2017? How have you managed to conquer your nerves? Do you have tips for anyone starting out? Is it something you still struggle with? Anything else you’d like to add? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

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Changing the Story: Talking Rubbish on the Tedx Stage
45 replies
  1. Anna
    Anna says:

    Great talk Lindsay. I feel like you captured everything that’s essential to know in a zero-waste journey. How it is a journey, and that different people might end up in different places, but we all start from the same place. Thanks for reminding me how far I’ve come and motivating me to keep going.

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment Anna :) It is so hard to try to fit your entire story and share everything with an audience in 18 minutes (and they tell you to aim for 13 minutes!) – so I’m glad you felt like I captured everything. Ooooh, there was so much more I wanted to say ;)

      Good luck with your journey!

  2. Jen
    Jen says:

    Lindsay, this is AMAZING! You totally smashed it. Brilliant and really professional presentation, and you conveyed the message in such a relatable way – totes amazeballs :)

  3. Chamali Egodagamage
    Chamali Egodagamage says:

    If you know that public speaking is in your future (however reluctantly) you can prepare for it by joining a local group like Toastmasters. They can help people with a fear of public speaking and in a supportive, noncompetitive environment. I loved your ted talk. Well done. Hope you have many more opportunities to spread your message this year and in many years to come. Best wishes, Chali.

  4. Sarah Gray
    Sarah Gray says:

    This was amazing! I didn’t even think the ‘arm flailing’ was even a problem. Not a single umm in there. I’m so glad you did this, spreading the word. I love the actions are like ripples phrase. You have inspired and helped me so much (in case you can’t tell by me commented on at least every second blog post! Haha) and now I get a lot of questions and comments saying I have inspired people to have a go at reducing their waste too. Yesterday I had a colleague asking me if he should write letters to his neighbours that he shares a communal recycle bin with because they are always putting there recycling in plastic bags! I love see the ripple affects. Thanks for being brave!

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Thank you so much Sarah! Ah, the lack of umms was a great deal of practise! And pausing – which was something I definitely had to learn! In real life I tend to talk very fast, especially about things I’m passionate about ;)

      I love all your comments Sarah! :) And I’m so glad that you’re experiencing the ripple effect too. I think we all have an effect on others, whatever we do (good or bad), every single day, but when people tell us that they’ve done something differently because of us, it’s very satisfying/re-energising on a personal level, as well as great for the planet and environment.

      It’s great to know that others are trying new things, but it also feels good when people notice what you do and tell you! It’s the opposite of when people say “but what’s the point…” – they say “oh I did this because of you” and we think – yes, I am making a difference!

      Hurrah for the ripple effect! :)

      • sarahgray3
        sarahgray3 says:

        Oh woops- a few typos in my comment above! It’s something I didn’t anticipate other people would be so interested in. So far I have has 3 people contact me privately and say they are going to attempt the lifestyle (many others saying they will adopt a few of the principles) I have just found out that my local council runs free ‘green’ workshops on topics like gardening, worm farming, cooking, fermenting and ‘eco’ crafts. I am planning on going to the fermenting class to see what it’s like (and hopefully learn something too)- and would love to run a workshop of my own on zero waste living (After progressing towards zero waste for over 12months I think I am nearly ready) If you don’t mind – I may email you at some point for advise :)

        • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
          Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

          Of course we are interested Sarah! That’s great – for every person that tells you that you’ve inspired or influenced them, there will be many more that don’t tell you, but to whom it still applies! Awesome job. I would recommend going to the workshop. We have lots of free events and it’s a great way to learn new skills, meet new people and also see the kinds of things others do, to see if you can fill a niche! (And yes, there will be a place for you.) How exciting! I look forward to your email ;)

  5. rhinophile
    rhinophile says:

    I loved your presentation, Lindsay. I’m so glad that you were able to overcome your ‘fear of public speaking’ to share your knowledge and experience as to why we should all reduce our use of plastic. I am not as far down the path as you are however I have been through many of the thoughts and feelings you share here. May your public speaking continue to spread the word!

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Thank you Ruth! It’s interesting to reflect, when I know how bad and fearful I was, and can see (and feel) how far I’ve come! I guess I want to share that it is possible to get better at these things, you don’t have to be awesome and oozing confidence and charisma to tell others your story and do your bit. Of course, there were many many steps between this and the start of the journey. I wonder where (of anywhere) it will lead now?! ;)

  6. nesscrump
    nesscrump says:

    Fantastic talk Lindsay. Nothing gets the message across like a personal story. As for your arms, don’t give them another thought. You need a degree of animation when you are addressing a large audience. I thought your presentation was polished and yet very authentic.

  7. Angie
    Angie says:

    As the other listeners said, that was an articulate speech, and as you ended I wanted to hear more. Once upon a time I had a recycling job, spoke here and there, but the most stressful presentations were those where I talked to kids. As you pointed out, public speaking does get a little easier the more you do it.

    Anyway, I hope to get further down the zero waste road this year. My trash is about ten gallons per week, and most of it is used cat litter. My recycling cart is always full, because of packaging as you mentioned in your talk.

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Thanks Angie, what a lovely comment :) I haven’t had much experience speaking to kids and I imagine it’s a whole other ball game! It’s far easier to hold the attention of adults, I think!

      I’m sure you will do fabulously in 2017 with your journey! Do you have a garden? Some people I know with cats put their cat litter in the garden – they use the “clumping kitty litter” which is basically clay. Something to think about / look into? :) Good luck! x

  8. Susan
    Susan says:

    You were excellent!
    I needed a tablespoon today as mine has gone walkabout and the only one I found was plastic. I ummed and arred and tried to justify how much I needed it today, but felt much better leaving it and I will continue to look for an alternative. I didn’t really need it to make my almond pulp brownies anyway! Thanks for inspiring me to walk away!

  9. Paul
    Paul says:

    Well done, Lindsay! I really felt your nervousness at the start, but by the end you were on top of it. I liked the way you told the story from your perspective. You shared your journey, then invited us along. I thought it was a great way to avoid preaching. Not a “you have to…!” in sight. :-) You came across as very credible and genuine. All the best with continuing the journey!

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Thank you Paul! Waiting backstage ready to go on was the most nerve-wracking part, I think! And then walking to the red dot on the stage! Once I’d got the first paragraph out, it all became a lot more comfortable.

      I like sharing my story, because I really wasn’t that different from anyone else. I’d just never really thought about a lot of things before. It doesn’t take a special kind of person to reduce their rubbish – anyone can do it! And I think it’s important to make that clear :)

      Thanks for your lovely comment Paul!

  10. Mel Rye
    Mel Rye says:

    Wow amazing Lyndsay! A really inspiring talk, and absolutely right that we can all do something to change our habits, even in small steps. And I remember those English lessons where we would be made to read out loud to the class by Mrs Donald – she would be so proud :) fantastic public speaking, such a great achievement to get over a fear like that. X

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Thanks Mel! Ah, those English lessons with Mrs Donald still haunt me! I can imagine that rather than pride she’d feel smug ;) I consider it no thanks to her that I got over my fear!

      Thanks for taking the time to watch and to comment, glad you enjoyed it!

  11. Caroline
    Caroline says:

    Well done Lindsay! We are all on a journey, and as you say things don’t change overnight – small steps are required. Just one question that you might be able to suggest an answer to. I have just started in a new company and am horrified by the amount of people that don’t bother putting recyclables in the correct bin. And insist on drinking (bought) coffee from takeaway cups when there is free coffee available that could easily go into a proper cup. Any tips about approaching people without sounding too preachy??

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Thanks Caroline :) Hmmm, great question, and a tricky one. I would divide this into two issues – the recycling, and the coffee culture. The recycling might be solved just by putting clear labels on the bins. Not preachy or lecturing ones, no cross faces or anything like that. Maybe figure out what is the worst contamination (eg used coffee cups in the reclycling) and just put a note to work on that first. “Please remember, used coffee cups are not recyclable! Please pop them in the rubbish bin.” Then work on the next thing.

      As for coffee culture, that’s harder because people feel entitled to go and buy good coffee, and instant/filter isn’t the same. Where I worked previously, everyone was too poor for fancy coffee but they loved the pod machine, so I worked on building the community aspect of brewing a cafetiere of coffee and we’d all drink it and share. It worked really well. But the first thing might be for people to realise that the takeaway cups aren’t recyclable. (It still amazes me how many people think they are.) Then you could broach the idea of reusable cups, or even upcycled jars. Even if you use a reusable coffee cup (to drink the free coffee) people sometimes haven’t seen KeepCups etc before, so it’s a good way to get people thinking without actually saying anything.

      But I would start small, keep everything super positive, and be really helpful. You don’t want anyone to get offside, and once you get to know them and build their trust it will get easier. I hope that helps!

  12. Peter LeCornu
    Peter LeCornu says:

    Great presentation and very motivating. Don’t worry about your hands – they were not distracting and they actually helped to get your message across.

  13. Fairtrade Nomad and Optimist for Change
    Fairtrade Nomad and Optimist for Change says:


    What an articulate and informative talk. Your a NATURAL!
    Thank you for sharing your experiences Lindsay.

    I hope we can all change the way we shop, eat and recycle so we can save our precious planet.

    Best wishes and regards
    Your friend and supporter in Dubai UAE and Manchester UK


  14. Suzanne Lively
    Suzanne Lively says:

    Brilliant talk! Well done, and your public speaking is great!! Hopefully many more people will get the message and start making changes! All the big movements started this way, a small group of dedicated people showing others how it could be done differently, let’s hope it starts to catch on

  15. evacreations
    evacreations says:

    Great talk.simple and to the point. I want to make a difference to the people around me and then stores! Im all the way in SA and there is lots of work to be done here!!!!
    Started my own blog and am instagramming to get people to have mind shifts. very new at all this too.!


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