In honor of Betta Fish Awareness Day (June 21) I am doing a presentation at my library to boost people's awareness of the proper way to keep this awesome fish. If you have any suggestions or tips, they are welcome!
Are you able to do a PowerPoint presentation? I find that that helps capture and keep people's attention. Also, it may be a cheap tactic, but it is effective - play on people's emotions by showing images of bettas in poor conditions and in good ones. The visual contrast is a great way to prove your point.
I don't know how feasible this would be, but if you could have a display- one betta in a fishbowl with hardly anything in it, and one in a larger sized (5 gal?) tank with lots of silk plants, heater, etc it makes it a lot easier to see why a bigger tank is better.
Having a poster or something with pictures and a few bullet points of why small tanks are harmful to bettas would be easy too.
They also live in klongs, small ponds and slow-flowing rivers. Sometimes their environments are quite small. :) However, there are several important things to stress: they can jump when trapped in a body of water that is too small; even a small body of water in the wild has is part of a functioning eco-system that we cannot recreate in a small tank; and those bodies of water stay warm due to the air temperature, which small, unheated tanks do not.
I think you should Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS). Don't use jargon that the average person is not going to be able to understand. If you want to explain a more complex concept such as the nitrogren cycle, diagrams can make for much easier comprehension.
Think at a basic level. I would assume most of the people you are presenting to, are not going to be fish people. Therefore, try to give a broad overview rather than an indepth look at only one or two topics.
I think the most important topics to cover should be tank size, tank maintenance, necessity of aquarium heaters, diet and perhaps things like not housing males and females or males and males in the same tank (you will be surprised at how many stores recommend this).
I think a big one is explaining that there is a difference between surviving and thriving. People often excuse the use of unheated and dirty bowls because they had a betta that lived for a hundred years in one. However, perhaps try and find a suitable analogy that explains why the simple act of survival doesn't necessarily mean that the conditions provided are humane.
Maybe have a pamphlet you can hand out at the end of your speech to interested people. This could include links to useful sites.
I know a lot of people prefer the "bigger is better" rule for tank size, but remember, not every betta is comfortable in a larger tank. I would recommend a heated 1.5 gal as the absolute minimum, but add that most bettas would prefer more space.
I love the rice paddy and klong pictures idea, especially the klong. It'll show the rainforests around it, and will help nail home the "Tropical" part of "Tropical fish"!!
I'm wishing you the best of luck. A couple of the users have before and after photos with water tests on the cup water, you could always ask them to use their awesome photos, and maybe get them to get pictures of the rehabbed fish with another water test in front of it to show more ideal conditions and the changes they bring.