There seems to be a general consensus among most animal rights activists that the best way to open people up to the idea of a vegan diet is to show them that vegan food can be just as delicious as it's animal-based counterpart. Many vegans do a great deal of outreach, and influence a great number of people, simply by bringing food to various social events. I have no doubt that this strategy is very effective; I have seen people's reactions when they taste good vegan food.
Another common tactic though is to focus on informing people about the health benefits of a plant-based diet. I am of the belief, and the research seems to agree, that even less-than-healthy vegan food is far better health-wise than the same type of food made from animal products. However, the more healthy a person's food choices are, the more obvious their good health will be to those around them.
The problem is that, at least in my mind, these two things conflict with each other. The better your food is for you, the less it is going to taste like what the average person is used to eating. And the only way to make food (whether vegan or not) taste good, at least by most people's standards, is to add unhealthy things to it; sugar, oil, bleached flour, etc.
Then, of course, there is the "scrawny vegan" stereotype. I personally am probably more bothered by this than anything else that is said about vegans. People have this weird obsession with protein (which, by the way, is not a problem for us. Protein is in just about everything and there are a multitude of excellent plant sources which are far healthier than any animal sources.) and assume that vegans are physically incapable of building muscle, or strength despite the many examples to the contrary. I've decided to do whatever I can to dispel this myth. The problem is, the more effort you put into taking care of your health and your body, the more you set yourself apart from the average person. I find that while trying to defend against the "scrawny vegan" stereotype, I end up encouraging the "weird vegan" stereotype.
I'm honestly not sure which is more effective, but I've never been much of a conformist. So I would rather show people the real benefits they can get from veganism, rather than trying to show that we are "just like them" or that our food can taste as good as their food. So maybe my food doesn't seem all that appealing to most people, and maybe I spend a bit more time obsessing about my body than most, but I plan to take full advantage of the benefits of my diet and so far I've seen an awful lot of them.
Mindy Collette and Robert Cheeke.