How To Open A Speech #20: The Multiple Vignettes Open

This is an excerpt from my new book, 101 Ways to Open a Speech, now available at Amazon.

A vignette is a brief summary of a specific event. A single vignette can appear to be an anomaly — but stacking several of them together in an opening can make the whole feel greater than the sum of its parts.

For example, a speaker discussing the effects of concussions on professional football players could begin with a series of three vignettes:

“February 2011. Former Chicago Bears, New York Giants, and Arizona Cardinals safety Dave Duerson commits suicide. According to The New York Times, he ‘complained to family of his deteriorating mental state during his final months.’

April 2012. Former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling kills himself. According to USA Today, he had ‘suffered through bouts of depression and insomnia, symptoms researchers have linked to repeated head trauma,’ for two decades.

May 2012. Former San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, and New England Patriots star Junior Seau shoots himself in his chest so his brain can be preserved for research. According to his autopsy report, he had been suffering from the same form of chronic brain damage as dozens of other former football players.”

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To test the strength of the multiple vignettes open, go back and read just the first vignette; it likely won’t produce as strong of a reaction for you as reading all three back-to-back.

This device can also be used to link together several concurrent events, such as a story of two mathematicians who were, unbeknownst to the other, working on the same problem and who discovered the previously unknown answer within hours of one another.

This is an excerpt from my new book, 101 Ways to Open a Speech, now available at Amazon. You can read more about the book here