Opening – scene of the crime


As I was working on my speech for the Toastmasters International Speech Contest, I was listening to a storytelling lesson by Darren LaCroix, and he reminded me of a lesson that another World Champion, Ed Tate, teaches: Start your speech at the scene of the crime.

He calls this the CSI opening – just like the show you start your speech at the scene of the crime.

For my contest speech this year, I open with this, “Rob, we’re sorry, but your position is being eliminated.”

This gives a glimpse of the conflict in my story, and leaves a question in the audiences mind, “what happened next?”

From there, I begin my story that builds up to that layoff. and after referencing that midway through the speech, I move toward the change and carryout message.

I like this technique for a couple of reasons:

  1. It builds curiosity in the audience right away
  2. I avoid a cliché opening of some question or quote
  3. It builds in a callback later in my speech
  4. It gives me something strong to reference in my conclusion

So far, it’s helped me win my Area and Division contests.

Also, from a structure point of view it’s easy to remember and it helps me keep the flow without having to struggle to remember any difficult constructs or resort to other tricks.

Now, with Craig Valentine, Darren is launching a new program called Secrets of Storytelling. This is based on a program they run each year. I attended this in Las Vegas in 2012, and it made a tremendous difference in my storytelling ability. Rather than spend over $1,000 to attend this in person (including flight and hotel costs), you can get a much better deal from Darren and Craig directly. Check out

I highly recommend that program. Even though I attended it live, I’m also running through it again now through Darren’s Stagetime University.

The CSI opening is a valuable tool for storytelling. Try it!


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