3 Public Speaking Lessons From Hasan Minhaj's Homecoming King

3 Public Speaking Lessons From Hasan Minhaj's Homecoming King

4-part case study on how millennials can overcome stage fright, hook audience attention, and speak your truths.
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His high school basketball team cut him 3 years in a row, but he shot his shots anyway, until one day he made the Netflix hall of fame. In his standup memoir, Homecoming King, Hasan Minhaj lets it fly story after story, catching fire with punchlines, and driving home the point and underlying theme of the show: A New Brown America.

As a brown millennial still driving a Camry, as a husband and father in an interfaith marriage, and a student of the skill of storytelling, I constantly put the Special on repeat and recommend it to anyone that comes over.

My wife’s worried my obsession might lead me to quit my job and my startup, to become a standup comedian. The truth is I'm obsessed with patterns, and I enjoy reverse-engineering works of art to uncover solutions for major problems.

Specifically, I study Minhaj’s content, delivery, and punchlines to understand how introvert professionals and business people can overcome glossophobia - aka stage fright - and deliver articulate presentations, pitches, and all forms of public speeches.

In the age of social media and artificial intelligence, every millennial needs to up his or her game at public speaking. After deliberate practice, the second best advice I offer on how to improve this ability is to study professionals, such as journalists and comedians. By breaking down their work into bits and pieces and patterns, we can put in the work without having the talent. In this 4-part series of articles, I'll share my process and my findings.

1) The Lesson of all Lessons: Tell Stories

The future belongs to a different kind of person with a different kind of mind: artists, inventors, storytellers-creative and holistic ‘right-brain’ thinkers.

--Daniel Pink, author

Telling stories is like saying sorry, please, and thank you: we all do it, but not enough.

Standup comedians know this better than anybody, and Minhaj nails it by telling dozens of short stories for 70 minutes straight.

Whether you teach, sell, or inform for a living, narrative intelligence is a skill and artform that differentiates humans from artificial intelligence, whether used in a 1-on-1 setting, or on stage.

“Powerpoints are the peacocks of the business world: all show, no meat.”

-Dwight Schrute, ordinary genius

2) Use the Rule of 3

Throughout the show, Minhaj uses the rule of 3 because 3 is a golden number. When you use three items in a sentence, joke, or title, the reader or listener finds the point or punchline more concise, memorable, and satisfying.

The rule of 3 is universal. You can have 3 of anything work effectively:

  • Letters in acronyms: LAX. NYC. UPS.
  • Words with repetition: Location, location, location
  • Words in a title: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
  • Actions in a sequence: I came, I saw, I conquered
  • Parts in a joke: I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.

2 isn’t enough and 4 is too many. It’s why you don’t see Moe, Larry, Curly, AND Shemp in 3 Stooges episodes.

Now that you’re aware, re-watch the Homecoming King, and notice the frequency and mastery of the Rule of 3 in its glory. Examples:

  • LA, Chicago, New York
  • Starbux, WiFi, Highways
  • Cody, Corey, and Cole
  • Soul Cycle -> Yoga -> ZeeTV
  • Hannity, Coulter, O’Reilly
  • No Fun, no friends, no girlfriends

3) Play with Words, Numbers, and Figures of Speech

Every speaker is tasked with the challenge of holding the audience’s attention still so that his or her message, tone, and punchlines are delivered as the speaker intends. When the audience, hungry for laughter, pays attention, every person’s brain is locked in connection-making mode, eager to chomp on the next simile, metaphor, or pop culture reference dropped by the speaker.

Wordplay - the art of infusing sarcasm, puns, and figures of speech within your content - keeps the audience hooked and wanting more.

For it to work, wordplay has to be subtle and nonchalant, as if you’re just having a casual conversation with your audience. Otherwise, you risk coming across as cheesy, scripted, and trying too hard. Though for beginners, the payoff is worth the risk.

Hasan Minhaj’s use of wordplay is so powerful you forget he uses it, so it required me to re-watch the show a dozen times to identify all the different techniques used. At the risk of giving away too much, here’s a list of examples:

Alliteration

  • Beautiful blue BMX bike
  • Cody, Cory, and Cole
  • Creed, color, class

Fun Words (or Names)

  • Pitter-patter
  • Rajesh Rengatramanajananam

Anaphora

  • No fun, no friends, no girlfriends
  • That kid won’t choke on camera. He’s been slapped on camera. – Of course he can spell “knaidel”. – Knaidel. Look at that face. Nothing. Nothing! He’s 12 years old. Nothing! This kid just won $30,000 cash. Nothing.

Assonance

  • I actually had the Audacity of Equality

Metaphors

  • It’s a Fair and Lovely World (Fair N Lovely is a popular skin whitening product in India)
  • We’re the rappers that made it.

Similes

  • Like a Brown Mr. Miyagi
  • Off with the head. Like a goddamn emperor
  • It’s like Tinder with no photos
  • I crushed it like a Voldemort Horcrux
  • Hindus and Muslims are like the Montagues and Capulets of India. We’ve been warring for centuries.

Irony

  • Every day I walk past their building during lunch. I’ll see all the [FOX News] employees, Hannity, Coulter, O’Reilly, leave their building, cross the street, walk past me, and line up for halal chicken and rice. I’m like, “Uh… Racist Randy wants that red sauce.” Your brain can be racist, but your body will just betray you.

Sarcasm

  • Population of 990,000, that’s a small town in India
  • Do you know what it’s like to have a parent that controls your life? “No, I don’t. What is that like? Do tell. I would love to hear that story.”

This concludes Part 1, check back next week for Part 2, where we go over self-deprecation, callbacks, and the Bookend Technique.

If you've considered professional speech lessons, I recommend you check out TakeLessons' private speech tutors. Full disclosure: I work for TL, and I unapologetically promote the work we do to connect students and teachers.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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15 Things That Need To Be Invented Now

The next round of needed life hacks.
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For Millennials, life is constantly being made easier. Compared to our parents' generation, almost everything about the way we run our day-to-day lives has been modified for speed, simplicity, and convenience. You want a cup of coffee? Here, have an instant cup of hot coffee at the push of a button! Missing your friend across the country? Call them with your smartphone, see them instantly! You can Google virtually any question, there is an app for every want and need; each step of the way Millennials are working to make things easier. I have a few ideas to contribute:

1. Extending USB cord: There must be USB plug that can stretch. The way a dogs leash will release more cord as it is pulled on, there needs to be a cord that can stretch as I roll over in bed without pulling the plug out of the wall. The struggle of being attached to a wall is too great.

2. Closet Organizer App: Some mornings you wake up and wonder how it was ever possible that you once found a decent looking outfit in your closet. Other days the prospect of having to dress yourself is just too much. There needs to be an app that can record what is in a closet and make an outfit, for any event, at the ready, similar to what Cher Horowitz has in Clueless.

3. Hangover Curing Drink: Stronger than Gatorade, better for you than pumping your stomach with Advil and water, and putting an end to the old "flu" excuse at work. A foolproof drink that can give everyone what they need to get up, pick their dignity off the floor, and soldier on. You all may thank me later.

4. Rent-A-Boyfriend: Have you ever had one of those weeks where you just need someone to bring you chocolate cake in bed and tell you you're beautiful? Maybe you really can't figure out how to build all the new Ikea furniture for your apartment and you are incapable of rounding up a guy friend to do it. Either way, the ability to rent a boyfriend on a needed basis would be quite handy. Think of all the stuff they could do for you, then you get to return them when you're done! It's like a dream.

5. Parking Tracker: What is it about parking garages that suddenly make everyone's memory go blank? Whatever the reason for the world's inability to keep track of their cars once stationary, it needs to be resolved. Too many minutes are lost aimlessly wandering the garage carrying heavy shopping bags. Please, someone invent a tracking app for your car, so that you can remember exactly where you parked and follow the map directly to it.

6. Forever-Hot Coffee Mug: I'm not sure what type of wizardry would be required to create a coffee mug that can abolish the awful lukewarm state that coffee turns into after such a short period of time, but someone needs to discover it. Long nights of studying and hours-long brunches of switching between the mimosa and the sweet nectar of the Gods will be forever changed by never again fearing cool coffee.

7. Teleportation Pad: The year is 2015; I was promised a flying car. In lieu of the flying car -- I am willing to accept teleportation pads. Think about travel becoming as easy as "stand here and click that button." Imagine not having to bother putting on a bra to go from your apartment to your friend's apartment for wine night! This could be revolutionary.

8. Sassy Siri: Every girl could use someone to help them come up with the perfect come back in a pinch, and who better than Siri! With her constantly involved in your conversations, it would be easy to just ask Siri for a little sass-assistance the next time your best frenemy mocks your highlights.

9. Compliment Earrings: If you have never seen Aquamarine, go rent it now. For those who recall, the star fish earrings were "notorious suck ups" to the girls who wore them. Imagine going through a tough day, when unexpectedly you are given a compliment! Talk about a great mid-day pick up.

10. Food Printer: My stalking of Pinterest food pages has progressed from a mild addiction to a full blown problem; I always find I want the things I see in the pictures immediately. I want to be able to hit print on one of the pictures and have those lemon-blueberry iced cupcakes in my kitchen right then.

11. Necklace De-Tangler: Ladies across the country lose thousands of necklaces to tangled knots. Chains break, two beautiful separates become one big mess, and before you know it your jewelry box is empty! There must be a machine where one could drop their knotted necklaces and have them come out the other side in perfect condition.

12. Hot Slippers: On a cold Monday morning when walking around the kitchen, debating which is worse, waking up or being awake, it would be nice to be comfortable. Nice pajamas are all well and good, but a fuzzy pair of slippers that can become warm? That is the dream. There is no morning too grey or hangover too intense that would not be cured with these slippers.

13. Calorie Rewind: There needs to be a way to take back that entire pepperoni pizza you ate last night. Whether you were not in the proper state of mind to be making that decision, or even if it was emotional turmoil over exams; it shouldn't count. Perhaps the next big thing in weightloss is a pill that allows you to take back a meal. A way to go back in time and undo that embarrassing trip to the doughnut shop down the road in favor of a more healthy alternative? Not a bad idea.

14. Sleepy-Time Studying: How awesome would it be if you could fall asleep with headphones in and wake up knowing an entire textbook? Humans spend an average of 26 years sleeping-- there should be a way to put that time to good use. A way to absorb the information while you sleep should be the next big invention. It would be the perfect cure to the all nighter!

15. Decision Making App: Desperately struggling to pick where to go for dinner? Unable to decide whether to go out or stay in? Unsure of whether it's a day for heels or for flats? These are the everyday questions faced by thousands of Millennials. We need to find a cure for the indecisiveness. An app that takes the guess work out of meaningless day to day questions such as, "Do I want a grande or a vent?" (Or I suppose you could just flip a coin...)

Bonus 16. Articles That Write Themselves: I wish I had a magic box I could give an idea to and it would instantly put print out the article I am trying to write.

Cover Image Credit: giphy.com

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Self-Employed Entrepreneurs Deserve Your Respect, I Learned That From My Father

The "do it yourself" mindset is something I have always looked up to.

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I respect those who have a vision for their life that does not necessarily fit the cookie cutter idea of a 9-5 job. Their vision does not fit just one job title, taking on so many roles in their life. They care so much about their career that they take matters into their own hands and do it themselves.

This "do it yourself" mindset is something I totally respect and look up to. When a vision is so widespread it cannot be contained in a 9-5 job. Whether it be a side hustle, a self-made business, or an idea you are trying to expand. Wanting to branch out and start your own work environment is outstanding.

For an entrepreneur, it's not all about the money. If it was, they would have probably chosen a more "stable" job. Instead, they perceiver through various obstacles that fulfill their dreams. The self-made business is way more than the money you can make, it's about what someone can do with the money; expand their brand, or support themselves and their loved ones. It's rare in today's world to find someone who genuinely just loves their job and is not just focused on the paycheck. Entrepreneurs enjoy their work.

But most importantly, they love what their work is, what it stands for, and how it affects and impacts others. Their work can leave an impact which is essentially the whole reason why they work so hard. It's the sense of accomplishment after finishing a difficult yet fulfilling project. Those who are self-employed work long, fluctuating hours in order to see their vision come to life. They do what it takes to accomplish their goals; struggle through financial obstacles, slow periods, and self-doubt.

My personal experience with this subject is very close to my heart. My father has worked for himself, being a contractor for 10 years. I never understood the extent of his hard work until recently. I see his hard work displayed through his enthusiasm to begin a new project. The "before" and "after" pictures are absolutely astonishing. My father built his own business remodeling houses along with various other jobs for others.

Seeing my father take on a new project is so inspiring. He will be so excited, talking about the vision he has for this old, dated kitchen remodel he's doing. He will totally transform this kitchen into a modern, clean-looking space. Just this total transformation is amazing to me. The blood, sweat, and tears he puts into every project are unremarkable. But, it's not the only thing I respect about him; it's about why he chose to work for himself in the first place.

My father is the type of person to have goals, visions, and inspirations. He does not just settle for the status quo. He is constantly finding new design ideas and implementing them in his projects. The best part for him? Seeing the look on his client's face when he reveals his work. He has such pride in his work. He had such a vision that he took a risk to start his own business, not knowing how it would all pan out.

Luckily for his hard work ethic and extreme talent, I've watched as my father grew his brand into something so successful. This never came without some hard times along the way. To me, that's what it's all about when you first decide to be a self-employed entrepreneur. The amount of respect I have for people who decide to take this risk and spark their dream into reality is unspeakable.

If you have a dream, it is definitely possible to achieve. I've watched my father grow his talent from the ground up in order to make a living. Take your passions, dreams, and goals and run with them. If you have a vision and want to make a difference, you should go after it and build off of it. Being original, working hard, and making a difference is most definitely respected.

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