Master of None?
Arjun Ajjampur is a multi-faceted Toastmaster. He actively contributes to the Conference and Club Growth teams and has taken various roles as Graphics Designer, Event Photographer, and Club Officer Trainer. I had a chance to conduct a behind-the-screens Table Topics session with Arjun.
- Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I am originally from Bengaluru, Karnataka, India. I have a Master’s degree in Industrial designing and worked in a few startups in India before moving to the US in August 2012. Apart from being a Toastmaster (with my home club, North Valley Toastmasters), my other interests include motorcycling, reading, and sketching.
- How and when did you find Toastmasters?
I heard about Toastmasters for the very first time from my wife, Mythili. I attended my first Toastmasters meeting in 2013. To be honest I didn’t find an immediate value and felt a little self-conscious of speaking. I always felt even though I knew the English language, my communication skills weren’t good enough. So I gave it a shot. But even before officially becoming a Toastmaster, I had an interest in sketching and arts. So I took up program designing for one of the District Toastmasters conferences. That gave me an idea of Toastmaster events even before I became a member.
- Do you remember your icebreaker? From then until now, how has Toastmasters helped you in public speaking?
Usually, people compare the rest of their speeches with their icebreaker and check how much they have improved over the time. Having an avid Toastmaster as my life partner made me deliver a very well-planned icebreaker. I put a lot of work into it and had my wife evaluate it to improve it before I delivered it to my club. When I started speaking, I would force humor. But I since developed natural humor in my speeches and all thanks to the Toastmasters’ experience.
- Of all the speeches delivered, which one of yours is your personal favorite?
I would have to say it is my speech for the 2015 Humorous Speech Contest. I shave my head these days, so I spoke about the time before I shaved my head and what I used to do then compared to after shaving my head. It received an amazing response and I advanced to the District finals of the contest.
- How do you come up with topics for your speeches?
Usually, I get inspired by the things I read. So my speeches are all based on the books and articles I read. Not just for writing speeches, reading also improves grammar in general. For example ‘Surely you are Joking Mr. Feynman’ by Richard Feynman has helped me come up with Humorous speeches. For topics related to science and nature, I have gotten my inspiration from Elizabeth Colbert’s ‘The Sixth Extinction’.
- Tell me about your interest in graphics design? How all have you utilized it for TM?
I have an interest in painting, sketching, and art since I was young. When I learned about designing the contest and conference programs, I wanted to try out. Even though I had an interest in designing, the procedure was completely new for me. So I had to learn about the Toastmasters procedure and how much work goes into it.
- You are a member of the Conference and Club Growth teams (Club Extension Chair & Club Ambassador Program Director). Tell me about your role and responsibility.
I enjoyed leading a team who were all working towards the same goal, i.e. conference planning. It was great to see many friendly faces enjoying the conference. Chartering a club is a very fulfilling experience. As the Club Extension Chair, it has been a wonderful learning experience. I talk to new Toastmasters clubs and members, facilitate demo dates, see how the chartering process unfolds, and also set up the new club by providing all the paperwork.
The Club Ambassador Program allowed me to understand how collaboration can help share best practices between clubs and thereby bring us closer as a community.
- Tell me about your interest in Photography.
To be honest I am not a keen photographer. I am what they call an “Instagram photographer”. I am more interested in the composition of the photos than actually clicking them. But I enjoy taking pictures at all the Toastmasters events as when I point the camera at people, they pause, smile and pose!
- What is your advice for new Toastmasters members?
In life, you always get what you put into it. So only by trying everything will you know what you want. Try out all the roles and opportunities in Toastmasters and don’t just restrict yourself to your club. Try to find opportunities outside your club and involve yourself even more.
Written by Gayathri Natarajan