This is a contest demo post.
Building on the foundation of WordPress, which is used by major publications like The New Yorker and marketing organizations like Disney, Toastmost provides clubs and districts with rich multimedia publishing tools — more ways of dramatizing the value of the Toastmasters experience. The Toastmasters-specific extensions demonstrated in this workshop allow your club to manage its agenda and take advantage of digital methods of doing business, such as a web-based membership application that offers new members the option of paying online.
“This allows us to step our game to the next level of professionalism”Carol Prahinski, Past International Director, on the value of the WordPress-powered Toastmost club website hosting service.
In this excerpt, Carol Prahinski addresses the issue of why you should consider Toastmost over free options like Free Toast Host.
Sign up at toastmost.org to try the WordPress-powered club website service. The software is also available for free if you have the skills to set up an independent website.
The new 62toast.com is hosted on Toastmost, and adding each of the videos shown above was as easy as pasting a link from YouTube into the WordPress editor.
If you have questions that were not addressed in the workshop, you can write to firstname.lastname@example.org and include “District 62 workshop” in the subject line.
Other district leaders who would like me to present to their leaders, please write to email@example.com and include “Toastmost speaking invitation” in the subject line.
If your club is conducting online or hybrid meetings, and members vote on weekly awards like “Best Table Topic Speech,” here is something new to try.
I think this method could be better than voting by private chat in Zoom (which is what my clubs have typically done) or using the polling feature. Here’s a video demo.
See this knowledge base article for step-by-step instructions. The screenshots there reflect a few changes I made after the video was recorded.
The Vote Counter’s Tool makes it easy to set up a digital ballot that includes the names of speakers who signed up in advance and add other names as needed. The vote counter then posts a link in the public chat. Meeting participants who follow that link get a simple ballot that allows them to vote.
Logging into the website is not required for anyone other than the vote counter. Voting members are identified by IP address and other means, just enough to make sure nobody’s vote is counted twice.
As votes roll in, the vote counter is able to see the current tally. In a hybrid meeting, where some votes can come in on slips of paper rather than using the online ballot, the vote counter can add those votes to the tally.
Drawbacks of Other Methods
- Voting by private chat: Until recently, I thought this was the simplest option. However, the last time I served at vote counter at a meeting where there was a lot of chat activity, I found it challenging to sort out the votes from the other messages posted in the chat stream.
- Zoom polls: Only someone logged in as the meeting host can set up a poll. Members who may have been assigned cohost rights will find they cannot vote. Also, at the conclusion of the poll, the results are displayed onscreen in a manner you might not necessarily want. That is, it shows the margin of victory in a way that might hurt someone’s pride.
- Third party apps: Various smartphone and web apps provide other ways of casting and counting votes. The tradeoff is that you’re adding yet another piece of technology into the meeting. Also, these apps don’t pull data from the agenda the way my vote counting tool can.
Room for Improvement?
This feature is new and may need to be improved. It got good reviews when I tried it for the first time, at my home club, Club Awesome, and again at Online Presenters. If you encounter glitches or have suggestions for improvement, let me know by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your holding a club contest as part of one of your regular club meetings, the quickest way to rearrange your agenda to match the contest format is to switch from your regular meeting template to a contest template. This video shows how.
The latest software update adds default templates for the standard Toastmasters contests. These are generic, but you can customize them to match how you want to run your contests.
One way of taking advantage of these templates is to use the Apply Template to Existing event form on the Event Templates admin page.
If you’re logged in as a website editor, you can also navigate directly to that Apply Template to Existing event form by choosing Switch Template off the top-of-the-screen menu under Edit RSVP Event.
Alternatively, you might want to copy-and-paste content from the template into the event document for one of your upcoming meetings, allowing you to preserve elements of your standard agenda. There is a Copy All Content link in the WordPress editor — click the 3 dots in the upper right hand corner to reveal it.
You would then paste the contest content into the event post for the meeting where you will be conducting the contest. Use Control-V on Windows or Command-V on Mac to paste. Then delete other elements of the agenda that won’t fit with the addition of the contest activities.
If you want to set up a separate date and time for your contest, rather than doing it during a meeting, you can access the templates under New -> RSVP Event. There’s also a way of doing it from the new event screen.
If the contest will be conducted online, you might also want to set up the Contest Dashboard digital ballot and vote counting tools.
Have questions not answered here? Write to email@example.com
Toastmasters clubs can now collect and track dues using PayPal, or the Stripe credit card processing service, or both. The WordPress for Toastmasters system and Toastmost club website hosting service let you set up a dues renewal page and prompt new members to pay when they complete the online application. Once online payments are configured, they can also be used to collect event fees, fundraising payments, or serve any other club purpose.
This video shows how to connect to the online payment services and also how to use the Dues Tracker screen to keep track of who has and has not paid.
Advantages of PayPal and Stripe
Previously only the Stripe service was supported for dues payments. But I’ve been hearing for years from club leaders who want to be able to offer PayPal as an option or who have standardized on it for their clubs.
Stripe has some advantages as an alternative for club members who do not want to establish a PayPal account or prefer a straightforward credit card transaction. As a treasurer for the last couple of years, I appreciated that money automatically showed up in the club bank account within a couple of days. With PayPal, money accumulates in the PayPal account until you transfer it.
But choice is good.
Both PayPal and Stripe offer a nonprofit discount, which you should ask for.
Feedback on New Features
The Dues Tracker page in particular is still under active development and screens may change somewhat in future releases. It should do a pretty good job of matching dues transactions to member accounts. Treasurers are invited to give feedback on how it can be improved. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Dues Tracker” in the subject line.
In the coming months I hope to speak with more of you who are district leaders — or have influence with district leaders — about allowing me to present a workshop to leaders in your district or, better yet, agreeing to sponsor club websites on Toastmost.org. I am also available to help with district websites.
I hope to be able to announce soon that I’ll be working on one or more districts on all of those things. WordPress for Toastmasters is an independently funded operation, and district sponsorship is one way to fund its continued expansion. The Toastmost hosting service, where most users of the software have established their websites, recently got a significant upgrade and needs to earn its way back to break even. Toastmasters International provides branding review but not funding.
I’m happy to present to any district with or without any bigger commitment. However, for those who may be interested, details on a more ambitious program are included below.
Value of the Toastmost Service
Toastmost aspires to deliver both marketing power and innovations in agenda and club management in one package. The software benefits from continual innovation in the broader WordPress community, so features like mobile website support and social media integration are superior.
Popular features include web-based forms for evaluations and for the membership application, as well as online payments integration for collecting dues. The underlying software is available for use on other web hosting services, but Toastmost has it all preconfigured.
District Sponsorship of Club Websites
Districts may also choose to sponsor the cost of club websites, “buying in bulk” to make the service available free for clubs within the district.
The regular club rate is $50 per year for each club, following a 6-month free trial. Districts might consider encouraging clubs to sign up for the free trial. If enough clubs see the value and want to continue using the software, the district can negotiate a flat rate to allow access for all district clubs.
Pricing for the 2021-2022 Toastmasters year: If a district invests $500, the first 15 clubs to go live from that district will get a year of Toastmost service for free. Since the clock doesn’t start running until the end of their six months free, they would actually get access for at least 18 months (even if future district leaders don’t continue the relationship). The “go live” requirement is that the club must make its website public (available to be indexed in search engines). New club websites are set to discourage indexing by search engines to allow club leaders time for testing and content development.
Ideally, we would encourage dozens of district clubs to at least set up a trial account with the goal of getting 15 or more to commit to modernizing their club website.
Help with District Websites
You can see a mockup of a district website with a sample leader directory at d2021.toastmost.org. I expect to unveil an example of a revamped district website I worked on within the next few weeks. I’m holding off on naming the district until it’s official, but the idea is to make it a website worth bragging about. I’m talking with the PRM at another district that may come on board.
District websites may be hosted at Toastmost or with another web host that supports WordPress. The details are subject to negotiation.
I expect most districts to want the site to appear with their own web domain rather than the subdomain.toastmost.org setup of the demo site.
See the Toastmost for Districts page for more details.