Best of the Blog: Toastmasters Online PR, Marketing and Recruiting

While you can read a lot on this blog about the technical details of working with WordPress and my extensions for Toastmasters clubs, perhaps the most valuable things I’ve shared over the years are about online club marketing strategy. Here’s a collection of the ones that still ring true.

My example of: Show your club’s personality!

The image above is from one of the first blogs I posted here and still one of my favorites: Your Toastmasters Club Website: Show Some Personality!” At the time, my home club had recently moved (several times) winding up at the conference room upstairs at an ice skating rink. So we celebrated our unusual location by setting up this picture of then President Marilyn Brown behind a lectern we’d moved out onto the ice — and for good measure, persuaded the Zamboni drive to cruise by in the background.

Point being: you should celebrate whatever it is that makes your club unique (or even weird).

Your website should make a strong case for why someone ought to pick your club to join rather than another one in town. I certainly don’t mean that you should badmouth any other group, but you should articulate a strong positive message. We are talking friendly rivalry rather than cut-throat competition. The truth is that some of the things you play up as advantages will be disadvantages in the eyes of some potential members — and that’s okay. Continue reading “Your Toastmasters Club Website: Show Some Personality!”→

For how-to details on posting content to WordPress, see the knowledge base documentation.

How Your Toastmasters Club Website Can Help with Recruiting

When guests visit my home club, Club Awesome, one thing we often hear from them is, “I looked up a few local clubs, but I really liked what I saw on your website” … which is my cue to beam with pride.

There are certainly limits to what a website can do for you as a recruiting tool — what guests experience in person has to measure up to what they saw online — but a good website can attract guests and, ultimately, members. A bad website can also scare them away. And while I promote WordPress for Toastmasters and have considerable ego wrapped up in the idea that it is the best online platform for clubs, the software is less important than what you do with it. I’ve seen some very uninspired WordPress-based club websites, as well as some good Free Toast Host examples. Continue reading “How Your Toastmasters Club Website Can Help with Recruiting”→

10 Ways To Improve Your Home Page (or Any Page or Post)

WordPress gives you all the tools you need to market your club on the web and an anchor for your outreach by other means, including email and social media.

What the software will not do is tell your story for you. The words, the image, and the creative message have to come from you.

Club website with a strong home page image

New sites on the Toastmost.org service (the easiest way to get up and running with WordPress for Toastmasters) come with a sort of prefab home page that includes boilerplate content from Toastmasters International. That is intended as a starting point, but you should replace most of it with — or at least the introduction — with your own story.

What follows are tips about what content to include, along with how-to instructions for WordPress.

To be clear, I am not saying you need to use all these techniques on every page of your website. In fact, be careful about overloading your web pages with too many types of content or making them too long. It’s better to break the content for more pages and posts, keeping each one short, simple, and focused. Continue reading “10 Ways To Improve Your Home Page (or Any Page or Post)”→

How a Blog Makes a Toastmasters Club Website Stronger

This morning a guest at Club Awesome Toastmasters, who came in the door ready and willing to join, answered this way when we asked how she found us: “Well, I saw this was the club closest to me, and then I looked at your website — and I was sold!”

Blog post promoting a conference presentation.
Blog post promoting a conference presentation.

That was music to my ears, of course. One of the things she saw coming to our website was a lot of recent activity, conveyed through the blog. For example, recent posts celebrate wins by our members at an area contest, as well as a series of videos previewing a presentation one of our club leaders will be giving at the district conference. Continue reading “How a Blog Makes a Toastmasters Club Website Stronger”→

Grow Your Toastmasters Club: Web and Social Media Tactics

Toastmasters know, or ought to know, that first impressions are important: how confident you look walking to the front of the room, what words you choose to open your speech with, and how well you deliver them makes a huge difference in how your speech is perceived and how forgiving people will be of a small stumble later on. You need to think about recruiting the same way.

The first impression guests and prospective new members have of your club is probably what they see when they visit your website. This will be particularly true of new people who comes to your club on their own, rather than being invited in by an existing member. If someone is proactive enough to find the toastmasters.org website, search through area clubs and their schedules, and click through to your website — that is a good prospect, one you don’t want to let slip away. You want what they see online to convince them that yours is definitely the club to come to, not the one down the street. Continue reading “Grow Your Toastmasters Club: Web and Social Media Tactics”→

Updates to Toastmasters Contest Digital Ballots, Vote Counting Dashboard

The digital ballot for judges and the dashboard used for setting up contests and monitoring the vote count have been updated for 2021, and the documentation has also been updated.

The digital ballot replicates the experience of filling in a traditional paper ballot for judging a Toastmasters contest but streamlines the process for contests conducted online. Try the digital ballot demo.

Taking advantage of the fact that computers are good at doing math, the digital ballot helps judges tally the scores for each speaker and speeds the process of tallying the votes once judges have submitted them.

Setting Up a Toastmasters Contest for Digital Ballots and Online Vote Counting

Contest organizers may create an online vote counting dashboard that works with digital ballots completed by the judges. Once voting begins, the chief judge and ballot counters will be able to watch the votes roll in as shown below.

This article explains how to set up the digital ballots, speaking order, and other prerequisites.

Continue reading “Setting Up a Toastmasters Contest for Digital Ballots and Online Vote Counting”→

Digital Ballot for Toastmasters Contests

As a judge, you will receive an individualized link for each contest you are judging. The link may be password protected for judges who have user accounts on the club website. Also, the order in which the contestants are presented on the form mirrors the speaking order set by the contest organizers.

Here’s a sample ballot.

Online ballot

Continue reading “Digital Ballot for Toastmasters Contests”→

7 Ways Toastmost Club Website Hosting Improved in the Past Year

The Toastmost.org club website hosting service is how most clubs who use the WordPress for Toastmasters software get access, skipping the steps necessary to set up the software on an independent website. They get a powerful web publishing, marketing, and recruiting solution combined with agenda management and club management features.

Here are 7 ways the software and the hosting service got better in the last year. They include faster setup, more design flexibility, and multiple improvements to features for online meetings and contests.

1. Get a Toastmasters Club Website in Minutes, with the New Setup Wizard

You can now create a Toastmasters club website on Toastmost.org, make basic customizations to your meeting agenda, invite others to help you evaluate the software, and start sharpening your marketing message — all within minutes. You can even incorporate features to help you organize online meetings and meetings that include online participation. Because WordPress for … Continue reading

2. Simplified Member and Officer Email Lists for All Toastmost Users

Email distribution lists — write to one address, and your message is delivered to everyone on the list — are now available for all Toastmasters clubs who want them on the Toastmost.org hosting service. Toastmost is the easiest way to create a website that incorporates the WordPress for Toastmasters software. Until now, getting an email … Continue reading

3. Use the Toastmost Find a Club Email Bot with GMail

Toastmasters International sends a variety of different notifications, including “Contact Club” emails from the “Find a Club” page, all to the same email address that you’ve registered in Club Central. Sending an automated response is one way of responding faster and more consistently — which is not to say you shouldn’t also follow up personally. … Continue reading

4. Experimental Toastmost.org Feature: Login Without a Password

If you are on the Toastmost service, you may want to experiment with a new feature and let me know how you like it. This is an alternate way users can authenticate themselves to the website without a password, using a one-time login link. The process is similar the one you use to reset your … Continue reading

5. 5 New Toastmasters-branded WordPress Website Designs

Five new design choices are now available to users of the Toastmost.org website hosting service associated with the WordPress for Toastmasters project. See also: video demo of how to change your website theme. Like Lectern, which remains the default on Toastmost, these themes have been reviewed by Toastmasters International for conformance with the official brand … Continue reading

6. Use Your Own Domain with Toastmost Club Website Hosting

The Toastmost club website hosting service associated with the WordPress for Toastmasters is looking for clubs to test a new option, which allows you to use your own web domain (myclub.com) as opposed to a subdomain of toastmost.org (myclub.toastmost.org). Among other things, your club may gain a branding advantage by having a simpler domain consistent … Continue reading

7. Updates to the Online Ballots for Contest Judges and the Vote Counting Dashboard

When I recently asked for feedback from people who had used my online tools for judges, ballot counters, and the chief judge, one message I got from the judges was they wanted clearer confirmation that their votes had been received. Here is how the latest release of the software handles that, showing the judge a … Continue reading

Simplified Member and Officer Email Lists for All Toastmost Users

Email distribution lists — write to one address, and your message is delivered to everyone on the list — are now available for all Toastmasters clubs who want them on the Toastmost.org hosting service. Toastmost is the easiest way to create a website that incorporates the WordPress for Toastmasters software.

Until now, getting an email list on Toastmost required club leaders to file a request and wait for the server administrator (me) to perform a few manual steps. Now, these email lists can be enabled with a couple of clicks. For new users, the choice of whether to enable them is part of the club website setup wizard that welcomes them to the service.

Once enabled, the distribution lets any club member to send a message to the rest of the club.

For example, this is a test I did for the Webinarmasters club, relayed through webinarmasters@toastmost.org.

Sample email list message

Club officers are advised to limit use of the member email list to club business or social invitations. Members who abuse the list can have their access blocked. Messages from unrecognized addresses will also be blocked to prevent it from becoming a vehicle for spam.

A separate list allows officers to email all the other officers, using the officer list from the Toastmasters settings screen on the WordPress dashboard. In both cases, it’s possible to specify additional list recipients (for example, including an area director or past president on the officers email list).

Toastmost email list setup

Although this configuration is Toastmost-specific, webmasters who host the software elsewhere can enable mailing lists through the Group Email tab of the RSVPMaker plugin’s Settings screen. The difference is they will have to do more of the work related to email server configuration themselves.

Use the Toastmost Find a Club Email Bot with GMail

Toastmasters International sends a variety of different notifications, including “Contact Club” emails from the “Find a Club” page, all to the same email address that you’ve registered in Club Central.

Sending an automated response is one way of responding faster and more consistently — which is not to say you shouldn’t also follow up personally. Currently, this feature is only available to clubs that host their websites on toastmost.org.

To use the autoresponder, you need to have contact email messages from clubleads@toastmasters.org forwarded to findaclub@toastmost.org.

One relatively easy way is to create a GMail account specifically for purposes of club correspondence and have it forward selected emails to findaclub@toastmost.org. While you’re at it, you might want to set up forwarding of various other standard messages to the appropriate officers. See the illustrated tutorial below.

The process is:

  1. Record your club’s main email address here.
  2. Edit the message that will be sent in response to prospective member inquiries. For example, if you answer most of the questions people typically have on your website, you can send them a link to your website, along with contact information for your officers. The title of the document you create in WordPress will become the subject line of the automated emails, and the body of the document will become the body of the autoreply messages.
  3. Set up forwarding from your club’s email account to findaclub@toastmost.org
  4. Before establishing a forwarding address, GMail sends a nofification to the target address asking for confirmation. Our findaclub email bot sends you a copy, allowing you to approve the forwarding yourself by clicking a link in the notification.
  5. Create a forwarding rule in GMail to forward any message from clubleads@toastmasters.org to findaclub@toastmost.org
  6. Verify that it’s working by sending your own Contact Club inquiry from your club’s Find a Club page.

When findaclub@toastmost.org receives a notification from clubleads@toastmasters.org, it parses that message, finds the address of the person requesting information, and sends them the autoresponder message you have defined.

Step-by-Step Illustrations

Autoresponder / Notifications Forwarding Setup
GMail Settings
Show All Settings
Add a forwarding address
Toastmost’s Find-a-Club bot sends you Gmail’s verification message to approve yourself
Search on clubleads@toastmasters.org. Click on Show search options
Create filter button on search options screen
Define filter to forward messages that match your criteria

While you’re at it, you might want to set rules to forward other boilerplate messages from Toastmasters HQ to the appropriate officers.

Get a Toastmasters Club Website in Minutes, Powered by WordPress

You can now create a Toastmasters club website on Toastmost.org, make basic customizations to your meeting agenda, invite others to help you evaluate the software, and start sharpening your marketing message — all within minutes. You can even incorporate features to help you organize online meetings and meetings that include online participation.

Because WordPress for Toastmasters is built on a bundle of products that all have different configuration options — a calendar plugin and my Toastmasters customizations, as well as the underlying site editing and publishing software — club leaders have been telling me they’re overwhelmed at first. The new setup wizard consolidates a lot of the choices you need to make up front, such as how many speakers you have at a typical meeting and whether to invite online guest registration. That becomes a two-step process, followed by pointers on next steps.

Although the tutorial focuses on the Toastmost.org website hosting service, the new setup wizard is also included in the free software version. You are welcome to use Toastmost.org for testing, even if you plan to host your website independently.

I am still looking for help making the documentation better, but meanwhile this is my latest effort to make the software itself easier to learn. Feedback? Write to david@wp4toastmasters.com

Continue reading “Get a Toastmasters Club Website in Minutes, Powered by WordPress”

Replay: WordPress for Speakers and Leaders

Watch and share this replay from my webinar on how to use WordPress for digital marketing. I focused on strategies for professional speaker websites, although the same basic techniques apply to any business or to your Toastmasters club website. The video has been edited, with some errors edited out and the video zoomed in to show details that might have been hard to see during the live event.

Additional notes are included below.

To recap key points (including some I may not have said out loud):

  • I recommend WordPress because it is an Internet standard used by many businesses large and small for their online marketing. When I reviewed a list of top 10 list, I found 8 of 10 great pro speaker websites run on WordPress.
  • WordPress is open source software, meaning it is created by a community of software developers and made freely available to install on any website.
  • The software itself is free, as are many plugins, themes (designs), and services. For a pro speaker or small business website, you will typically find you need to pay some software and services. They include registering a domain, paying for hosting, and potentially purchasing commercial add-ons.
  • You can get a free website at WordPress.com, but you will need to pay for upgrades if you want it to show up at your own domain or give you access to additional business features. I generally recommend setting up an independent website that uses the software.
  • If you hire me to do your website, I prefer to make website hosting part of the package deal I offer so I can get you set up on the hosting from the same company I use for my own projects.
  • You can want to hire a consultant like me to assist you with the design and setup. Or you can take the do-it-yourself approach and learn as you go. It depends partly on whether you’re in a hurry to get something online and how comfortable you are learning new software.
  • Even when someone hires me, I always recommend they learn enough WordPress skills that they could fix a typo or an outdated price on their website without relying on me to do it for them. Certainly, if you want to take advantage of the blogging feature, you’ll want to learn your way around the editor.

Resources from Others

Top 10 Professional Speaker Websites to Inspire You

Creating a speaker website that’s so good, that meeting planners instantly hire you

WordPress Blocks: The Ultimate Guide to Gutenberg Blocks

Some of My Blog Posts

Jetpack: The Swiss Army Knife Plugin for Your Website

Specifically for Toastmasters:

Video: Change the Look of Your Club Website

Terrific Speaker Websites

My WordPress consulting services for professional speakers
terrificspeaker.com

Some of My Other Websites

Toastmost website hosting for Toastmasters

RSVPMaker plugin for event scheduling and registration

My portfolio website davidfcarr.com

Experimental Toastmost.org Feature: Login Without a Password

If you are on the Toastmost service, you may want to experiment with a new feature and let me know how you like it.

This is an alternate way users can authenticate themselves to the website without a password, using a one-time login link. The process is similar the one you use to reset your password, where you are emailed a link that provides access — which is secure as long as you keep your email account secure.

In this case, instead of getting a link that allows you to set your password, the link just logs you in.

This feature is advertised in a link at the bottom of the login page.

Link on the login screen

That link takes you to a page on the main Toastmost.org website where you enter your username and password. Once logged in, you will see a links to the club websites you have access to.

Enter your email or username

Personally, I might use this feature to access the site from a mobile device or a borrowed computer — some situation where I don’t have easy access to my password and don’t want to reset it.

This feature is based on the Passwordless Login plugin for WordPress.

Jetpack: The Swiss Army Knife Plugin for Your Website

Of all the WordPress plugins you might consider using, beyond those required for a WordPress for Toastmasters setup, Jetpack should be on your short list. It’s active on every Toastmost.org website but requires some additional configuration.

Useful features of Jetpack:

  • Social media sharing buttons
  • A contact form
  • A basic site stats utility for monitoring traffic to your website
  • Additional content formatting blocks and sidebar widgets
  • Enhanced photo galleries and sliders
Continue reading “Jetpack: The Swiss Army Knife Plugin for Your Website”