Training across timezones: June 14 and 21, plus recorded lessons

Ready to turn your Toastmasters website into a digital marketing machine? Join one of the live training sessions scheduled for June 14 at 12 pm EDT / 16:00 UTC or June 21 at 9 pm EDT / 6 pm PDT or view recorded lessons from our video course.

On June 14, I will be visiting with Bell Noon Toastmasters of Philadelphia on a schedule that might also work for some Toastmasters in the UK or Europe, while on June 21 I’ll be staying up late for an event I hope will work better for those on US Pacific Time than those I’ve done in the past.

If you haven’t yet created a WordPress-powered website — or need to convince someone else why doing so is worthwhile — this video makes the case.

For the two live events, I’ve asked Dungeons & Toast‘s Loni Huff, a professional digital marketer, to share pro tips on how to make your club website shine.

Toastmost video course and live training on June 14

Whether you’re just getting started with WordPress for Toastmasters or want to learn how to take better advantage of the club marketing and agenda management tools, my new video course should answers the big questions.

Whether you’re just getting started with WordPress for Toastmasters or want to learn how to take better advantage of the club marketing and agenda management tools, my new video course should help answer your questions. It covers:

  • An introduction to the platform and how it goes beyond what you can get from Free Toast Host.
  • How to create a website using
  • How to edit your home page and blog posts, adding images, videos, and layout elements such as columns.
  • Using and organizing the digital agenda and evaluation forms
  • Email forwarding and other configuration options
  • How to add pages and change the design of your website
  • Search engine optimization and other enhancements

Even if you already know most of this, you might want to review the course covering the new agenda management tools.

In addition, on June 14 at 12 pm EDT, I’ll be doing a live training with Q&A at Bell Noon Toastmasters club, which has generously allowed me to hijack their meeting.

I’m looking for additional guest speaking opportunities, so contact me if you would like to include me in a TLI or other educational event. The video course was created partly so District 100 could include it in a course catalog being created by its incoming Program Duality Director, and it’s available to any other club who would like to do something similar.

Simpler Tools for Customizing Your Agenda

If you have been noticing a lot of changes to the agenda tools lately, please believe me when I say they all have the goal of simplifying things.

Two tasks that just got simpler:

  • Seeing at a glance whether changes to your agenda mean it’s likely to run past its scheduled end time.
  • Making simple changes to the agenda layout and font sizes.

Planning out your meetings

The new Organize screen you see when working with the agenda allows you to add, remove, and change the timing for roles. In the example below, I’ve added a fourth speaker and fourth evaluator to a meeting that normally has three of each — and can see that my 7 to 8 pm meeting will now end a few minutes past 8 pm. I can use that information to adjust the time allotted for Table Topics or other activities.

Seeing the end time, according to your meeting plan.

Although we don’t expect a meeting to run like clockwork, a planning tool like this can allow club leaders to avoid stuffing so much into one meeting that they wind up running over time.

The Organize screen allows you to make other adjustments, so your printed (or emailed) agenda reflects your plans. For example, if you’re not sure how long an activity like electing new officers will take, you might move Table Topics to the very end of the meeting and hold that activity only if time allows. The Up, Down, and Move To controls on each role and content block allow you to rearrange things more easily.

You can still open the meeting event document in the WordPress editor and make changes that way, but working with the Organizing tool will typically be easier.

Changing the Agenda Layout

The new Agenda Layout tool allows club leaders to make some of the most common adjustments they might want to make to their agenda layout, such as adjusting the size of the fonts or getting rid of the sidebar.

The default design uses relatively small fonts and was designed to make it easier to create an agenda that is more likely to fit on one printed page (although it still might not if there’s a lot of detail in the different agenda items). A sidebar on the left-hand side allows room for some additional information — by default, the club mission and a listing of the officers.

Now, if you click Agenda Layout at the top of any meeting agenda page, you will be taken to a screen that shows a preview of the agenda, along with controls for changing its layout.

Agenda Layout options

From the controls at the top of the screen, you can:

  • Change the font size for the main agenda content or the content of the sidebar
  • Set the layout to the default one including the sidebar or to a version with no sidebar
  • Open the layout document in the WordPress editor. This used to be the only way to change the layout, and it tended to confuse non-technical webmasters — but the option is still available for those who are comfortable with it. This is how you would change what is displayed in the sidebar, for example.
  • Enter custom Cascading Style Sheets code, for those who know or want to learn this technique for making more elaborate changes to the styling. For example, if you wanted to turn all the text of the agenda green for St. Patrick’s Day, you could enter:
* {color:green; font-weight:bold}

(Yes, I tested this.)

Please take time to explore these features and let me know if they do in fact make working with the digital agenda easier.

New Tool for Organizing Your Agenda, Plus Improved Role Signup and Evaluation Tools

The new role agenda management tools on Toastmost and WP4Toastmasters websites look slicker but more importantly should make it easier for club members and meeting organizers to perform routine tasks. The Organize section allows club leaders to organize and reorganize the agenda for a specific meeting or for a standard meeting template.

You can switch between modes of interacting with the agenda using the row of radio buttons at the bottom of the screen (the options may vary based on the user’s security permissions, but a site administrator will see all of them).

Modes menu at the bottom of the screen

The options are:

  • Sign Up – Sign yourself up for roles and enter speech details. Available to everybody.
  • Suggest – Nominate another member for an open role, available to everybody
  • Evaluation – Evaluate another member’s speech. Available to everybody.
  • Edit – Edit role assignments and notes on the agenda. Administrators can decide whether to make this available to all members.
  • Organize – Add, delete, and rearrange roles, as well as other elements of the agenda. Administrators can decide whether to make this available to all members.
    • Template/Settings – Change the date and time of an event. Modify the meeting template. Available to editors and administrators. Certain features on this screen are displayed to administrators only.

The change I expect to have the most positive impact is the addition of the Organize tool, which should make it much easier to, for example, change the number of speakers and amount of time allowed for them or move Table Topics from the beginning of the meeting to the end. These are changes that previously required members to have WordPress editing rights and understand how to manipulate agenda content blocks in the WordPress editor.

The Organize screen, as it appears on the front end of a Toastmost website.

See more details on how to edit agendas and agenda templates with the Organize feature.

Ranking a close second among beneficial changes is the increased prominence of the digital evaluation tool, which was previously buried on the WordPress dashboard. Every member who logs in to sign up for a role will now see the agenda tool available to them the next click over (see video).

Help Wanted

Contact me if you would like to help advance these digital tools:

  • Documentation help: Improvements mean change, and keeping the documentation of the software in sync with how the software actually works can be a challenge — particularly after a big change like this.
  • Publicity and training: I’m looking for opportunities to speak at conferences and training events, and for other speakers and trainers who can help spread the word.
  • Technical help: If anyone reading this has experience with the JavaScript React framework used to build these user interface features, I’d welcome your help improving them.

To volunteer or give feedback, write to and include WP4Toastmasters or Toastmost in the subject line.

A new, more customizable Toastmasters website design for 2023

A new and much more customizable website design (WordPress theme) is now available on and can be downloaded for use on other websites. This video covers the essential differences.

You may find this theme perfectly useful “out of the box,” but it will particularly appeal to those who would like the freedom to change the basic layout of their website. Don’t feel the obligation to go crazy with all the available options, but it’s good to know they’re there if you want them.

Continue reading “A new, more customizable Toastmasters website design for 2023”

Video Should Be Part of Every Club Website. Here’s How to Work With It

I think every club and district website could benefit from the addition of video, and WordPress makes it easy to embed video clips from YouTube, Vimeo, and other services in a page or blog post.

Ideally, that video should showcase the character of your club and the talents of its members. The clips you can get from Toastmasters International may be useful but will be more generic. I generally recommend uploading video to YouTube (more details below) and then embedding it in your website. On WordPress, that’s as easy as copy-and-paste.

Copy-and-paste to add video

There is a YouTube content block for WordPress, but it will be inserted into the editor automatically if you just paste a YouTube video link on a blank line — that’s the way I typically do it. Copy and paste shortcut keys are CTRL-C / CTRL-V on Windows or CMD-C / CMD-V on a Mac.

Letting members see video of their own speeches is also a powerful educational tool, and users of Toastmost or the WordPress for Toastmasters software can take advantage of a YouTube speech video sharing tool built for that purpose.

Continue reading “Video Should Be Part of Every Club Website. Here’s How to Work With It”

Tutorial: Email Newsletters for Clubs and Districts

Here’s a demo of the email newsletter tool built into Toastmost websites and the WordPress for Toastmasters software. I used it to send out the Future of Online Toastmasters workshop follow-up message shown in the demo and again to send out this announcement.

You compose messages in the same editor you use for blog posts (with the post title becoming the subject line), preview them in a template that shows what recipients will see in their inbox, and send them out to club members or to a larger list, such as a district’s email list.

See also the written documentation. Thanks to Anna Donahue of District 62 for her feedback as one of the first active users.

A few details not shown in this demo:

  • Visit the RSVPMaker Email List screen to add people to your list or import your list from another service, such as Mailchimp. Options for setting up an email list signup page are shown there, along with a link to the relevant settings screen.
  • Toastmost website owners will be able to email their club members using this tool, but sending to a larger list requires an upgrade from the basic subscription. Behind the scenes, Toastmost is buying email sending services from a company called Postmark and needs to cover that expense.
    • The club basic subscription includes 500 emails / month — plenty for sending a newsletter to members. Upgrade if you start building a bigger list of guests and prospective members.
    • Club gold subscription ($100 per year) includes 2,500 emails per month, with further upgrades available in 2,500-email increments.
    • District website subscription ($250 per year) includes 10,000 emails per month, with further upgrades available.
    • Pricing is by total number of messages sent (including miscellaneous ones like RSVP confirmations and meeting reminders) — but for example the district plan would allow you to send a weekly newsletter to more than 2,000 recipients.
  • The Postmark Email Log screen allows you to track messages sent as well as who opened them or clicked on a link. Within minutes of sending the survey message shown in my demo, I could see that 141 recipients had opened it and 40 had clicked on one of the links (to complete the survey or to watch the related video on YouTube).
  • Users of the open source version who run independent websites can add Postmark credentials to the RSVPMaker settings screen.
  • Alternatively, you can use an integration with Mailchimp to compose messages in WordPress but send them through the Mailchimp service. Not as tightly integrated but works fine.
  • Messages can include dynamic content such as listings of upcoming events, recent blog posts, and YouTube videos.
  • Automated newsletters can be sent out on a schedule or in response to events such as signing up for the newsletter (a welcome message) or the publication of a new blog post.
  • Outside of Toastmasters, this email capability is available as part of the RSVPMaker plugin for WordPress and used, for example, to distribute bulletins from an investigative news website. So this is another example of a tool you can learn in Toastmasters and apply to other business and nonprofit ventures.

Replay: Toastmost & WordPress Workshop, Plus 2 Bonus Lessons

Here is the full replay of the September 10 workshop on Toastmost and WordPress for Toastmasters, hosted by Joni-Renee Laidlaw of District 81 as part of her Logical Logistics series on tech for Toastmasters. Below, I’ve added pointers to a few significant segments of the workshop plus two bonus videos.

For those who may not want to watch the full three-hours, I’ve highlighted some relevant clips below. Click on the timestamp to jump to the relevant segment.

17:20 WordPress basics and working with images and video

58:30 Joseph Esler, founder of Tragicomedy Toastmasters, explains how he created the club website and how important it has been to marketing the club and organizing its meetings

1:34:09 Agenda management in the WordPress for Toastmasters framework

1:55:52 How to set up a Toastmost website from scratch

Bonus 1 of 2: All About Blocks

My friend Carol Prahinski told me she found working with blocks in the editor confusing. Here are a few tricks I’ve learned.

Bonus 2 of 2: Recovering from a Mistake

Going back to an earlier version

If you accidentally delete something important or make some other mistake while working in the editor, on either marketing or agenda content, here is how you can retrace your steps and recover your work. WordPress saves the last few revisions of every post, page, or other document. By clicking the Revisions button in the document properties sidebar, it’s possible to go back to an earlier version.

Here’s how:

Easy Online Meetings Role Signup Tool

Inspiration for this new tool came from Tricia Jervis, VP of Education at Club Awesome Toastmasters in Coral Springs, Florida. The idea was to recreate, in a club that has shifted to hybrid meetings, the experience of passing around a clipboard in the room to get members to sign up for roles, without the need to spend meeting time asking for volunteers. It allows online participants to sign up for a role (without the need to enter a password) by following a link shared in the online meeting chat.

Zoom chat to signup form

The WordPress for Toastmasters version is based on one she originally created using Google Forms but it has the advantage of being integrated with the signup records on the website. You’ll find links keyed to future meetings under the Signup Sheet menu on any week’s agenda.

Easy Online Meeting Signup menu item.

The person initiating this process does need to be logged in, but other members will not need to enter their password to use the form. The coded links will have an expiration time several hours in the future, but they are meant to be shared within the meeting chat not via email. We have other tools for sharing the agenda and signup opportunities by email, with one-click signup links included, using a similar method to let members bypass having to enter a password.

Here’s what the meeting organizer screen looks like.

Meeting organizer view

If you scroll down a little, you will see personalized links for specific members. This list is filtered to show only members who (a) haven’t already taken a role for the future meeting and (b) aren’t on the planned absences list. You can use that to send direct messages to specific users.

When you click on any of these, you’ll see a Copied! message indicating it’s been copied to your clipboard.

Paste the message into the chat on Zoom (or other online meeting tool). On Zoom, to send a private message, you would change the selection from Everyone to the member’s name.

A member who follows one of these links will be taken to a form with their name pre-selected and a listing of the current open roles. They can then pick a role from the list and click Sign Up.

Member’s role signup screen

If the chosen role is Speaker, they will be prompted to enter speech project info, but those details can also be filled in later.

Occasionally, it may happen that another member has taken the same role in the meantime. In that case, the member will be prompted to choose again. However, if you send the messages to members one at a time, that shouldn’t happen often.

Tool for Routinely Sharing Speech Videos (Updated)

The WordPress for Toastmasters sharing tool for YouTube is designed to assist with the sharing of speech videos, either publicly or for club member’s eyes only. Adding YouTube video to WordPress blogs is pretty easy to begin with, but this tool helps you organize videos associated with member speeches and archive them tagged with the member names.

Here is a video demo:

See also this knowledge base article.