Here’s a replay of Wednesday’s workshop along with additional resources. If you see the value in what I’m sharing, consider forwarding this email to other Toastmasters leaders or sharing my LinkedIn or Facebook posts about it. Most Toastmasters leaders don’t even know this exists!
The website to visit to sign up for the Toastmost 3-month free trial is toastmost.org. Documentation on the software, including how to set it up on website hosting independent of Toastmost is at wp4toastmasters.com.
The tools for emailing out event invitations and other announcements have gotten a makeover, which includes the introduction of a new Newsletter Builder. The Newsletter Builder allows you to assemble a newsletter from recent blog posts and upcoming events, and then add introductions and transitions to make that content stick together.
Other recent updates include improving the YouTube email previews that are displayed in a message when you include YouTube videos in an email.
You will find the Newsletter Builder under the RSVP Email Newsletters and Notifications menu of the administrator’s dashboard.
The form at the top of the page allows you to pick up to six blog posts or upcoming events to be assembled into the skeleton of a newsletter.
For the next two Wednesdays, I will be doing tutorial workshops on WordPress for Toastmasters and how to get the most out of the Toastmost service. They’re at two different times for Toastmasters with different schedules. I’m hoping to attract some attendees from Europe and the Middle East at the early one and West Coast U.S. for the later one next week. Also be sure to check out my video course, which goes into more details, although the live sessions will be better for gettting your questions answered.
Join David F. Carr, DTM, creator of WordPress for Toastmasters and operator of Toastmost.org to learn both WordPress basics and how to take best advantage of the agenda and member management features. David will start by demonstrating how to create a club website on Toastmost.org, the club hosting service of the WordPress for Toastmasters open-source software project. You will learn how to customize the digital agenda and apply basic search and social media marketing techniques to your club’s online marketing.
Guest presenter Loni Huff of Dungeons & Toast will share pro tips on how to make your club website shine.
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.
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 Toastmost.org
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.
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.
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 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).
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.
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).
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.
To volunteer or give feedback, write to firstname.lastname@example.org and include WP4Toastmasters or Toastmost in the subject line.
A new and much more customizable website design (WordPress theme) is now available on Toastmost.org 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.
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.
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.
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.
* This software is offered "for Toastmasters" but not is provided by or endorsed by Toastmasters International. The use of Toastmasters brand assets (with proper disclaimers) in website designs has been reviewed by the Toastmasters International brand compliance team.