Club leaders can see who the active members are in their club by consulting the Attendance Report, found under the Reports Dashboard within the member dashboard. If you update and reconcile member activity records after each meeting, you can improve the accuracy of this report and others that, for example, track member speeches.
In this example, I’ve filtered the records for Online Presenters Toastmasters to activity since January 2020.
However, the data will be incomplete unless someone takes responsibility for making it complete. The system records anyone who held a meeting role as having been in attendance. However, that data will only be accurate if you account for people who promised to fill roles but didn’t show up, as well as the people who stepped up to fill roles at the last minute. We should also account for people who attended but didn’t take a role.
You can make these corrections on the Update History page (accessible to those with the user role of Manager or Administrator, typically assigned to club officers) under TM Administration.
After you have made corrections to who held which roles, you can check off the names of any other members who were in attendance down the bottom of this form.
The latest update to the WordPress for Toastmasters agenda editing tools makes it easier to reorder roles and adjust the timing for each activity, making every meeting better organized.
The video demo goes step-by-step through the process of setting up your standard meeting template. I also show how you can restructure a particular week’s meeting, for example to turn it into a speechathon with double the usual number of speaking roles.
A couple of recent changes are a more compact display of agenda roles in the editor, with controls for the time allowed for each activity moved to the sidebar on the right. Among other things, that makes it easier to reorder things on the agenda. You can move elements up and down using the up and down arrows to the left of each content block.
A new Timing Preview also allows you to see the effect of your changes as you plan your meeting.
One limitation: the Timing Summary doesn’t show the effect of adding or deleting an activity until you save your work and reload the page.
Update May 26, 2020: The Online Timer tool was briefly unavailable on toastmost.org because the web host I work with said it was putting excessive strain on the server. It’s now back in business with a new design that doesn’t generate as many network and database requests.
After several tries, I’ve created an online speech timer that works well with Zoom meetings and has some advantages over the common technique of showing timing colors with the Zoom virtual background feature.
You might want to use both methods to make sure the speaker sees timing lights. But for large meetings where it can be difficult for the speaker to keep track of the thumbnail image of the person doing timing, this could work better.
Here is a video demo.
This screen displays in 3 modes: Normal (the view you want as a speaker), Self Timer, and Timer (the person showing timing lights to others). In Timer view, the green, yellow, and red lights are broadcast to viewers in Normal mode. If the timer for a meeting is not using this tool, you might consider taking advantage of the Self Timer view.
Those Toastmasters clubs who want to meet online but don’t want to pay for a Zoom account have another option, the Jitsi open source software offered as a free service by the online telecom company 8×8. Jitsi works best with the Google Chrome browser or the latest version of Microsoft Edge. Because it is web-based, we can use embed it in a web page that includes an online timer app. Using the online timer means the speaker doesn’t have to worry about keeping track of the thumbnail image of the timer because the page background changes color to function as the “timing lights.”
For instructions on using the same timer tool with Zoom, see this post.
You can use this demo without a password to see the timer’s experience with Jitsi.
It’s also possible to embed the web-based version of Zoom within this frame, but so far I haven’t gotten that working as well. The Zoom web client also has some limitations, which lead me to think it may be better to use the approach I’ve described for using the regular Zoom client in conjunction with this feature (which involves some resizing of windows).
Jitsi does not include all the same features as Zoom, but I found a few (like how it handled muting of people other than the main speaker) that I liked better. Certainly worth experimenting with, particularly for clubs with constrained budgets. You will see an ad for 8×8 every time you end a meeting, but that’s a small price to pay. I don’t think a Toastmasters club would need to pay for the upgrades they offer, although you might consider 8×8 for business use.
This is the replay of a webinar covering the basics you need to understand to customize your home page, set up your meeting agenda, and begin using WordPress for Toastmasters productively. Conducted with help from Stephanie Nolan, who is helping organize a volunteer project to improve the documentation and training materials.
The first portion of the video was recorded after the fact for the simple reason that I forgot to turn on the Zoom recording function when the meeting started. You’ll see that partway through the opening presentation my webcam picture appears in the corner of the screen and the audio quality changes.
Read on for shorter video clips and screen shots covering the highlights.
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 “Checking whether votes have been received…” message, followed by a “Votes received on ballot counting dashboard” confirmation.
A new option is available for member and officer email group email discussion lists, where any list member is enabled to send a message to all other members. This provides an easy method for distributing club announcements and appeals for help with an event or project.
Members can unsubscribe from these messages, and administrators can block members from sending if they abuse the privilege.
The new mailing list facility is a feature of RSVPMaker, one of the WordPress plugins included in WordPress for Toastmasters.
If you administer a club website that previously established a mailing list using an integration with the WP Mailster plugin (previously the default for toastmost.org sites), you will see a prompt on the dashboard suggesting that you will switch. The email settings will automatically be imported from WP Mailster, allowing you to make the switch with a minimum of hassle.
If you prefer the WP Mailster functionality, you can keep it. Just be aware that if your list grows beyond 50 members, you will start getting messages prompting you to update to the paid version of that plugin. The RSVPMaker version is also more tightly integrated and tailored to meet club requirements.
More detailed documentation for setting up the RSVPMaker Group Email feature is available here.
Toastmost.org users who wish to establish a new email list should contact me for assistance because it requires configuring email accounts to act as queues for each list you establish. I don’t have a self-service way of enabling that, at least not yet.
If you are inviting people from around the world, not just around town, to your online meetings, turn on the timezone display and “Show in my timezone” options for your event notices.
Displaying the timezone is the bare minimum you want to do if you’re promoting a meeting or event on a global basis. But rather than forcing the potential attendee to do the mental math to calculate between timezones, let the computer help them.
While WordPress for Toastmasters aims to provide useful digital tools for all clubs, many of its features were road tested at Online Presenters Toastmasters — and are being put to work helping Toastmasters clubs that have been abruptly forced to move online, temporarily, by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some clubs will probably stop conducting business online as soon as possible, while others may continue to incorporate online attendance even after the crisis is past. (I think we’ll all be glad when meeting online is a choice, rather than a necessity.)
Meanwhile, read on for an outline of a the features you will be most likely to find useful for online club operations. The software is free, with inexpensive web hosting available at toastmost.org.
* This software is offered "for Toastmasters" but not is provided by or endorsed by Toastmasters International. The Lectern theme is designed to work with Toastmasters brand assets (with proper disclaimers) and has been reviewed by the Toastmasters branding organization.
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