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 email@example.com.
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).
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org forwarded to email@example.com.
One relatively easy way is to create a GMail account specifically for purposes of club correspondence and have it forward selected emails to firstname.lastname@example.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:
Record your club’s main email address here.
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.
Set up forwarding from your club’s email account to email@example.com
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.
Create a forwarding rule in GMail to forward any message from firstname.lastname@example.org to email@example.com
Verify that it’s working by sending your own Contact Club inquiry from your club’s Find a Club page.
When firstname.lastname@example.org receives a notification from email@example.com, it parses that message, finds the address of the person requesting information, and sends them the autoresponder message you have defined.
While you’re at it, you might want to set rules to forward other boilerplate messages from Toastmasters HQ to the appropriate officers.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I had been looking for an excuse to show off the new WordPress themes available to Toastmasters clubs when a last-minute speech slot opened up at Online Presenters Toastmasters, the club I led to charter in 2017.
Here’s the presentation, introduced by my friend Jim Barber.
I’m also available to consult on business websites, with professional speaker websites as one specialty (see lindamariemiller.com for my work with this year’s second place winner from the World Championship of Public Speaking).
Like Lectern, which remains the default on Toastmost, these themes have been reviewed by Toastmasters International for conformance with the official brand guidelines and inclusion of the required disclaimers and intellectual property credits.
Lectern may still be the simplest choice for a club webmaster who doesn’t want to have to futz too much with the design. It’s the only one available in the WordPress.org theme repository. On the other hand, some ambitious webmasters have asked for more design freedom, and these new choices should help. You get more freedom to customize, but please note that you are responsible for making sure your customizations respect the Toastmasters International branding rules (more on that below).
In WordPress, your choice of a theme — a set of templates for your home page, blog posts, and other content — is a basic choice that determines how your website will look. These new choices are “child themes” or variations on popular themes, including the reference designs the developers behind WordPress featured for 2016, 2017, and 2019, and 2020.
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 with the name of your club.
Because adding your domain to a Toastmost-hosted site requires a little extra configuration, this feature will probably be offered for an upgrade charge TBD — but you can get it at no charge as “beta tester” for a limited time. The only expense to your club will be registering the domain through a service such as GoDaddy.
Until now, if you wanted to use your own web domain (www.myclub.com instead of myclub.toastmost.org), you had to set up your own WordPress website and be prepared to administer it yourself — which is more expensive and technically complex. With hosting through Toastmost.org, I take care of the more technical details related to website maintenance and security.
You are responsible for registering your own domain through GoDaddy or one of its competitors. I will give you a few settings you will record with your domain registrar to “point” the domain to “point it” at the Toastmost service.
You will get access to the same assortment of WordPress plugins that are available to other Toastmost.org sites.
Currently, the only supported theme for club websites is Lectern, a design that has been reviewed for brand conformance by Toastmasters International.
In addition to your website, you will have the option of having email addresses and forwarders associated with your domain.
Clubs with established websites that volunteer for the beta program should be prepared for some disruption to the operation of their website when I “flip the switch” to turn on the domain hosting feature. I will do my best to make the transition as smooth as possible and can schedule it for an “off time” when members are less likely to be trying to access your site.
If you want complete technical control over your site (and are prepared to take complete technical responsibility), you may still prefer to run the WordPress for Toastmasters software on your own, independent hosting.
After going through it a couple of times, here is what the process looks like:
You let me know what domain you want to direct to the Toastmost server. I set the server to recognize traffic for that domain.
You make a couple of changes with your domain registrar to start directing traffic to Toastmost. I will send detailed instructions.
Initially, visitors will be forwarded to the subdomain address of your website. Once we have that working, I move onto the final steps …
I set up a security certificate so your site will show up with the padlock icon in your browser and flip the switch to make your domain name the primary address for your website. Anyone trying to visit your old subdomain will be redirected to the new address.
Marketing / recruiting advantages of a club website using WordPress based on WordPress.
Why you might consider using WordPress even though Toastmasters offers a free default option, Free Toast Host.
Demo of the agenda management tools.
How to use the online speech evaluation forms. Toastmasters makes evaluation forms available as PDFs, but web-based forms can be more convenient than emailing PDFs back and forth. This is an example of rethinking how a club should function when it meets online.
Volunteer opportunities: how you can help make the documentation and training materials or the software itself better.
* 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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