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Why WordPress Is Ideal For Toastmasters (With Some Tweaks)

The WordPress for Toastmasters Project combines all that is good about WordPress with some added features specific to organizing Toastmasters clubs and meetings. But what’s so great about WordPress? Its wonderfulness seems so obvious to me that I sometimes forget to explain that part.

So, to backtrack, let me start by quoting from the current (as of this posting) home page at WordPress.org:

WordPress is web software you can use to create a beautiful website or blog. We like to say that WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time.

The core software is built by hundreds of community volunteers, and when you’re ready for more there are thousands of plugins and themes available to transform your site into almost anything you can imagine. Over 60 million people have chosen WordPress to power the place on the web they call “home” — we’d love you to join the family.

As a webmaster, the advantage is that you’re not starting from scratch — you get to stand on the shoulders of giants. Because people all over the world use, test, and enhance the software, its capabilities get better every day. When bugs crop up, which does happen, they get dealt with swiftly. As long as you keep the software up to date (and I do), the experience of running a WordPress website is almost always a good one. When WordPress-based sites get hacked, it’s usually because they are out of date.
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Toastmasters Meeting Role Setup on WordPress

Note: The instructions below are out of date. See the How To page for a current listing of tutorials.

The WordPress for Toastmasters project combines the power and flexibility of WordPress with event scheduling and Toastmasters-specific functionality such as meeting role signup, meeting agenda printouts, and a member directory.

WordPress provides a terrific visual editor for composing blog entries and web pages, with the ability to insert links, images, video, and other media. What I’m showing here is a visual editor of my own design for setting up meeting roles and text for the agenda.

There are two ways to set up meeting roles and agenda text using WordPress for Toastmasters: the easy way and the hard way. The hard way is not particularly hard for the experienced webmaster, but the tool shown below is for the club officer who just wants to make some quick changes.

When you click the menu item for Edit Roles/Agenda, you are taken to a specialized editor that allows you to drag-and-drop blocks of text and role assignments. The Agenda Notes widgets give you an editor for messages to be displayed on the agenda. The Role widgets let you customize to roles and set the number of openings for roles such as speaker and evaluator. You can add or remove these blocks as needed.

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WordPress for Toastmasters Project

The WordPress for Toastmasters Project is derived from the WordPress customizations I originally created for Club Awesome Toastmasters in Coral Springs, FL. It combines the flexibility of WordPress (intro for the uninitiated here) with Toastmasters-specific functionality and branding.

When I was Club Awesome’s VP of Education and also its webmaster, I was frustrated by the limitations of the FreeToastHost web hosting platform that most Toastmasters clubs use. That semi-official default option has the undeniable advantage of being free. Still, as a WordPress aficionado, I felt like I had my left hand cut off because customization of my club’s website on FreeToastHost was difficult, and I missed all the blogging and social media integration features available on WordPress.

Some Toastmasters clubs use free accounts on WordPress.com (probably the 2nd most popular option after FreeToastHost). This is the site hosted by Automattic, the company responsible for WordPress. WordPress.com has many advantages except that it can only be customized using plugins and themes approved for use by all its customers. Hosting there also means giving up some useful functionality available on FreeToastHost, such as the ability for members to sign up for specific meeting roles.
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WordPress for Toastmasters Child Themes

Update: I currently recommend downloading the Lectern theme as the best option for Toastmasters branding on WordPress. You can get it from the wordpress.org repository.

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As part of the WordPress for Toastmasters Project, I am creating a series of Toastmasters-branded Themes for WordPress, based on some of the most popular free themes in the WordPress.org repository. These are available through the service I offer here, as well as on independently hosted WordPress websites (not on the more generic WordPress.com service).

In WordPress terminology, a “theme” is a set of web templates that control the appearance and public user interface of your website — for example, templates for welcome pages, blog posts, and image galleries. As “child themes,” the themes I created inherit all the features of the original tested-and-debugged themes but add Toastmasters branding to the site header, as well as the required disclaimer in the footer.

The themes are freely downloadable for use on your own website, and you can modify them as you see fit (this does not include the event scheduling and role signup functions I’ve created, which at least for now are only available here).
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