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
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.
There are lots of reasons you might want to add an events registration form to your Toastmasters club website, but I am writing this in the midst of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic as many clubs are moving to meeting online, at least temporarily.
When guests visit my home club, Club Awesome, one thing we often hear from them is, “I looked up a few local clubs, but I really liked what I saw on your website” … which is my cue to beam with pride.
There are certainly limits to what a website can do for you as a recruiting tool — what guests experience in person has to measure up to what they saw online — but a good website can attract guests and, ultimately, members. A bad website can also scare them away. And while I promote WordPress for Toastmasters and have considerable ego wrapped up in the idea that it is the best online platform for clubs, the software is less important than what you do with it. I’ve seen some very uninspired WordPress-based club websites, as well as some good Free Toast Host examples.
WordPress gives you all the tools you need to market your club on the web and an anchor for your outreach by other means, including email and social media.
What the software will not do is tell your story for you. The words, the image, and the creative message have to come from you.
New sites on the Toastmost.org service (the easiest way to get up and running with WordPress for Toastmasters) come with a sort of prefab home page that includes boilerplate content from Toastmasters International. That is intended as a starting point, but you should replace most of it with — or at least the introduction — with your own story.
What follows are tips about what content to include, along with how-to instructions for WordPress.
To be clear, I am not saying you need to use all these techniques on every page of your website. In fact, be careful about overloading your web pages with too many types of content or making them too long. It’s better to break the content for more pages and posts, keeping each one short, simple, and focused.
This is going to be one of those “pet peeve” posts — sorry — but I have burning urge to share observations about something that drives me crazy: people using images and PDFs to do jobs that text, links and interactive web or social content could do better.
I see this issue a lot with a volunteer organization I’m working with on digital strategy this year (Toastmasters District 47) where people often put a lot of effort into creating flyers (PDFs) or “poster images” for promoting an event or item of news on Facebook or Twitter but neglect to include important details in the body of those social posts. They seem to forget that people often want to copy and paste text like the address of an event location or click on a link or email address, which they generally can’t do with an image in a social post.
The examples of this pattern I’m thinking of where this pattern is most counter productive come from the world of business, not volunteerism — so the volunteers have nothing to be embarrassed about. I’m just encouraging them to do better.
I’m going to pick on a business, not the volunteers, for my example of what not to do. The post below is not at all the worst example that I’ve seen. I don’t know this business, and I don’t have anything against them or their marketing team. The only point I want to make with the image below is that it contains what looks like it could be a button. I’ve seen other examples where the “button” has rounded corners that makes it look even more button-like. The first time I saw this in a tweet, I thought “Oh, cool, someone has figured out how to make Twitter posts more interactive.”
The catch is the button is not really button; it’s just a picture of the button. If you try to click on it, Twitter shows you an enlarged version of the picture including the picture of a button. It doesn’t actually take you to a registration form, as you might expect.
Here are a few resources posted for the benefit of attendees at a Toastmasters Leadership Institute presentation on Saturday, February 2. Since I’m posting this the night before, I’ll likely add to this with documents, links, answers to questions that come up during the session and possibly a video of the session itself.
This morning a guest at Club Awesome Toastmasters, who came in the door ready and willing to join, answered this way when we asked how she found us: “Well, I saw this was the club closest to me, and then I looked at your website — and I was sold!”
That was music to my ears, of course. One of the things she saw coming to our website was a lot of recent activity, conveyed through the blog. For example, recent posts celebrate wins by our members at an area contest, as well as a series of videos previewing a presentation one of our club leaders will be giving at the district conference.
Here is how to get Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and other social media resources all working in concert with your website to showcase just how awesome your club is. I shared a version of this at a Toastmasters District 47 leadership event, encouraging area and district directors to help all their clubs get the most out of the reach social media gives them.
While the WordPress for Toastmasters project certainly features prominently in this video, I tried to put it in the context of what I’m seeking to accomplish with all my website and social media outreach — finding better ways to connect with more people, while showcasing the value of Toastmasters with more engaging content.
* 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.