New Vote Counter’s Tool for Online and Hybrid Meetings

If your club is conducting online or hybrid meetings, and members vote on weekly awards like “Best Table Topic Speech,” here is something new to try.

I think this method could be better than voting by private chat in Zoom (which is what my clubs have typically done) or using the polling feature. Here’s a video demo.

See this knowledge base article for step-by-step instructions. The screenshots there reflect a few changes I made after the video was recorded.

The Vote Counter’s Tool makes it easy to set up a digital ballot that includes the names of speakers who signed up in advance and add other names as needed. The vote counter then posts a link in the public chat. Meeting participants who follow that link get a simple ballot that allows them to vote.

Logging into the website is not required for anyone other than the vote counter. Voting members are identified by IP address and other means, just enough to make sure nobody’s vote is counted twice.

As votes roll in, the vote counter is able to see the current tally. In a hybrid meeting, where some votes can come in on slips of paper rather than using the online ballot, the vote counter can add those votes to the tally.

Drawbacks of Other Methods

  • Voting by private chat: Until recently, I thought this was the simplest option. However, the last time I served at vote counter at a meeting where there was a lot of chat activity, I found it challenging to sort out the votes from the other messages posted in the chat stream.
  • Zoom polls: Only someone logged in as the meeting host can set up a poll. Members who may have been assigned cohost rights will find they cannot vote. Also, at the conclusion of the poll, the results are displayed onscreen in a manner you might not necessarily want. That is, it shows the margin of victory in a way that might hurt someone’s pride.
  • Third party apps: Various smartphone and web apps provide other ways of casting and counting votes. The tradeoff is that you’re adding yet another piece of technology into the meeting. Also, these apps don’t pull data from the agenda the way my vote counting tool can.

Room for Improvement?

This feature is new and may need to be improved. It got good reviews when I tried it for the first time, at my home club, Club Awesome, and again at Online Presenters. If you encounter glitches or have suggestions for improvement, let me know by writing to david@wp4toastmasters.com.

Automatically Suggest Assignments: Are You Sure?

One powerful feature of the WordPress for Toastmasters software that was introduced a few months ago has had some unintended consequences for a number of clubs, including my own. From now on, if you take advantage of the “Suggested Assignments” mode (which previously showed up on menus as “Assign”), you will get this warning:

Are you sure? warning

Even though I had previously made some changes designed to make sure anyone who used this feature understood what it did, it apparently wasn’t as clear as it ought to have been. If you use this feature routinely, you can turn off the warning as a personal preference. Otherwise, you must confirm you know what you’re doing before you can proceed.

In Suggest Assignments mode, the software fills open roles on the agenda based on a list of members without a role. The choices are semi-random but also take into account factors like who has not filled that role recently. As the person assigning roles, you have a chance to review those choices and make changes, but they will be recorded when you click Save Changes.

Unfortunately, I’ve gotten several reports of meeting organizers getting into this mode by mistake, intending to make a single change to agenda, and belatedly realizing they had made a whole batch of assignments they hadn’t intended to make.

The Recommend mode of the agenda editor is similar to Suggest Assignments, except that it kicks off an email telling the chosen member they have been recommended for a specific role. The assignment is not actually recorded until and unless the member accepts. That can be a good way of nudging people to take a role, rather than telling them to do so.

Suggest Assignments is meant to be helpful to clubs whose leaders proactively assign members to roles, rather than waiting for them to volunteer. This feature was was a specific request from a couple of clubs, but it’s not necessarily appropriate for everyone. In fact, it’s now turned off by default. In the Random Assignments section of the Toastmasters screen under settings, you will see options to either turn on Suggest Assignments, turn it on selectively for site Editors, Managers, and Administrators, or leave it turned off.

 

You can also choose to hide the link advertising the Multi-Meeting Role Planner tool, which allows members to book speeches and other roles for multiple future meetings at once, The display of that link on the agenda is still turned on by default, but you can now turn it off if you prefer.

Let me know if you agree this is an improvement. As always, I welcome other suggestions for how the software can be made better.

Thanks,

David Carr, WordPress for Toastmasters project leader

New: How to Request a Written Evaluation

Requesting a written evaluation

The evaluations tool in WordPress for Toastmasters has been enhanced to allow you to request an evaluation for a speech or competent leader project through the website.

This tool is specifically meant for online clubs, where members are not in the same location to exchange their books. Most online Toastmasters clubs handle this by emailing PDFs back and forth, but I find that awkward. Brick and mortar clubs might also find this handy as a way of getting people to get evaluated for their Competent Leader projects, even if they forgot to bring their book to the meeting. Besides, typing an evaluation is better for people like me with messy handwriting.

There are now four tabs across the top of the Evaluations screen: Give Evaluations, Request Evaluation, Evaluations Received, and Evaluations Given.

The Request Evaluations tab is populated with roles you have filled at recent meetings (according to the agenda), as well as other CL projects you might complete outside of a meeting such as editing a club newsletter. You choose the project, choose the person you want to email the request to, and optionally add a personal note. If you don’t choose a member to email the request to in the Send To field, the tool will still generate a link that you can share by Facebook message or some other means.

The online forms include the same prompts as you would find in your manuals, including many of the new Pathways projects. If you spot errors or inconsistencies, let me know.

Update: here is how I introduced this at Online Presenters Toastmasters.