Replay: “Create a More Powerful Club Website” Workshop for District 62

Building on the foundation of WordPress, which is used by major publications like The New Yorker and marketing organizations like Disney, Toastmost provides clubs and districts with rich multimedia publishing tools — more ways of dramatizing the value of the Toastmasters experience. The Toastmasters-specific extensions demonstrated in this workshop allow your club to manage its agenda and take advantage of digital methods of doing business, such as a web-based membership application that offers new members the option of paying online.

“This allows us to step our game to the next level of professionalism”

Carol Prahinski, Past International Director, on the value of the WordPress-powered Toastmost club website hosting service.

In this excerpt, Carol Prahinski addresses the issue of why you should consider Toastmost over free options like Free Toast Host.

Sign up at toastmost.org to try the WordPress-powered club website service. The software is also available for free if you have the skills to set up an independent website.

The new 62toast.com is hosted on Toastmost, and adding each of the videos shown above was as easy as pasting a link from YouTube into the WordPress editor.

Additional documentation is at wp4toastmasters.com, including a complete course with short video clips on each phase of the website setup process.

If you have questions that were not addressed in the workshop, you can write to david@wp4toastmasters.com and include “District 62 workshop” in the subject line.

Other district leaders who would like me to present to their leaders, please write to david@wp4toastmasters.com and include “Toastmost speaking invitation” in the subject line.

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.

How to Change Your Meeting Agenda for a Club Contest

If your holding a club contest as part of one of your regular club meetings, the quickest way to rearrange your agenda to match the contest format is to switch from your regular meeting template to a contest template. This video shows how.

The latest software update adds default templates for the standard Toastmasters contests. These are generic, but you can customize them to match how you want to run your contests.

Contest Templates

One way of taking advantage of these templates is to use the Apply Template to Existing event form on the Event Templates admin page.

Apply Template to Existing Event

If you’re logged in as a website editor, you can also navigate directly to that Apply Template to Existing event form by choosing Switch Template off the top-of-the-screen menu under Edit RSVP Event.

Switch Template link

Alternatively, you might want to copy-and-paste content from the template into the event document for one of your upcoming meetings, allowing you to preserve elements of your standard agenda. There is a Copy All Content link in the WordPress editor — click the 3 dots in the upper right hand corner to reveal it.

You would then paste the contest content into the event post for the meeting where you will be conducting the contest. Use Control-V on Windows or Command-V on Mac to paste. Then delete other elements of the agenda that won’t fit with the addition of the contest activities.

Copy all Content link

If you want to set up a separate date and time for your contest, rather than doing it during a meeting, you can access the templates under New -> RSVP Event. There’s also a way of doing it from the new event screen.

To create a contest on a different date, you can follow the Create Update links

If the contest will be conducted online, you might also want to set up the Contest Dashboard digital ballot and vote counting tools.

Have questions not answered here? Write to david@wp4toastmasters.com

Collect Toastmasters Club Dues Using PayPal and/or Stripe

Toastmasters clubs can now collect and track dues using PayPal, or the Stripe credit card processing service, or both. The WordPress for Toastmasters system and Toastmost club website hosting service let you set up a dues renewal page and prompt new members to pay when they complete the online application. Once online payments are configured, they can also be used to collect event fees, fundraising payments, or serve any other club purpose.

This video shows how to connect to the online payment services and also how to use the Dues Tracker screen to keep track of who has and has not paid.

Advantages of PayPal and Stripe

Previously only the Stripe service was supported for dues payments. But I’ve been hearing for years from club leaders who want to be able to offer PayPal as an option or who have standardized on it for their clubs.

Stripe has some advantages as an alternative for club members who do not want to establish a PayPal account or prefer a straightforward credit card transaction. As a treasurer for the last couple of years, I appreciated that money automatically showed up in the club bank account within a couple of days. With PayPal, money accumulates in the PayPal account until you transfer it.

But choice is good.

Both PayPal and Stripe offer a nonprofit discount, which you should ask for.

Feedback on New Features

The Dues Tracker page in particular is still under active development and screens may change somewhat in future releases. It should do a pretty good job of matching dues transactions to member accounts. Treasurers are invited to give feedback on how it can be improved. Email david@wp4toastmasters.com and put “Dues Tracker” in the subject line.

District Outreach for Toastmost and WordPress for Toastmasters

In the coming months I hope to speak with more of you who are district leaders — or have influence with district leaders — about allowing me to present a workshop to leaders in your district or, better yet, agreeing to sponsor club websites on Toastmost.org. I am also available to help with district websites.

I hope to be able to announce soon that I’ll be working on one or more districts on all of those things. WordPress for Toastmasters is an independently funded operation, and district sponsorship is one way to fund its continued expansion. The Toastmost hosting service, where most users of the software have established their websites, recently got a significant upgrade and needs to earn its way back to break even. Toastmasters International provides branding review but not funding.

I’m happy to present to any district with or without any bigger commitment. However, for those who may be interested, details on a more ambitious program are included below.

Value of the Toastmost Service

Toastmost aspires to deliver both marketing power and innovations in agenda and club management in one package. The software benefits from continual innovation in the broader WordPress community, so features like mobile website support and social media integration are superior.

Popular features include web-based forms for evaluations and for the membership application, as well as online payments integration for collecting dues. The underlying software is available for use on other web hosting services, but Toastmost has it all preconfigured.

Districts may also choose to sponsor the cost of club websites, “buying in bulk” to make the service available free for clubs within the district.

The regular club rate is $50 per year for each club, following a 6-month free trial. Districts might consider encouraging clubs to sign up for the free trial. If enough clubs see the value and want to continue using the software, the district can negotiate a flat rate to allow access for all district clubs.

Pricing for the 2021-2022 Toastmasters year: If a district invests $500, the first 15 clubs to go live from that district will get a year of Toastmost service for free. Since the clock doesn’t start running until the end of their six months free, they would actually get access for at least 18 months (even if future district leaders don’t continue the relationship). The “go live” requirement is that the club must make its website public (available to be indexed in search engines). New club websites are set to discourage indexing by search engines to allow club leaders time for testing and content development.

Ideally, we would encourage dozens of district clubs to at least set up a trial account with the goal of getting 15 or more to commit to modernizing their club website.

For details, write to Toastmost.org’s David F. Carr, DTM, or set up a Zoom meeting using https://calendly.com/davidfcarr/after-hours/

Help with District Websites

Mockup of a district website.

You can see a mockup of a district website with a sample leader directory at d2021.toastmost.org. I expect to unveil an example of a revamped district website I worked on within the next few weeks. I’m holding off on naming the district until it’s official, but the idea is to make it a website worth bragging about. I’m talking with the PRM at another district that may come on board.

District websites may be hosted at Toastmost or with another web host that supports WordPress. The details are subject to negotiation.

I expect most districts to want the site to appear with their own web domain rather than the subdomain.toastmost.org setup of the demo site.

See the Toastmost for Districts page for more details.

Mobile Friendly Feature: Suggest a Role with One-Click Confirmation

As part of my work on modern, mobile-friendly websites for Toastmasters, I’ve been working on a way of making it easier for members to confirm a role they’ve been nominated for from a smartphone, without needing to enter a password. Also better on the desktop for people who have trouble keeping their passwords straight (which I think is all of us).

A similar one-click signup feature is included when you email out the agenda to everyone. However, people tend to be more likely to respond to a personal message than a broadcast asking “would anyone like to volunteer.”

As a meeting organizer, you can click “Suggest” instead of “Edit” for any role, add a personal note, and have the role nomination sent to the member by email. If they respond better to mobile text messages than to email, there’s also a trick (shown in the video demo) for sending the link from your phone to theirs.

I cross-posted something about this in the Toastmasters International Official Members group, so if you like this feature give a shout out there. https://www.facebook.com/davidfcarr/videos/525066598812903

Check it out.

Thanks,

David F. Carr, DTM, david@wp4toastmasters.com

New: One-Click Signup From Agenda Emails

A new, mobile-friendly one-click signup feature makes it easier for members to sign up for an open role they see in one of your agenda emails. Works with agenda emails sent out manually or as automated reminders.

In addition, meeting organizers can send a specific member an individual note nominating them for a role — and the member can confirm it with the same one-click process.

Creating a Toastmost.org Toastmasters Club Website from Scratch: Full Course

The Toastmost.org service provides Toastmasters clubs and districts with a modern, mobile-friendly WordPress-based design for marketing, recruiting, and agenda management. Signing up at Toastmost.org is the easiest way to get access to the WordPress for Toastmasters software. You don’t have to be a techie, but you do have to want to put some energy into improving your Toastmasters club’s digital presence.

This course is based on a training webinar I gave on June 29, as a follow up to a 5-minute promo video delivered as part of the Tech Tips session at VTM CON, an international online event organized by online Toastmasters clubs. You’re getting the more concise, edited version.

You can watch the whole series of videos (about 50 minutes total) as a YouTube playlist or browse them individually here. See the section at the end of the blog post for a summary of the Toastmost value proposition in comparison with Free Toast Host and other options.

The 5-Minute Pitch

Continue reading “Creating a Toastmost.org Toastmasters Club Website from Scratch: Full Course”

2 New Toastmasters-Branded WordPress Themes

Freshly blessed by the Toastmasters International branding team, two striking new WordPress themes are now available on Toastmost.org or for download.

Both feature Loyal Blue and True Maroon color schemes straight out of the brand manual. Both are based on modern, mobile friendly WordPress themes. (In WordPress lingo, a theme sets up the overall design of a site within which you can add content).

Twenty Twenty One TM uses a Loyal Blue background
True Maroon features the background color it’s named for.

I’ve customized all the WordPress for Toastmasters themes so the color picker in the editor steers you toward the brand colors. That should help you create content that is beautiful but also brand compliant.

Customization of the WordPress color picker

Building on Twenty Twenty One

Both new themes are based on the Twenty Twenty One theme, one of the free reference themes for designers published by the creators of WordPress. They put out a new one every year, and I’ve created Toastmasters-branded versions of several. All of these designs have been approved by the Toastmasters International brand compliance team.

Twenty Twenty One introduced design options that the latest releases of WordPress make possible using block patterns. These are patterns of related content blocks like the overlapping images in the impressionist paintings example below.

Twenty Twenty One layout using the overlapping images block pattern.

In this mockup of a district website, I experimented with using that same layout for photos of a fictitious trio leadership team.

Mockup of the leadership page on a district website.

These are just examples. Your creativity will determine what works best for your club or district.

The Do It Yourself Alternative

The easiest way to get access to these designs is by signing up for an account on Toastmost.org, the club website hosting service based on the WordPress for Toastmasters software.

Those wishing to use these themes on a different WordPress server can download this ZIP file. With the exception of Lectern, these are all child themes, meaning you must install the “parent” theme also — for example, Twenty Twenty One TM and True Maroon both must be installed in combination with the Twenty Twenty One theme from the official WordPress repository.

New Toastmost for Districts Offer

One of several Toastmasters-branded WordPress themes

Toastmost is introducing hosting for district websites and also talking to some districts about sponsoring websites for clubs in their district. Allowing Toastmost to handle some of the technical aspects of hosting a Toastmasters-branded WordPress site allows your district webmaster and PR team to focus on telling the story of what makes your district special.

Districts who choose to host their website with the Toastmost service get:

  • Access to WordPress themes (designs) that have been preapproved by Toastmasters International — with the opportunity to innovate within that design.
  • Configuration of the website to use the district’s own domain.
  • District-specific features, including support for hybrid online/offline business meetings, which will be enhanced over the coming year in collaboration with district leaders and their webmasters.
  • Events calendar with registration feature built into the website.
  • Support for online payments, including event fees.
  • Option to create accounts for area, division, and district officers, allowing them to publish content to the website or draft content for approval. You also get the option to publish content such as contact information to members-only pages that only someone who has been issued a password can access.
  • Access to features originally developed for club use, such as contest tools with digital ballots and vote counting.
  • Technical support for district webmasters.
  • Consultation with Toastmost creator David F. Carr, DTM, on digital strategy.

For details, write to Toastmost.org’s David F. Carr, DTM, or set up a Zoom meeting using https://calendly.com/davidfcarr/after-hours/

Terms and Pricing

  • 60-day trial for testing of unpublished websites.
  • $500 per year for hosting and technical support. Price is the same if you want to host the website independently (requiring me to work with a different technical infrastructure). District support will help Toastmost continue to offer low-cost club websites.
  • Starter template includes:
    • A district calendar, which with the option of registration links for specific events.
    • An “About us,” which a placeholder for historical information about the District and current leaderships/photos/contact information.
    • Specific email addresses which can be transferred from one leader to another in a different year (e.g., from one Area Director to the next). These can be hosted on the web server or configured to work with Google Workspace (subscription cost not included).
    • Email distribution lists.
    • Trio-only (Area Visit Reports), DEC-only (upcoming meeting agendas and minutes), and/or District Council access to documents, (e.g., proxies, committee reports, prior to the various meetings).
    • Awards/recognition pages for members, clubs, and the district itself.
    • Websites will be mocked up with placeholders for content that your district webmaster and district leaders can quickly fill in.

Districts may also choose to sponsor the cost of club websites, “buying in bulk” to make the service available free for clubs within the district.

The regular club rate is $50 per year for each club, following a 6-month free trial. Districts might consider encouraging clubs to sign up for the free trial. If enough clubs see the value and want to continue using the software, the district can negotiate a flat rate to allow access for all district clubs.

Package deal for the 2021-2022 Toastmasters year: If a district hosts its district website with Toastmost, an additional investment of $500 will allow as many district clubs as want to take advantage to get a free year of WordPress web hosting. Since the clock doesn’t start running until the end of their six months free, they would actually get access for at least 18 months (even if future district leaders don’t continue the relationship).

For details, write to Toastmost.org’s David F. Carr, DTM, or set up a Zoom meeting using https://calendly.com/davidfcarr/after-hours/