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wordpress-4-toastmasters-flatThe WordPress for Toastmasters project enhances the popular WordPress blogging program with Toastmasters-specific functions that make it useful for marketing and managing a Toastmasters club.

The free version available at WP4Toastmasters.org is meant to be supported by advertisements and sponsor support. While this is a labor of love for me, it does also require some financial support in order to reach its full potential as an alternative to FreeToastHost.

Please take a look at the articles and videos posted here to see if this is something you would like to be a part of. I’ve posted preliminary details on a program for advertisers, but am open to other proposals.

Donate

If you don’t have a product or service to advertise, but like what you see and can offer support, donations would be very welcome. The donation form shown below is also displayed on the administrator’s dashboard for folks who have created a club website here, but donations are purely voluntary.


Happiness Scale




Your Toastmasters Club Website: Show Some Personality!

One of the most important things for your Toastmasters website to accomplish is to show how your club is unique and to share some of its personality. Some club websites are too cookie-cutter similar, emphasizing the things that all Toastmasters clubs have in common.

When I travel to different clubs, one of the things that impresses me is how different one club is from the next — how they take the same basic elements and combine them in different ways. A simple choice like whether to do Table Topics at the beginning of every meeting or at the end can make a big difference. One of the clubs in my area is more formal, so there I am “Toastmaster Carr” where in other clubs I’m just “David.”

Your website should make a strong case for why someone ought to pick your club to join rather than another one in town. I certainly don’t mean that you should badmouth any other group, but you should articulate a strong positive message. We are talking friendly rivalry rather than cut-throat competition. The truth is that some of the things you play up as advantages will be disadvantages in the eyes of some potential members — and that’s okay.

Continue reading “Your Toastmasters Club Website: Show Some Personality!”

WordPress for Toastmasters Tutorial

These videos cover how to create a site hosted at wp4toastmasters.com, set up meeting agendas, use the site as a member to sign up for roles, organize meetings and recruit others to take roles, and use the base features of WordPress for club marketing.

For a quick overview of what’s possible on the platform, you may want to first review the Web and Social Media Tactics for Toastmasters Clubs first, if you haven’t already seen it.

Part 1: How to Create a Site, Set Up Meetings

Part 2: Member Experience & WordPress Basics

Part 3 is still in the works and will cover more configuration options. However, the first 2 parts tell you everything you need to know to get started.

Open Source Release – RSVPMaker for Toastmasters

rsvpmaker-for-toastmasters

The software for meeting role signups and member tracking is now available as open source from the WordPress.org repository as an extension to my RSVPMaker plugin. RSVPMaker must be installed and activated on top of a current release of WordPress before the RSVPMaker for Toastmasters extension.

You can obtain the Toastmasters plugin here:

See https://wordpress.org/plugins/rsvpmaker-for-toastmasters/

This means you can install the software on your own web server, independent of WP4Toastmasters.com and my business, Carr Communications Inc. If you are going to pay for web hosting, I would ask you to consider hosting with me taking advantage of the offer from this host, which has agreed to pay a referral fee. That would help provide financial support and business justification for this project. You will also get a deeper level of technical support because I’ll know exactly how the web server is set up. Online ordering of hosting services is a work in progress, so for now I’d ask you to put in a request through my contact form.

I understand there may be cases where hosting elsewhere may make sense, as in the case of a closed company club that wants to run the software inside the corporate firewall. By making the software open source, I also help to reassure people that there is no lock-in to be worried about: other web developers will be able to pick up where I left off.

I also hope Toastmasters with web development skills will examine the software and come back to me with suggestions for improvement or actual code contributions.

The Toastmasters-branded themes I created for this project are not in the WordPress.org repository, but may be downloaded here:

https://www.wp4toastmasters.com/wp-content/themes/toastmasters.zip

Toastmasters Branded WordPress 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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The Toastmasters-branded WordPress themes used on this site are available for download from the link below.

Toastmasters Themes download

Twenty Twelve Toastmasters

Cobalt Blue Toastmasters

 

Florida Toastmaster

 

My Toast Home in Twenty Twelve (6 alternate color schemes for header)

 

Twenty Fourteen Toastmasters

Twenty Twelve Maroon

Recommend a member for a Toastmasters meeting role

This is a quick demo of how you would recommend a role for another member using WordPress for Toastmasters. The recipient of your recommendation gets an email notification, allowing them to confirm their acceptance with one click on a coded link (no login required).

I added this in response to a request from Matthew Kleinosky (a contact from the Official Toastmasters Members Group on Facebook) and it’s modeled loosely after a function in Easy Speak that he told me to take a look at. One difference: I don’t reserve a place on the agenda for the person being nominated to take the role. If the speaker slot or other role gets taken by someone else in the meantime, the nominee will get a prompt to log in and sign up for something else.

The Toastmaster of the Day, VP of Education, or other meeting organizer can nominate several individuals and add a personal note. The drop down-list of members to be chosen is restricted to those who do not already have a role for the upcoming meeting. As a guideline, it also shows how long it’s been since the member served in that particular role (or if they’ve never done it). For example, if you were nominating someone to speak you would see how long it has been since they spoke at the club. These statistics will become more meaningful and accurate after you have been using the system for a few months.

No narration on this video, just a quick walkthrough first from the viewpoint of the meeting organizer and then starting in the email inbox of the member being nominated to take a role.

Does Toastmasters Approve?

Does Toastmasters International approve of what I’m doing here? As far as I can tell, they don’t disapprove — and I have specifically asked for feedback on whether I’m adhering to their brand guidelines and delivering a service consistent with the TI mission.

I got this question from someone who who participated in the webcast I held a few weeks ago, presumably from someone who was concerned about violating the rules. Because the Free Toast Host / toastmastersclubs.org service has been promoted as the default option for years, many club leaders assume they’re required to use it. However, Toastmasters has also provided branding guidelines that can be incorporated into other website hosting services, which I’ve tried to adhere to.

The latest response I got from TI’s marketing department included the line “We thank you for your effort in supporting Toastmasters.”

My only disappointment is that they aren’t willing to list what I offer side-by-side with Free Toast Host. What I said on that webcast was that, as far as I knew, FTH was started the same way this site is being started, as an independent service created by Toastmasters members who also happened to be web developers. However, at some point TI apparently agreed to underwrite the operational costs of that hosting service.

What I’m hearing from TI is that they will not point club leaders to any “third party services” on the redesigned toastmasters.org website they are currently preparing for launch: “FreeToastHost will continue to be listed as a resource, but we are not looking for additional services of this type.”

Maybe this is ego talking, but I do think it’s a mistake for them to make FTH the standard unless they’re willing to invest the resources into making it a lot better. Rather than arguing about it now, my plan is to get 100 or more clubs up and running on this platform with club officers who see the value and would be willing to vouch for why it’s better. Then, maybe the brass at TI will reconsider at least listing WordPress for Toastmasters as an alternative.

WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com vs. WordPress for Toastmasters

WordPress is software for blogging and website management that promotes both professional and amateur web publications and sometimes interactive applications. One of the things that can be confusing for the uninitiated is that WordPress comes in several flavors. Also, even though it is “free” and open, exactly what you get for free varies.

Here’s how the WordPress for Toastmasters service fits in.

WordPress.org is where you can download the software for free and install it on your own web server. This is open source software, containing contributions from a community of volunteers as well as professional developers from the main sponsor and creator of the system, Automattic.

What’s free: you get the software for free, but you pay for the hosting. You have the freedom to customize the site however you want, using free or premium plugins and website design themes or inventing your own.

WordPress.com
WordPress.com

WordPress.com is a free blog hosting service run by Automattic and powered by the same software made available through WordPress.org. Automattic does offer some paid upgrades, but the basic service is absolutely free and includes many popular themes and plugins.

You are restricted to those company-approved themes and plugins, however. My event scheduling and Toastmasters-specific plugins are not on the list.

What’s free: you get the basic blog hosting service for free, but you don’t get to tinker with the software or upload your own plugins or site design themes.

WordPress for Toastmasters offers free club websites on something like the WordPress.com model, providing a selection of themes and plugins, including plugins that add Toastmasters-specific functionality. Some themes offer design customization choices that, for example, allow you to change the background color and the Toastmasters logo banner at the top of the page.

WordPress for Toastmasters uses a WordPress configuration option known as WordPress Multisite, which is what allows each club to have its own site within the site, with its own list of authorized users (club members and officers) and its own separate content, design, and configuration options.

What’s free: the club website hosting, including Toastmasters-specific functionality. If you want access to themes or plugins beyond those I’ve selected, you will have to convince me to add them and make them available to everyone. Free sites include advertising (in the sidebar of the page).

Alternative: a custom Toastmasters website, hosted by Carr Communications Inc., starts at $200 per year, provides additional freedom to customize beyond the limits of the shared WordPress for Toastmasters environment. This is not a bait-and-switch option — I’m not holding back features from the free version so you’ll be compelled to upgrade — but may be more appropriate for clubs that have the money in their budget and want one or more of the following: an web independent domain, the access required for additional customizations by a club webmaster, or a site with no advertising.

(More detail: Free Toastmasters Club Websites vs. Custom Websites)

Free Toastmasters Club Websites vs. Custom Websites

With WP4Toastmasters.com, your club can have a free website at an address like myclub.wp4toastmasters.com. That you can use for all the club marketing and meeting management/member management functions documented here.

Free Websites

Free websites are supported by advertising and free will donations (if you find the service really valuable, consider making a contribution to help sustain the project).

Still, free means free, and I’m not trying to bait-and-switch you into something that costs money.

There are some aspects of what I’m offering that cost money (see note below), so if the economics don’t quite add up … well, who knows? But I see no reason why I couldn’t continue to support the early adopters of this service indefinitely, or at a bare minimum give you plenty of notice if I find I’m bankrupting myself and have to make a change.

Your Own Domain

Right now, if you want to use this system but have it show up at your own independent domain (www.myclub.com), you’ll have to sign up for an independent hosting account (see custom websites, below).
Continue reading “Free Toastmasters Club Websites vs. Custom Websites”

* 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.