Making Your Toastmasters Website VP Education-Friendly

In addition to making it easier to organize your meetings, the WordPress for Toastmasters Project aims to help you improve the achievement of your members and the performance of your club by tracking metrics of success.

high-performance

So far, my beta testers for this part of the software are Area Governor Sue Ness (who inspired me with the performance tracking software she had developed in Microsoft Access) and the Vice President of Education Lois Margolin, from my home club, Club Awesome (which you’ll see a little of in the video below). If you would like to try the software for your own club, contact me here.

Free Toastmasters Club Website Upgrade

Does your Toastmasters club need a website upgrade? Are members having difficulty logging in to sign up for roles? Have you been complaining for months about the same website glitches? Are officers frustrated with the limitations of your toastmastersclubs.org site for marketing or social media promotion?

The WordPress for Toastmasters project is based on the world’s most popular blogging software, which is constantly upgraded and enhanced. But unlike a free account on WordPress.com, this version is customized with features specific to the needs of Toastmasters clubs — meeting role signups, a member directory, customizable agendas, and email reminders.

After running a great meeting or a successful contest, you can post photos or video of the best speeches to your site and cross-promote them on social media.

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How to get it

I’m working on a self-service signup option, but for now you need to contact me with your club name and number. I’ll send you back a password to a move-in ready website at an address such  as myclub.wp4toastmasters.com. You will have several options for a site theme (a set of templates with different colors, backgrounds, and fonts). If you prefer a different one from the WordPress directory, I can help you customize it to include Toastmasters branding.
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Toastmasters club marketing and meeting management on one site: no kludges

kludge (noun) an ill-assorted collection of parts assembled to fulfill a particular purpose.
Cobalt Blue Toastmasters
Cobalt Blue Toastmasters

I know I am not the only one who thinks there ought to be a better way to manage a Toastmasters club online, meaning not only the routine meeting agenda but special events and marketing and recruiting campaigns. FreeToastHost, which I’m implicitly criticizing by creating an alternative, offers a system for managing meeting signups, but it’s not so great for general marketing purposes.

Lots of Toastmasters clubs and districts have resorted to kludges like these:

      • Use FreeToastHost as the site for a club administration, while using a WordPress site in parallel as the club blog.
      • Use WordPress or another web content management system to power the main club website, Supplement it with a Google Drive spreadsheet or some other free cloud software product used for meeting signups.
      • Our district uses a FreeToastHost-based website in combination with separate events website, plus a cloud-based event registration service. To his credit, the district webmaster is working hard to assemble these pieces into a coherent whole.
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      Toastmasters Member Import/Sync Routine

      The WordPress for Toastmasters solution makes it easy to import a list of members, using the spreadsheet club officers can download from Toastmasters.org. You copy and paste from the spreadsheet into the field labeled Spreadsheet on the web form and submit the form. If this is your first time importing members, or if there are new members on the spreadsheet since last time, new user accounts will be created for those members.

      The video below shows what that looks like, starting with the spreadsheet import and continuing through the customization of a user profile (change profile, add a photo).

      Notes: To paste into a web form, you will need to put your cursor in the right field of the form, then click a control key combination (Ctrl + V on Windows, Apple Command key + V on Macs).

      After the form is submitted, the website displays the message that will be sent to the new users via email welcoming them to the club’s website and asking them to update their profile.
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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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