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.

Video: Working with the Interactive Agenda

This tutorial covers some hidden gems and relatively new features in the WordPress for Toastmasters agenda management system, such as the ability to assign roles based on who hasn’t done them lately and the “Agenda with Contacts” view that lets you see contact information of members in the context of who has or has not taken a role.

Agenda menu tutorial

I presented this as a speech at Club Awesome Toastmasters in Coral Springs, Florida, where the WordPress for Toastmasters software was born.

This tutorial doesn’t cover absolutely everything, but it touches on the major menu items. The basic idea to understand is that the agenda is a document that can be viewed in multiple modes:

  • A role signup form
  • A meeting organizer’s view of the form for editing assignments
  • A printable agenda
  • A version you can send to members via email when you are trying to fill roles, showing openings on the agenda and the link to follow to sign up
Continue reading “Video: Working with the Interactive Agenda”

Configuring Automated Role Reminder Emails

Here is how you can set the software to send reminder emails like this —

Example of a reminder to the General Evaluator

— based on a message template that looks like this.

Reminder email templates

I covered the setup for this in a recent online meeting “office hours” session (replay below), and am sharing some additional documentation after the video.

 

The first step for setting this up is to turn the feature on in the Toastmasters settings screen. You can set up to two different reminder intervals, such as 2 days before and 2 hours before in the example below.

Turning on the automated reminder feature.

The setup for the reminder email templates is handled through the Notification Templates screen in RSVPMaker (the part of the software that handles event scheduling and registration). To make it easier for Toastmasters to find their way to this screen and others tucked away in different menus, I’ve provided a links from the Club Website Administration widget on the main dashboard.

Reminder templates link on the dashboard.

There are several default message templates you can customize.

Role Reminder – generic message template that is used if no more specific one has been supplied for the specific meeting role. Simply reminds the member of what they committed to doing on a given date, prompting them to let someone know if they will not be able to fulfill that duty.

Toastmaster of the Day – sends the TOD a version of the agenda that shows assigned and unassigned roles with contact info for the members who have taken a role. At the end, it lists the members who have not been assigned a role with their contact information. The idea is to give the TOD a complete kit of info for confirming roles and recruiting people to fill open roles.

Speaker – reminds the speaker to provide a speech introduction and specify the speech project, if that info has not already been entered into the website.

Evaluator – lists the speakers, the other evaluators, and the general evaluator with contact info.

General Evaluator – same as above. Intended to help the general evaluator clarify which speakers are assigned to which evaluators and organize their portion of the meeting.

Norole – The message sent to everyone without an assignment, including the agenda and a link to the agenda page on the website where they can sign up to fill an open role. (This is only sent if specified on the Toastmasters settings screen).

You can customize all of these message templates and add additional ones for other roles off the standard list used by the software —

‘Ah Counter’,
‘Body Language Monitor’,
‘Grammarian’,
‘Humorist’,
‘Topics Master’,
‘Table Topics’,
‘Timer’,
‘Vote Counter’

— or custom roles for your club.

For example, the Online Presenters Toastmasters club I started has a reminder template for the Timer role with tips about how to perform it in a video conference environment.

The template codes or “shortcodes” for adding the date to the subject line or importing the meeting agenda are listed at the bottom of the Notification Templates page. There is also a link you can click to get a preview based on signups for an upcoming meeting.

The default templates are necessarily generic, but there is nothing to stop you from adding club-specific information like telling speakers who need to cancel that they should call your VP of Education, rather than just posting an update on the website.

I encourage you to make it serve your needs. As always, give me feedback with your ideas for making it better.

 

Video: Technical Teardown of This Project (and Related WordPress Projects)

This video is from the South Florida WordPress Users Group meetup. Additional notes and code samples are at https://rsvpmaker.com/teardown/

Yes, Toastmasters friends, I realize I spent too much time with my back to the audience (or at least to the cameraman, my son, who was all the way over to one side of the room). But the audio is not bad for video shot on a smartphone.

 

WordPress for Toastmasters Meeting & Agenda Management Quick Overview

I created this 2-minute overview to illustrate a few key concepts as part of a presentation to a WordPress meetup, showing how WordPress can be extended as a meeting management platform with functions keyed to a user’s login for signing up for roles or (with the proper permissions) editing the agenda.

The video shows navigating through the events calendar, signing up to speak at a meeting, specifying the manual and project for your speech, and modifying the “stage directions” notes and roles displayed on the agenda.

Video: How to Reorder Speakers and Evaluators

The latest update to WordPress for Toastmasters makes it easier to rearrange the order in which we want speakers and evaluators to be listed on the agenda, which might not be the same as the order in which they signed up.

For example, my home club, Club Awesome, follows a tradition of allowing a member giving their Icebreaker to go first — so they can get it over with, if they’re nervous, and relax for the rest of the meeting. Or you might want to accommodate a speaker who needs to arrive late or leave early.

Also, several clubs have requested the ability to have the agenda display which speakers are matched with which evaluators. To make that work, we want to be able to rearrange the order so we can match speakers and evaluators appropriately (for example, to have a member’s mentor be the one who evaluates their icebreaker).

The video shows how you can now drag-and-drop to reorder roles. Continue reading “Video: How to Reorder Speakers and Evaluators”

Pathways in WordPress for Toastmasters

Here is a look at how I plan to support Pathways speech project signups in WordPress for Toastmasters. This should be sufficient to allow a club that has started on Pathways to manage its agenda using the software and for club officers to do some basic tracking of member progress through the program.

Since Pathways is not yet implemented in my district, I took the list of projects from a PDF document that outlines the paths and levels. My understanding is many projects will continue to be 5-7 minute speeches, but in some cases a single project may require multiple speeches (and some may not be speech projects at all).

I set things up so a VPE, or members reviewing their own progress, can see the list of speeches in each path and level and match it against the program guidelines. Eventually, it should be possible to build on this foundation with a better understanding of how the Pathways program works.

I’m looking for feedback on whether this approach makes sense.

New Spreadsheet Import / Export

The new WordPress for Toastmasters import/export feature allows you to download a spreadsheet of data including member contact information and a summary of achievements within your club. The file downloads in the standard CSV file format, which you can open in Excel and other data management programs.

You can then make corrections and import the data back into the website, or you can use this as a way of transferring your data to another web server (for example, if you move from my toastmost.org service to your own web hosting).

The import feature here is similar to the one I recommend you use to import users into a new WordPress for Toastmasters site, using the member spreadsheet from Club Central on toastmasters.org.

If you are just getting started with your new website, you might start this way:

  • Import your members using the toastmasters.org spreadsheet.
  • Download the WordPress for Toastmasters data export. This will give you a spreadsheet that contains the member’s basic contact info and a series of blank columns in the rows representing other data, such as the number of Competent Communication speeches the member has given.
  • Update the spreadsheet, correcting data such as email addresses and phone numbers, and adding a basic set of information about how far the member has advanced in the Toastmasters program.
  • Import the spreadsheet into the website to update the member records.

This is intended as a way to “jump start” your website, after which you will start to benefit from the data gathered in the normal course of business as you organize your meetings.

Video: Planning and Tracking Time on Your Meeting Agenda

For the latest on this feature, see How to Assign Time to Each Portion of Your Agenda. The information below is outdated.

Some of the latest updates to the software make it possible to plan the time required for different activities on your agenda and set a limit on the amount of time available for speech projects.

These features are optional. The choice of including times on your printable agenda is a setting you change on the administrator’s dashboard. When you turn it on, and additional Agenda Timing option appears on the menus. The Agenda Timing screen lets you change the time allowances for the whole agenda, and see how the time allocations add up, compared to the length of your meeting.

This is all new enough that you may want to consider it “beta” or experimental. Give me your feedback if you would like to see changes in how this works.