Create/Update Events Based on Template

Event templates are important to how the RSVPMaker program included in WordPress for Toastmasters manages events, particularly meeting events.

Your meeting event template reflects the standard setup of a meeting: number of speakers, number of evaluators, timing for events, and so on. You create copies of the template according to your meeting schedule for the individual meeting events. At any time, you can update the event template and all the events based on the template. However, this is a 2-step process: after updating the template you will get a prompt to Create/Update events based on the latest version of the template.

Create/Update prompts

As of a May 2021 update, RSVPMaker will send a reminder if it detects you have updated a template without updating the events based on the template. People often seem to forget this step, or else they don’t understand why it is necessary.

Create/Update email reminder

Why Isn’t This Automatic?

You might think the software would automatically update the whole series of events. That is often the result you are after when you update the template. However, there are a couple of reasons to keep it as a second step:

  • Finality. The software doesn’t necessarily know when you’re done updating the template. You may have saved your work but still be adding or rearranging elements.
  • Selectivity. The Create/Update routine allows you to check off which existing events you want to update. You can update just a couple while you’re testing. You can update all of them. Or you can update most of them, leaving a few unchecked. Events can be modified independently of the template, and you might not want to overwrite those changes.
Selective updating

The Create/Update screen shows you when an event has been modified independently of the template. Perhaps in the example shown above I’ve made room for an extra speaker at that week’s meeting and don’t want to overwrite those modifications.

The Magic Cookie Cutter

I sometimes compare templates to cookie cutters, which can be used to stamp out individual cookies (events).

Each of the cookies can still be decorated differently. Think of the role signups and speech titles as the sprinkles and frosting. The cookie retains the same basic shape, based on the cookie cutter, but can still be unique.

Occasionally, you might reshape a cookie significantly. For Halloween, you stamp out a gingerbread man but then graft on an extra head and tear off his arm. The Toastmasters meeting equivalent would be dropping a speech and adding more time for Table Topics. Now you’ve got a special cookie that no longer follows the template exactly.

One difference: this is a magic cookie cutter. Each of the individual cookies remains under its spell and can be reshaped at any time to match the new shape of the cookie cutter. The sprinkles on top stay where they are, unless the cookie has been reshaped so significantly that there is no place for them.

To bring it back to events and event templates: each event based on a template retains a link back to the template. When you update the template, you can update all of those events or just some of them. If a member has signed up for a role at a future event, they will still be signed up for that role — unless the role has been eliminated. For example, you want to be careful about changing the number of speakers from three to two if three speakers had previously signed up.

Finding the Template for an Event

If you edit an event that is based on a template, you should see a prompt at the top of the editor screen telling you to edit the template instead if your goal is to edit the whole series of events. (If you want to edit this event separately, you can do that, too.)

Edit Template prompt

The option to edit a template also appears on the dropdown list of options for an event post at the top of the screen.

Or you can find all your events listed on the Event Templates screen, which is a menu item under RSVP Events on the administrator’s dashboard.

Video Demo: Agenda Time Planner and Agenda Editing

This is a demo of the new Agenda Time Planner tool (basics covered in the first 7 minutes of the video below). The Agenda Time Planner makes it easier to make routine adjustments, for example to change the number of speakers or time allowed for a speeches. It allows meeting leaders who may not have website admin or editing rights to alter the timeline for a meeting, for example when a member wants to give a longer speech or a visiting district officer has asked for time on the agenda.

The second part of the demo covers the fundamentals of how to edit WordPress content in general and a Toastmasters agenda content in general. Club leaders can create more flexibility for themselves and others with how they structure the underlying agenda document.

Editing the Agenda Layout and Sidebar Content

The default printable agenda layout features the club logo at the top of the page, along with the club name and meeting date. Beneath that, the agenda is divided between a sidebar on the left hand side of the page and the actual agenda listing. You can change the layout by editing an Agenda Layout document, which shows just a placeholder where the actual meeting roles will be displayed.

Here is what that looks like in the editor.

The Agenda Layout document.

You can use the sidebar area to include some content you want to appear on every week’s agenda, such as the club mission and perhaps contact information for key officers. Or you might want to add a promotion for an upcoming district conference or district training and remove that when the date is past.

Optionally, you can include an Agenda Officers Listing block in the sidebar area. This will print the officers listing drawn from what you’ve specified on the Settings -> Toastmasters screen.

Both the logo / title and sidebar / agenda parts of the document are formatted using WordPress columns. It’s possible to change the width of the columns. To do so, click the content in the column you want to change and use the document hierarchy button at the top of the page to navigate up to select the specific column.

Selecting a specific column.

With the column selected, the column width property should be displayed in the editor sidebar. By default, the two main columns take up 33.33% and 66.66% of the page width, respectively, but you can change that to 30% and 70% or whatever proportions you desire.

Column width setting

If you don’t want to use the sidebar layout, you can delete the columns and add the Agenda Main Content block on its own line.

Update History – Edit Role Assignment Records After the Meeting

If you want your club records and reporting to accurately reflect who filled roles at each meeting, you should go back and update the agenda after the meeting is over to reflect who didn’t show up and who stepped in at the last minute.

Authorized users can do this on the Update History screen under TM Administration.

Update History screen

The basic process for gathering information and making it as accurate as possible for reporting is described in this blog post: How to Fill a Toastmasters Meeting Agenda (some screen shots in this post are outdated).

Toastmasters Meeting Templates and Meeting Events

The WordPress for Toastmasters agenda management system is defined around a system of event templates and individual event posts, or documents, that define the structure of your meetings. Members can then sign up for roles (or meeting organizers can assign them).

The event documents are organized using the RSVPMaker WordPress plugin. The WordPress for Toastmasters system uses a separate plugin (RSVPMaker for Toastmasters) to add agenda management features. Within the WordPress editor, you use Agenda Role and Agenda Note content blocks to structure your agenda. Other available content blocks include Editable Note and Toastmasters Absences.

Agenda Role block
Agenda Note block

You can plan the time associated with different events on your agenda using the Time Allowed fields that appear in the sidebar of both Agenda Role and Agenda Note blocks. Agenda Role blocks also allow you to set a Count — which, for example, is how you you would change the number of speaker openings that appear on the agenda and the signup form.

The process of organizing and publishing meeting events goes like this:

  1. Add or edit an RSVPMaker Template document for your meetings. A default Toastmasters Meeting template is provided, along with a sample template for contests.
  2. Define the schedule associated with the template: For example, first Tuesday at 7 pm.
  3. Follow the Create / Update link to generate a series of event posts, based on the template (see documentation).
  4. (Optional) Alter any of the individual event posts, as necessary, to reflect a different meeting structure (for example, moving Table Topics from the beginning of the meeting to the end and adding an explanation about a special workshop).
  5. Members sign up for roles and meeting organizers make assignments using the tools available on the front end of the website (no WordPress editing rights required).
Adding events based on the schedule set in a template

If you need to change the standard structure of your meetings, go back to Step 1 and update the template. You can then update all the events based on that template. You will see a warning if a specific meeting has been updated independently and can choose not to overwrite it.

Updating event posts based on a template

Editable Note Blocks

A Toastmasters Editable Note is a placeholder for content that changes from meeting to meeting, such as the meeting theme or word of the day. It can be edited in the same “Edit Signups” mode that the Toastmasters of the Day or VP of Education might use to enter role assignments on the agenda.

Editable agenda note.

In contrast a Toastmasters Agenda Note block is meant for boilerplate content that is typically the same from week to week. Editing the content of an Agenda Note requires that a user has been assigned editing privileges for event posts on the club website — typically an officer or a webmaster.

In contrast, the content of an Editable Note can be changed by any member with the authority to Edit Signups. However, first someone with rights to editing event post content must make an editable note available on the agenda.

Add an Editable Note

Do one of the following:

  • Use the block inserter (+ button) to select Toastmasters Editable Note from the available blocks.
  • Begin typing /editable on a blank line, and Toastmasters Editable Note will appear as one of the options you can select.
How it appears in the editor.

Enter a headline in the Editable Note Title field. Save the event post and view the result.

Track Planned Absences Through The Agenda

The Planned Absences block provides an easy way for members to signal that they will miss a specific meeting. Here is how that is displayed to a logged in member.

You can specify whether you will miss one meeting or several. It’s also possible to record this information on behalf of another member.

How to Add a Toastmasters Absences Block

Do one of the following:

  • Use the block inserter (+ button) to select and insert the Toastmasters Absences block
  • Begin typing /absences on a blank line, and Toastmasters Absences will appear as one of the blocks you can select to insert.

There is only one option to set: whether the absences block should appear only on the signup form (the default) or also on the agenda.

How the Absences Block Works

If you place this widget at the bottom of your signup page, members can let the club know they plan to miss the meeting in question by clicking the Planned Absence button. Planned Absences that have been recorded are listed right above the button, along with any “Away Messages.” This information is only displayed to logged in members.

Away Messages allow you to signal that you will be missing meetings for some extended period of time (weeks or months) — it’s a message with an expiration date.

Clicking the Planned Absence button works better if I know I’m going to miss, not the next meeting, but the one after that. It’s more precise.

The absence / away message information also shows up in a few other contexts, such as the drop down list you use to assign members to roles.

Absences indicated in the dropdown list for assigning roles.

Add an Agenda Note

A Toastmasters Agenda Note block presents “stage directions” for your meeting. This is information that should only appear on the agenda (not the signup form) and that is not tied to a role members sign up for on a per-meeting basis (for example, a round of self-introductions led by the presiding officer).

A WordPress for Toastmasters agenda consists of content blocks representing roles that members can sign up for (or be assigned to) and supporting notes about the organization of the meeting. See Add WordPress Blocks (Different Types of Content). Several other agenda-specific content blocks are available, including Signup Note (which only appears on the signup form, not the agenda), Editable Note, and Planned Absence.

Agenda Note blocks

To add an Agenda Note, do one of the following:

  • Use the block inserter (+ button) to select the Toastmasters Agenda Note block.
  • Begin typing /agenda or /note on a blank line. Choose Toastmasters Agenda Note from the list of available blocks to insert.

Next, enter a paragraph’s worth of content. You can use the same formatting controls for bold and italic that you would within any other paragraph.

Optionally, add the time in minutes for the activity described in your note. If you display the times on your agenda, this will be used to create a chronology of the time consumed by each Agenda Note and Agenda Role. The idea is to help you plan your meetings and keep them on schedule.