Online Timer Tool
A web-based timer is available from the Agenda menu of a Toastmasters meeting agenda and pulls in data from the agenda such as the names and speech timings of speakers or contestants. For online meetings, you can use this tool to show a timing lights effect as a background image. However, that does require the use of additional software such as OBS Studio to select a web page or portion of a web page as a source image, as explained below.
(For an alternative that does not require additional software, see the Blue Sky Apps timer.)
To use the timer, you choose the name of the speaker from the Speaker/Speech Type list or choose one of the other options, such as Table Topics, or Speech (8-10) for an 8 to 10-minute speech by a speaker who was not added to the agenda on the website.
Click Start to start the timer or Stop to stop it (or to reset everything). You can also click the Green, Yellow, and Red buttons to manually trigger a color change. The Correction drop-down list allows you to make an adjustment, for example if you started the timer a few seconds late (try not to do that).
Support for background images, in addition to colors, was added in Feb. 2021 update.
The green, yellow, and red background colors change automatically as the minimum, midpoint, and maximum times are reached. Instructions for sharing the timing colors in Zoom are included below.
This video tutorial covers the use of the Timer in the context of a contest (where the controls also include a form for submitting the timer’s report). The contestants are listed, according to the official speaking order, with the timing requirements for the type of contest pre-programmed into the tool.
Even if you don’t use this tool for the actual timing display, you can use the Timer’s report form on the page to submit the times (and any disqualifications) so they will be accounted for on the vote counting dashboard.
Streaming the Timer Video to Zoom
If you want to share screen colors in a Zoom meeting, you will need some sort of webcam or streaming software. I use OBS Studio, which is free, open source software that allows you to mix your webcam video with other video sources. The virtual camera function, which used to require a separate plugin but is built into the latest release of OBS, must be turned on. In Zoom, you will then select OBS Virtual Camera as your video source.
Here’s a good tutorial on green screen setup for OBS Studio.
The branded background images from Toastmasters International are available by default, and it’s also possible to add custom background images (like the Kermit example above, image courtesy of Pixabay).
Uploading Custom Background Images
A member who is allowed to upload images can upload additional colored images to be used with the timer. The list of images available for this purpose in the Timer tool is limited to those that have the color names (green, yellow, and red) in the file name or the title assigned in the media library.
If the color name is not in the file name of the image uploaded, you can edit the associated properties through the Media screen of the Toastmasters dashboard (assuming you have editing rights). Add the color name to the title, which by default is based on the filename.
Assigning File Upload Rights
By default, WordPress restricts the right to upload images to Administrators, Editors, and Authors (WordPress for Toastmasters adds the custom role Manager). As the site administrator, you can upgrade a trusted user to Author to allow them file upload rights.
It’s also possible to assign the file upload right to individual members (users) without granting other privileges. You can do that through the Security tab of the Toastmasters screen under Settings on the WordPress dashboard.