The WordPress for Toastmasters project aims to let Toastmasters clubs use one website for social media marketing and online recruiting but also for managing meetings and tracking member progress.
The publishing aspect will always be stronger, given that WordPress benefits from the work of thousands of commercial and volunteer programmers and is used by professional publications like The New Yorker, as well as marketing organizations like Disney. I created the Toastmasters-specific functions myself, with the help of a small (but growing) circle of advisers from other clubs who want to see this project succeed. On the other hand, those are the things that make this WordPress for Toastmasters.
Recent upgrades have improved:
- The self-service features, where members sign up for roles online.
- The meeting role editor, including features that make it easier to update the roster from your phone or tablet.
- The reports tracking member progress toward Competent Communicator, Competent Leader, and the advanced awards.
- The tool club leaders use to edit member records, correcting errors and recording accomplishments that occur outside the context of a club meeting.
The challenge is to make this information complete and accurate enough to be useful, without over-complicating things.
I suspect some clubs will use this part of the software more seriously than others. However, several of the Toastmasters leaders who gave me feedback on improvements to the software are very serious about tracking member statistics this way.
You do not necessarily have to treat the reports produced by the software as your official club records to get some value out of them. The original idea was simply to report on data the system gathers along the way, capturing it off meeting agendas. For example, over time agenda data should give you a pretty good idea of which members are close to achieving their CC award. But to make the report complete, you would also have to record a starter set of data about where members were in their Toastmasters journey before you started using the software. There is also a process for reconciling data based on the plan for a meeting (as reflected by the agenda) with who actually showed up and spoke (sometimes two different things).
The Competent Leader Progress report screen is one of the most complicated (and may still need more refinement) but tries to fill in the menu of requirement in different categories, according to the data gathered through the system. It’s designed to show where the gaps are.
Note that this report will not tell you whether the member has fulfilled the requirement of being evaluated for how well they filled a role such as Timer or Evaluator, only that they did it.
The Advanced Award Progress reports screen is new, designed to track speeches from the advanced manuals plus other requirements for ACB, ACS, ACG, ALB, and ALS awards on the way to DTM.
Yes, I’m aware that there is a Revitalized Education Program coming, bringing with it significant changes in this structure of advancement. Meanwhile, I’m trying to help my fellow club leaders do a better job of managing within the requirements that exist today.
Editing Meeting Roles
A large part of that is making it as easy as possible for individual members to sign up for roles online and for club leaders to edit those records as necessary. When you are logged into the website, “Edit Signups” will be one of the options shown on the menu at the top of the signup form.
When you switch into editing mode, the “Take Role” buttons are replaced by a drop-down list of club members, allowing you to assign roles to them.
The demo below is of some refinements to the process of editing the roster of members filling roles at a meeting, particularly with regard to making it easier to do from a mobile device.
The rest of the data editing functions are on the back end of the website, on the administrator’s dashboard. Here is what that menu looks like as of April 2016.
A regular member without editing rights on the site would see a subset of these options. Key items on this list:
- My Progress – a report where members can see their own progress, according to the data in the system.
- Edit Member Stats – the screen where club leaders can record or correct member statistics for more accurate reports.
- Reconcile – Visit this screen after a meeting to record any disparities with the agenda, such as members who did not show up to fulfill their roles and others who stepped up at the last minute and ought to get credit. Also, if the member did not indicate the specific manual and project for a speech prior to the meeting, it can be recorded here for more accurate tracking.
- Record Attendance – If you choose to record attendance through the system, you can do it here. Members will already be recorded as having been present if they fulfilled a role.
- Import Free Toast Host Data – If you previously used Free Toast Host, you may be able to import a useful starter set of data by following the instructions on this screen.
By focusing on these data gathering and analysis capabilities, I hope to make WordPress for Toastmasters a more complete solution for clubs who want to get more serious about the use of their website as a productivity tool, as well as a marketing platform.by