How to Set an ‘Away Message’ in WordPress for Toastmasters

When you are recruiting members to take roles at a meeting or for any volunteer purpose, it helps not to waste your time calling people who are unavailable. People who are on vacation or traveling on business may also want to let others know when they will be unavailable.

Set Away Message option on the dashboard

The “Away Message” function is meant to fill this need. You will see it advertised on the main dashboard and also on the public members page (when you are logged in).

You can enter your message with an expiration date to mark when you will return.

set away message
Setting an away message

The message then shows up on the individual’s profile on the member page (shown only to logged in members).

away message
Away message on the members page

One other context where this shows up is in the Recommend feature meeting organizers can use to nominate another member to take a role (they get an email alert and can confirm with one click). If someone is out of town, you won’t want to choose them, so their status is shown next to their name.

recommend away message
Away message in the context of the Recommend a role feature

Toastmost.org Ad Prices Cut By 50%

If you have a product or service that will appeal to Toastmasters, consider advertising on Toastmost.org, a club website hosting service based on the WordPress for Toastmasters project software. The price of advertising for one month has now been cut from $200 to $100, with further price breaks for longer terms.

Advertise on Toastmost.org

Ad Type

Advertise to Toastmasters leaders in the clubs who take advantage of the free website offer at toastmost.org (example: demo.toastmost.org). Ads appear in the sidebar of the page.

WordPress for Toastmasters is a free, open source software project that adds features like agenda management to WordPress, the world’s most popular blogging and web content management platform. Toastmost.org is a hosting service from Carr Communications Inc., the company of project founder and chief programmer David F. Carr, DTM. The software is compatible with any WordPress web hosting service, so the advantage of Toastmost.org is to provide support directly from the author of the Toastmasters-specific software.

WordPress for Toastmasters receives no financial or logistical support from Toastmasters International, but the Toastmasters-branded theme Lectern has been reviewed for conformance to Toastmasters branding requirements.

Relaunching Toastmasters Club Website Hosting Service

The Toastmost.org Toastmasters club website hosting service is relaunching as a free 60-day trial offer, after which club leaders must decide whether upgrading to a paid plan makes sense for them. More details at toastmost.org.

The hosting service is intended as a convenient way for club leaders who aren’t necessarily techies to set up and configure a site that takes advantage of the WordPress for Toastmasters software. Originally, it was offered as a free service to be supported by ads and donations, but that income stream proved inadequate. Putting the Toastmost.org service on a more solid business plan is important to ensuring servers and services will be upgraded as needed for reliability, performance, and security.

If your club signed up for the free club website offer, you will continue to get that same deal. I may try to lure you into a voluntary upgrade, but I will honor the terms you signed up for. I thank you for your feedback on improvements to the WordPress for Toastmasters software, and I’ll keep trying to make it better and easier to use.

Going forward, I will work on sharpening the branding distinction between WordPress for Toastmasters, the free open source software project, and Toastmost.org website hosting, a service of my company, Carr Communications Inc., based on that software.

As a business venture, I my current ambition for the hosting service is merely to get it to cover its own costs as it grows. If you have one of the free sites, or are hosting a site elsewhere, consider making a donation if you see the value.

Meanwhile, the point of the WordPress for Toastmasters project is still to share online marketing and club management tools I originally created for my home club, Club Awesome, recently used when starting Online Presenters, and have shared with a small but growing group of other clubs. You can support the project helping with documentation, design, or programming (depending on your skills) or offering training at a district event.

Thank you for your interest in this project and your support for keeping it going.

Manually Adding Stoplight Display with a Shortcode

This is an update to How to Display Stoplight Colors on Your Agenda and Other Agenda Styling Options.

If you have the stoplight feature turned on, those colors will automatically be displayed for speech roles, table topics, and evaluations. Almost immediately I ran into a different scenario: manually adding the stoplight display to a contests agenda. This can be done using a WordPress shortcode, which is a placeholder for a software function you insert in the body of a post. The placeholders for roles and agenda notes are also shortcodes, although I’ve given them a more user friendly user interface with the color-coded images and popup editors.

Here is how the stoplight shortcode appears on the editor, editing the event for my home club’s upcoming evaluation contest.

Stoplight shortcode

The result on the agenda:

Stoplight shortcode display on the agenda.

The formula is [stoplight green=”5″ red=”7″] with angle brackets around the code that begins with “stoplight” and green, red, and optionally yellow specified as parameters.

Suspending Free Toastmasters club website offer September 1

As of September 1, I’m planning to suspend the offer of new free club websites until I can identify a source of funding to make that part of the WordPress for Toastmasters project financially self-sustaining.

The existing club websites on toastmost.org will continue to be supported, and the free and open source software will remain available for those who want to add it to an independently hosted WordPress site  (see Hosting Your Own WordPress for Toastmasters Website).

Meanwhile, I am looking for help from anyone interested in helping me come up with a workable plan to raise the funds to allow the free websites offer to reopen, or who can contribute other ideas for a path forward. Maybe this could be someone’s High Performance Leadership project?

Offering free Toastmasters club websites was always an experiment, a way of demonstrating the value of the software and making it easier for club leaders who do not consider themselves techies to set up a site. I used the multisite configuration of WordPress, together with my own customizations, to allow club leaders to register sites at subdomains such as mysite.toastmost.org. My own Online Presenters club is op.toastmost.org.

However, so far I have had no luck finding an advertiser or sponsor to underwrite that part of the project. Hosting websites does cost money, and I see the cost beginning to grow beyond what I can subsidize out of my consulting business.

There is still time to set up a free club website, if you do it within the next couple of weeks — part of the reason of this post was to give fair warning — and I will continue to work to help those clubs that have set up shop on toastmost.org to be successful with the software. Some good testimonials from leaders who have made it work for their clubs might provide the momentum needed to take this project to the next stage.

How to Display Stoplight Colors on Your Agenda and Other Agenda Styling Options

The latest release of the WordPress for Toastmasters software includes an option to show green / yellow / red “stoplight” timing guidelines on the agenda. This was a request I received some time ago from a club that had been doing something like this with a Microsoft Word template. It took me a while to figure out how to pull it off.

The stoplight option is available to anyone who wants to turn it on. When logged in as administrator, go to Settings -> Toastmasters and you will see a place to turn stoplight display on or off. See also Manually Adding Stoplight Display with a Shortcode.

The other improvements are more targeted to club webmasters with knowledge of CSS stylesheet language, making it easier to change the fonts and alignment of elements within the agenda design.

Here is an example of stoplight colors on the agenda:

Stoplight colors on the agenda

Continue reading “How to Display Stoplight Colors on Your Agenda and Other Agenda Styling Options”

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.

 

Please Support the WordPress for Toastmasters Project

I am writing to ask for your help making the WordPress for Toastmasters project a long-term success, which is something I can’t do alone.

See the Support This Project page for suggestions on how to help by placing an advertisement, making a donation, or contributing professionally by making the software, design, and documentation/tutorials better.

Active sites on toastmost.org

Funding is starting to become an issue for toastmost.org, the site where I invite people to create a club website for free.

If your club has a toastmost.org website, it’s safe: I’m not going to kick anyone off of the service. However, if I am going to continue to allow more clubs to sign up for it, I do need to figure out how to make it financially self sustaining. If we could raise $2,000 by the end of the year, the project would be in good shape.

The toastmost.org site has the advantage of allowing people to take advantage of the software without becoming experts on how to set up and configure web hosting. Working with more clubs and people with varying degrees of tech savvy also forces me to work harder at making the software itself easier to use. (I think it’s getting there). The clubs that have set up their own independent websites benefit, too.

Nobody Asked Me To Do This

Nobody asked me to create this service, but I saw it as the only way to allow the software to reach beyond a limited audience of Toastmasters who are also techies. What I call WordPress for Toastmasters was originally a set of one-off hacks for my own home club, but I got enough interest from friends in Toastmasters that I decided to find ways to share it.

Like a dot-com entrepreneur, I figured the first challenge was to prove I could generate an audience for this approach to managing a club website. I would worry about the money later.

Later is coming. Servers cost money, and soon I’ll need a bigger server or multiple servers to support the application. There are other commercial services I would like to invest in that would allow these websites to perform better, even for people on the other side of the world, or for improving the delivery of notification emails like password resets and role signup reminders. Possibly a nonprofit foundation should be established to manage the money, but setting up a foundation costs money also.

Worst Case Scenario

Worst case, I might close toastmost.org to new signups and continue to support it for clubs with existing websites. The open source software would continue to be available to clubs with the budget to set up their own websites, and districts or other organizations who embrace this approach could potentially set up their own multi-club websites on the toastmost.org model.

In that case, toastmost.org would become a demonstration project that proved the value of running a club website on WordPress, with Toastmasters-specific enhancements. I don’t see that as a bad outcome, but it’s not the best I would hope for.

Best Case Scenario

In a perfect world, someone reading this or someone I’m introduced to by someone reading this would pay $2,000 to be the exclusive sponsor of all the toastmost.org websites (there is a spot for an ad in the sidebar of each site) for the next year. Or a few companies, individuals, or clubs, pay the equivalent in smaller donations or advertisements.

Alternatively, I make a profitable business connection through one of you that makes me so fabulously wealthy the cost of this project becomes insignificant.

There may be other better than best case scenarios that I’m not even imagining. Part of what I’m asking for is that you help me imagine ways for this project to live up to its potential.

Thanks,

David F. Carr, versatile and inventive writer, editor, and web consultant
Author, Social Collaboration for Dummies
President, Online Presenters Toastmasters and member, Club Awesome Toastmasters

See my work on Forbes, connect with me on TwitterLinkedIn, or Facebook
david@carrcommunications.com
(954) 757-5827 (rolls over to mobile if no answer)

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.

Agenda Setup and Fine Tuning (Video + Tips)

These are updated instructions for setting up your standard meeting agenda and tweaking it as necessary for individual meetings. In addition to trying to explain the software better, I have worked on simplifying the software itself to make the process easier!

If you don’t have time to watch the video, I’ve included some key points below. See also: Sample Contest Agendas: Evaluation and Humorous Speech.

One of the most important improvements is a new tool for planning the timing of your meetings. As you change your time estimate for each “stage directions” agenda note or each block of roles, the time estimates change automatically. You can also check to delete a role from the agenda if you will not have time for it in the context of a given meeting.

Adjusting the planned timing for a meeting.

Both the Agenda Setup and Agenda Timing tools can be used either to make changes for an individual meeting or to modify your standard meeting template and all the agendas based on that template.

Agenda Setup menu

With a time limit set for speeches, members who try to sign up for a speech project that would exceed that limit will get a warning that they need to ask the meeting organizer about adjusting the agenda or the club may not be able to accommodate them.

A warning that signing up for this project would exceed the total time allowed for speeches.

When you edit an agenda in the WordPress editor’s Visual mode, you will see the different components are now color-coded blue for roles, red for agenda notes, and purple for editable fields.

An agenda setup viewed in the WordPress editor’s Visual mode.

Click on any of these placeholders to get a popup editor window. Here, we’re modifying the speaker role and changing the time allowed for speeches.

Role editor popup.

The purple “editable” fields are agenda notes that instead of or in addition to any static content include the ability for you to add or edit a note on the front end of the website. This option becomes available in the same Edit Signups mode you would use to assign other members to roles.

This is useful for things like a Theme and/or Word of the Day field that changes from week to week. In the example below, it’s used to record the details about a guest speaker (or test speaker) for an evaluation contest.

A field that is editable on the front end of the website (Edit Signups mode)

Your agenda plan will rarely be perfect. Typically, the Toastmaster of the Day and club leaders will have to make last-minute adjustments no matter how carefully you plan. Still, you can maximize your odds of success by planning well.