This excerpt from a webinar on Jan. 20, 2016 (full replay here) shows how agenda items are represented in the WordPress editor and how to edit them – for example, to change the number of speaker and evaluator roles at a meeting. It starts out by showing the standard way you edit web pages and blog posts in WordPress before explaining how events meeting role signup works within the same framework.
Note: The process for setting up your standard meeting template is shown starting from the prompt at the top of the screen you would see on a new site. After initial setup, you would find all the event-oriented functions for setting up meetings or other calendar items located under RSVP Events on the administrator’s dashboard. That includes sub-menus for Event Templates and Agenda Setup.
The WordPress for Toastmasters software allows you to publish some content as “members only” content that can only be viewed by someone who is logged into WordPress as a member (a user with an account on the site).
This is not an ultra-high-security solution, but it is a convenient way of separating the marketing content you want everyone to see from the meeting minutes that are only of interest to members, as well as content not approved for wide distribution. For example, my home club, Club Awesome, regularly video records speeches for their educational value to the speakers. We only share those speech videos publicly (as part of our marketing) if the member gives permission — usually, after they’ve had a chance to see the video for themselves. Members only posts allow us to archive those videos on the blog, without unintentionally making anyone famous.
To designate a post as Members Only content, click the Members Only category in the WordPress editor.
The latest WordPress for Toastmasters software update changes what you will see on the Agenda Setup screen, taking advantage of the WordPress visual editor. This also means a better experience for anyone who uses the standard WordPress editor to update a meeting or meeting template.
In either mode, you will see placeholder images for the role signup slots and the notes to be placed on the agenda, like this:
You can reorder these images using drag-and-drop. Click on any image and hold the button down while dragging straight up or down.
Double-clicking on any of these placeholders opens a dialog box that allows you to change settings for the Role or Agenda Note.
Each of the roles you define will be displayed on the website, as a signup form for logged-in members, and on the printable agenda.
The Agenda Note placeholders are good for adding “stage directions” to the agenda. You can have these appear only on the agenda (the default), only on the web form, or in both contexts.
Two custom buttons within the editor allow you to add Toastmaster Role or Agenda Note fields to the form and agenda.
It is also possible to add text, images, and other content that is not contained within an Agenda Note placeholder. In that case, the content will be displayed in all contexts — on the form, on the printable agenda, and on the website. I can think of a few situations where that could be useful, for example to display a holiday image on the agenda. However, in general I would advise you to be careful not to clutter up the form.
Visual editor versus Text editor
The experience described above assumes you have the WordPress editor must be in Visual mode, rather than Text mode, as controlled by the tabs in the upper right hand corner of the editing area. Text mode displays any HTML code included in the content of a page, post, or event as code, rather than its visual equivalent. If you’re not comfortable working with code, keep the editor in Visual mode.
Most of the code you will see in a Toastmasters agenda template is not HTML but what WordPress calls “shortcodes” — placeholders for custom output generated by software, like the Toastmasters Role signup buttons displayed when a member has logged in. I only recently figured out a way of creating a visual representation for the Toastmasters role and agenda note placeholders (so non-techies who try to edit one of these documents will not be scared off by a bunch of cryptic code). Previously, anyone who clicked “Edit Event” rather than “Agenda Setup” would see a screen full of code loaded into the editor, in either Visual or Text modes.
For consistency, the Agenda Setup screen has been updated to also use the WordPress editor, rather than the custom user interface I was using previously. The advantage of the Agenda Setup screen is it’s a little more specific to Toastmasters.
One thing early WordPress for Toastmasters have been telling me for a while is that they want a better looking, more flexible layout for the printable agenda. I showed a mockup of the new sidebar layout to a few advisors about a month ago, and everyone agreed it would be an improvement. Now a working version is live on this site and also available in the open source version on WordPress.org.
Advantages of this format:
Gives you a space for ongoing reminders (like dues) or announcements of upcoming events (like Spring Conference)
Format is essentially the same whether you print directly from the web or download to Word.
You can change the sidebar message on a per-meeting basis or set a default message to be displayed for future events.
To get the new layout, you first have to activate it. You can do this on the Settings -> Toastmasters screen in your dashboard by changing Agenda Format from “plain” to “sidebar.” Or you can click a checkbox at the bottom of the Agenda Setup screen labeled “Enable agenda layout with sidebar.”
Once you have done that, you will see a text editor displayed at the bottom of the Agenda Setup form. Enter the content you want to be displayed.
You have a choice of whether to customize the text for a specific event only, for an event template, or on a global basis (will be used if not specified in either the specific event or the template). Here is an example of how it looks.
One of the questions I’m getting the most from the people getting started with WordPress for Toastmasters is, “How do I add another administrator?” WordPress provides a flexible system for assigning users different roles including editor and author as well as administrator. Here is how that works on the WordPress for Toastmasters site.
When you add a member, by default that person is given a user account at the “Subscriber” level, meaning they can access members-only features (such as signing up for roles at a meeting) but cannot add to or edit website content.
When a subscriber is logged in and accesses the WordPress Dashboard, they see a much simpler version than you would see as a site administrator. A subscriber can update his or her own profile (name, contact information, profile picture) and view performance reports as a sort of scoreboard for how different members are doing in their progress toward educational awards like CC and CL.
Subscriber is the most basic of the security levels built into WordPress. The others are:
Contributor: can submit blog posts for approval by an editor.
Author: can submit and publish blog posts but cannot edit pages or anyone else’s blog posts. If you have a good writer or photographer in your club, you might want to give them author rights.
Editor: can edit pages, posts, and events.
Administrator: can change the basic settings of the website, such as the theme (design) and optional software plugins that are enabled. Can add or edit user accounts.
I’ve added an additional role, Officer, which combines all the editor rights with the ability to add and edit user accounts (members).
Here is what the Dashboard looks like to an Officer:
After adding or importing your membership list, you can designate your officers on the Settings -> Toastmasters screen, and those individuals will automatically be assigned Officer security rights by default. (As an administrator, you have the power to promote or demote them as appropriate).
You may also want to manually designate members of the club who should have additional privileges as a contributor, author or editor. From the User listing, position your mouse under one of the names shown and click Edit.
Select the appropriate role from the drop-down list and save your changes.
When you first create a WordPress for Toastmasters site, you get a default signup form and agenda loosely based on the one used by my home club, Club Awesome — as if that were the Platonic ideal of how a Toastmasters club ought to organize itself. Hey, it works for us, but I’ve visited with enough other clubs to understand everyone takes the same basic elements and organizes them their own way.
To make your website your own, one of the first steps is to create an event template that defines how your own club operates at a typical meeting. Maybe instead of doing Table Topics near the beginning of the meeting, you prefer for that portion of the meeting to occur after the formal speeches but before the evaluations. You may want to add a role that is unique to your club or delete one that does not apply.
These are the directions on how to do that.
In addition to customizing the template, you can customize individual events to vary the format of a given meeting. This is the difference between the cookie and the cookie cutter — the template stamps out copies that are all the same, but you can still decorate each cookie (tweak the settings for a meeting) a little differently.
For example, if you are holding a contest at your regular meeting time, you will want to sign people up for contest roles. Or, if your VP of Education is giving a special presentation, you may have to cut back on the number of speeches and evaluations, or drop Table Topics.
Two Ways to Customize
There are two ways to customize the agenda and signup form, either by editing “shortcodes” (placeholders within the text of an event description) or by using a visual editor that saves you from futzing with this specialized coding language.
For example, these two definitions of an agenda item are equivalent.
[toastmaster role=”Speaker” count=”3″]
The visual Agenda Setup editor:
You don’t normally see code in the WordPress visual editor, but shortcodes are the exception, used to insert programmatically-generated content. However, I’ve provided an Agenda Setup editor that makes it easier for non-techies to add, delete, and rearrange items on the agenda.
Accessing the Agenda Setup Editor
The templates created for your site are listed on the WordPress administrator’s dashboard with links that allow you to open a template in the WordPress editor (where the shortcodes will be displayed) or in the Agenda Setup editor (easier for those of you who don’t like futzing with code).
There is also an Events Template option under RSVP Events that lists the existing templates and shows the default schedule along with projected dates. From this screen, you can apply a different template to an existing event — for example, to apply a contest template to a regular meeting.
You also can access the Agenda Setup editor from a button that appears on every event listing. This allows you to tweak the individual meeting, not the template. There is also an Agenda Setup option that appears on the black menu bar that appears at the top of the screen when you are logged into the website as an administrator, editor, or officer (regular members will not see this option).
Using the Agenda Setup editor
Each role on the agenda includes its own mini web form that allows you to change the label for that role, change the number of openings for that role that should be displayed (2 Speakers instead of 3), add an explanatory note about the role, or check the box that will remove that role from the agenda.
The Agenda Setup editor also allows you to add or edit blocks of text to be shown on the printed agenda, such as a reminder about club dues or the mission of the club.
In addition editing the options presented in these widgets, you can drag-and-drop blocks to rearrange them.
You can add more of these widgets using the buttons at the bottom of the form.
The buttons are:
Add Role – adds a blank role
Add Agenda Note – adds a blank note
Add Officers – generates a list of the club’s officers based on those in Settings -> Toastmasters
Add Theme/Words of the Day – adds an editable block of text that can be used to enter a meeting theme, words of the day, or other meeting-specific information.
Two-Column Agenda – an advanced option for formatting the agenda (explained below)
Fancy Agenda Formatting
This is an optional step. By default, you can print a basic but functional agenda straight from the website or download it into Microsoft Word and make it pretty.
The two-column agenda option below is something I added to allow one particular club to approximate the look of an Word agenda template it has been using, where some basic information about the club is displayed in a skinny left hand column (or “sidebar”) and the specific meeting agenda takes up the rest of the page.
When you click the two-column agenda button, three widgets will be added at the bottom of the screen. You place the first agenda layout widget at the beginning of the first column, the second at the beginning of the second column, and the third at the end. Check the “sidebar” button on the widget for either the first column or the second column, depending on whether you want the sidebar to be on the left or the right.
Here is the club’s existing agenda as a Word document:
And here is an approximation of that format that could be printed directly from the website (names are missing because no one has signed up yet):
Another way of using this, if the club prefers the agenda layout in Word, would be to copy and paste just the role signup information from the website into a Word document, leaving the boilerplate details unchanged.
Here is the documentation for the shortcode tags used to set up an agenda/signup form in code.
[toastmaster role=”Speaker” count=”3″]
This is the basic tag used to designate roles that should be available for signups on the online form, with role assignments also displayed on the agenda. The parameter role can be set to any value for custom roles. However, default roles like “Speaker” and “Topics Master” should not be altered if you want statistics for who has filled these roles to show up in the performance reports. The count parameter specifies the number of signup slots that should be displayed (if this parameter is omitted, the default of 1 is assumed.
[toastmaster role=”General Evaluator” agenda_note=”Leads the evaluation portion of the meeting”]
The agenda_note parameter allows you to insert an explanatory note.
[toastmaster role=”Ah Counter” indent=”1″]
Adding indent=”1″ causes this information to be indented in the agenda display.
[toastmaster role=”Contest Master” leader=”1″]
By default, the Toastmaster of the Day is assumed to be the meeting organizer. Adding leader=”1″ to another member role designates that person as the meeting leader.
[agenda_note]Additional text, typically displayed on the agenda only[/agenda_note]
Wrap this code around a block of content for the agenda. Be careful to match the opening code with the closing [/agenda_note] code.
[agenda_note officers=”1″]Additional text, typically displayed on the agenda only[/agenda_note]
The officers parameter appends a listing of officers to your note. (officers=”1″ turns on this feature). Other parameters include sep (example sep=” | “) to change the default separator between the officers on the list (comma, followed by a space) and label (example: label=”Executive Board”) to change the default label (“Officers”).
[agenda_note style=”width: 200px; float: right;”]Additional text, typically displayed on the agenda only[/agenda_note]
The style parameter allows you to specify custom formatting, using the web’s Cascading Style Sheets standard (intended for advanced users)
[agenda_note agenda_display=”both”]Additional text, typically displayed on the agenda only[/agenda_note]
Can be set to “both” (display on the signup form as well as the agenda) or “web” (display on the signup form, NOT the agenda) to change the default behavior of showing the content only on the agenda.
This works similarly to the parameter on agenda_note, except that it’s a separate tag. Displays a list of officers Optional parameters include sep (example sep=” | “) to change the default separator between the officers on the list (comma, followed by a space) and label (example: label=”Executive Board”) to change the default label (“Officers”).
Either of these will generate an editable text box for recording a note, often used for details like meeting theme or words of the day. This is an editable field on the form and is displayed on the agenda and to web visitors.
The agenda_layout tag can be used to format the agenda into two columns, typically a main column (two-thirds page width) and a narrower sidebar (one third). You actually need to use 3 of these tags – one at the beginning of column 1, one at the border between column 1 and column 2, and the third after column 2. The sidebar parameter can be used in either the first or second instance, depending on whether the left or the right column should be designated as the sidebar (if neither is, the columns will be equal width).
The visual editor adds the 3 user interface blocks at once, then lets you arrange them as desired.
Update: New club websites now get an address in the format myclub.toastmost.org. See this post explaining the change.
Your new myclubhere.wp4toastmasters.com website will include some default content you can use as a starting point. Here’s how you make it your own.
First of all, your club website is initially published in a format that discourages indexing by search engines. This keeps people from stumbling across your website while it is still unofficial. But if you’re happy with the site and want to start using it a promotional tool, remember to change that setting.
Here are the site customization and setup steps to follow, in roughly this order:
Learn how to log into the website and navigate the menus.
Update the default content I’ve placed on your homepage.
Update the meeting template to reflect the roles you for a typical meeting and the information you want to appear on the printable agenda. You will be able to vary the lineup for individual meetings, but the template addresses the typical case. Learn how to use the Agenda Setup tool.
Add members either one at a time or in bulk. I make it possible to download your member list from toastmasters.org as a spreadsheet and then import that data into the website. It’s not guaranteed to be perfect, but it can save time. The import/synch process is documented here.
On the Settings -> Toastmasters Settings screen, identify your officers. They will be given additional editing rights on the website. This listing is also used in the member directory and can be included in the printable agenda.
Test that everything is working properly and let me know if it is not.
Make sure that your website looks presentable and you’re ready to share it with the world.
On the Settings -> Reading screen, uncheck “Discourage search engines from indexing this site”
Update your listing on the toastmasters.org directory so people who find your club there will be directed to the correct site.
If you had a site at toastmastersclubs.org, post a notice on the home page that includes a link to your new website. You may eventually want to request that the site be deactivated (see note below on images copied from one of these sites). However, it’s helpful at first to post a link pointing from the old site to the new site.
Notify me when you go live so I can help promote your new site. Also, there are some email integration steps that I have to do manually if you want to take advantage of features such as the site’s ability to send email reminders to members who have signed up for a role. (I’ll have to figure out a way to automate these eventually, but I’m not quite there yet).
Here are a few more detailed notes.
When I create a club website, I ask for the club number partly so I can look your club up in the toastmasters.org “Find a Club” directory. That tells me your club schedule and whether you already have a website.
The site setup software tries to set up a club meeting template based on the schedule listed on toastmasters.org. If the software doesn’t quite get it right, don’t worry, you will have a chance to make corrections.
If you have a FreeToastHost website (myclubhere.toastmastersclubs.org), I can often clone your homepage content and the Directions page if you have one — again, just to serve as a starting point. Part of what I’m offering is a website that’s easier to edit and update, so you’ll probably want to take the opportunity to freshen up the website.
Note that on cloned pages, photos and other images are not actually copied — your wp4toastmasters.com site will still be referencing the images you uploaded to toastmastersclubs.org. So if you shut down your toastmastersclubs.org site, be sure to replace those images first or visitors to your website will see a glitch in that spot.
If you didn’t previously have a club website, you will start with more of a blank slate. So think about what you want to say and what images you want to feature on your home page. A photo of happy, smiling members is always a good start.
When you are logged into wp4toastmasters.com, you will have access to both the same public website everyone else sees and a “backstage” Dashboard area that only logged in users have access to. You can navigate between one and the other using the black menu bar that appears at the top of the screen when you are logged in.
Regular club members will only be able to access a few functions from the dashboard, such as the screen for updating their own member profile (name, email, phone number, etc.). It also includes links to other members-only content, such as the member directory.
As site administrator, you will have access to a longer menu, including both Toastmasters-specific functions and general website management functions such as customizing the theme of the website, posting blog entries, or editing the home page.
One of the important links on the administrator’s dashboard is to the screen where you can edit your meeting template. Once you update the template, you will be given an option to update all the events based on that template. More details in this blog post.
Officers will have access to the site editing and membership management functions, but not to all the screens for changing the configuration of the website. You may also want to appoint one or more additional people to be administrators of the site, but ideally they should be trustworthy and reasonably tech savvy. Administrators have more super powers and also more power to screw things up!
Here is the administrator’s view of the dashboard:
If you hover your mouse over the menu items on the left hand side of the Dashboard screen, you will see that most of these items have sub-menu items. In this documentation, that’s what I’m referring to when I talk about going to the Settings -> Toastmasters (the Toastmasters sub-menu item under Settings).
Posts – add and edit blog posts. Use this to add newsy items to the website, which can include images and other multimedia such as video.
Pages – edit the home page and other pages of your site. While blogs are most prominently displayed on your site when they are new, pages are for content that is always important to share such as directions to your website.
RSVP Events – WordPress for Toastmasters is an extension of RSVPMaker, a WordPress plugin of my design for scheduling meetings and collecting RSVPs. You may sometimes want to use those functions for events other than regular meetings, such as an open house.
Media – Upload and manage images and other sorts of files such as PDFs or audio files (the upload functions are also available through the editor you use for posts, pages, and events).
Appearance – Functions for changing the appearance of the public website. You can choose from among several Toastmasters-branded themes with different color and layout options, and many themes also allow you to change details like the background color (Appearance -> Customize).
Plugins – There are thousands of plugins available in the WordPress.org repository, from which I’ve selected a limited number that are relevant and useful. I will consider adding others by request. Plugins add functionality to your website, for example to display social media links at the bottom of your blog posts.
Users – View the listing of users (you and your club members). To add members to the site, use Users -> Add Member rather than Users -> Add New. This ensures that the users are loaded into the member directory correctly.
Settings – Change basic parameters for the display and operation of your website. For example, instead of a static front page, you can choose to make the listing of blog entries appear on the front page. Or you can change the site title and tagline. You’ll definitely want to visit Settings -> Toastmasters and identify the members serving as officers.
Coding in Pages and Event Listings
One of the virtues of WordPress is it provides a visual editor, similar to a word processor, for creating and editing posts and pages. This means you don’t have to worry about the complexities of HTML (the coding/tagging language used by web developers).
However, on some pages you will see a different sort of code, what’s known in WordPress jargon as a “shortcode.” These are formatted with square brackets like this:
[myshortcode parameter=”variable goes here”]
A shortcode is a placeholder for content that will be generated by the website software. For example, the Member page includes a shortcode that looks up members in the directory and displays their information. The Calendar page includes a shortcode that displays the calendar and the next events that are coming up.
You can add content before a shortcode or after a shortcode, but be careful altering the codes or the related software may not work right.
If you view Toastmasters meeting events in the WordPress editor, you will see a whole series of shortcodes that are placeholders for the roles to be included in the agenda. They display differently on the website than they do on the printed agenda. You can alter these if you’re careful, for example by changing the count parameter associated with a speaker role from count=”2″ to count=”4″ – resulting in four invitations to sign up to speak being displayed on the website.
More to Come
What questions haven’t I answered yet, or not clearly enough? I’ll be adding to this documentation as more people go through the process of setting up their websites.
The promise of WordPress for Toastmasters is that clubs can have it all in one place: better club marketing and communications, role signups for meetings, and member performance tracking against goals like CC and CL. The marketing and communications virtues of the system are intrinsic to WordPress, a web content management system used by bloggers worldwide and by professional publications like The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly.
This post covers the Toastmasters specific process for member signups on the website, along with tracking and reporting on member accomplishments.
We start by offering a site where members can easily login and sign up for roles. Meeting organizers can also assign them to roles based on a phone call or in-person signup, and I provide a way of printing a signup sheet.
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