Setting Up a New WordPress for Toastmasters Club Site

Update: New club websites now get an address in the format myclub.toastmost.org. See this post explaining the change.

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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.

[ To request a site, sign up here.]

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.

Default Content

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.

Here are some notes I posted for members of my home club on how to use the WordPress editor. You can also look at that site for some examples of how we’ve promoted ourselves, for example with our Video Guide to a Toastmasters Meeting.

Public Website vs. Member’s Dashboard

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.

How to navigate from the public website to the Dashboard.
How to navigate from the public website to the Dashboard.

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.

member-dashboardAs 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:

Administrator's Dashboard
Administrator’s 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).

submenus

Important menus:

        • 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.

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