At the conclusion of a recent Toastmasters TLI training presentation, a friend walked up to me and asked, “So in a sentence or two, why should a club choose WordPress over Free Toast Host?”
You mean I didn’t manage to to make that point in 30 minutes onstage?
The problem with my friend’s question is the answer is so obvious to me I sometimes forget to articulate it. Free Toast Host is another name for the toastmastersclubs.org service where most clubs host their websites. It’s supported by Toastmasters International, but you’re not required to use it. The comparable WordPress-based service is toastmost.org, where you can get a free (sponsor supported) website with my WordPress extensions and a design that conforms to Toastmasters International branding rules.
The strength and the weakness of Free Toast Host is that it’s specific to Toastmasters — it makes it easy to set up a cookie-cutter website where you can advertise the basic details about your club, but going beyond the basics is harder. When my club website was hosted there, I remember finding that just adding a new page to the site to promote a special event was awkward.
If you’re logged into WordPress and have been granted editing rights, that’s as easy as clicking the “New” button at the top of the page.
With WordPress, you take advantage of a professional grade web publishing solution that’s used by major publications like the New Yorker, as well as countless marketing organizations and corporate websites. You leverage the combined efforts of thousands of developers in an open source software community who are forever improving the platform’s ease of use, user experience, and ability to take advantage of new web and social media technologies.
Organizing an open house? Post a blog to your website and share that blog on social media. Member won a contest? Get that speech video on YouTube (with the speaker’s permission), and WordPress makes it easy to embed video in any blog post or web page.
Here is some of what I’ve written in the past about what you can do to make your website a more effective marketing tool:
- Your Toastmasters Club Website: Show Some Personality!
- How a Blog Makes a Toastmasters Club Website Stronger
All of the above speaks to the advantages of WordPress as opposed to WordPress for Toastmasters. My contribution is to lead a free, open source software project to extend WordPress with Toastmasters-specific features like agenda management. You can get it through toastmost.org or install it on any web hosting service that supports WordPress.
I take advantage of the foundational technologies of WordPress, such as its system for creating and managing user accounts and assigning access rights, and make them serve the purposes of a Toastmasters club. So a meeting agenda is not just a document (like a blog post) but allows members to log in, sign up for roles, and add the details for their speech projects. As a site administrator, you can decide whether to allow all members to edit the role signups for a meeting agenda or whether that capability should be restricted to officers.
That software is not perfect, and I welcome contributions from developers and designers — as well as feedback from all users — on how to make it better.
Yet this combination has done well for my clubs and others around the world who have tried it. Our meetings are better organized, and guests often coming through the door saying, I looked at the websites of a few other clubs, but yours seemed to have the most going on.