7 Handy Features for Toastmasters Meetings and Contests Conducted Online

While WordPress for Toastmasters aims to provide useful digital tools for all clubs, many of its features were road tested at Online Presenters Toastmasters — and are being put to work helping Toastmasters clubs that have been abruptly forced to move online, temporarily, by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some clubs will probably stop conducting business online as soon as possible, while others may continue to incorporate online attendance even after the crisis is past. (I think we’ll all be glad when meeting online is a choice, rather than a necessity.)

Signing up for a speech

Meanwhile, read on for an outline of a the features you will be most likely to find useful for online club operations. The software is free, with inexpensive web hosting available at toastmost.org.

1. Digital Marketing

This part is really about WordPress more than the Toastmasters-specific extensions, but starting with the world’s most popular web publishing platform means you get access to a lot of tools for sharing words, images, video, and social media content.

Online branding and online marketing is essential for clubs operating online, so learn how to make the most of those features.

Learn more about the marketing and recruiting features.

2. Guest Registration

RSVPMaker registration

One of the add-ons included in WordPress for Toastmasters is RSVPMaker, and event scheduling and event registration tool. You can use it to collect money for events, when appropriate, or simply to create a registry of guests trying to attend.

Learn more about adding registration to your meeting events.

See also the timezone display options if you’ll be inviting attendees from outside your local area.

3. Online Agenda and Role Signup

WordPress for Toastmasters isn’t unique in offering the ability for members to sign up for roles online, but we’ve tried to make the process of signing up or editing a list of signups as a club leader as easy as possible. If you put in your speech project details, the timing parameters are added automatically.

In ordinary times, passing around a paper signup sheet might be part of the process, but when a club is operating entirely online, self service sign up becomes essential.

4. Online Evaluation Forms

Thanks to Pathways, we now have digital versions of evaluation forms we can access for our speech projects. The only trouble is they are PDFs, and emailing PDFs back and forth gets awkward in a hurry.

An evaluation form as it appears in the speaker’s email.

When you create your agenda in WordPress for Toastmasters, and the member records their path and project in the system, the evaluator can click a link on the agenda to be taken to a web-based version of the evaluation form that can be completed online. Once submitted, the evaluation is emailed to the speaker and also recorded as part of the member’s profile for later review.

Link to the web-based evaluation form

5. Online Contest Tools

The Contest Dashboard

When the chief judge and other contest organizers create a contest dashboard, they also create online ballots for the individual judges and a timer’s report page for the timer.

As those reports roll in they are automatically tallied by the software and can be verified by the chief judge and ballot counters. This can be a lot easier than gathering votes by text chat, email, or text.

Learn more about the contest tools.

6. Online Speech Timer

Web-based speech timer

An web-based speech timer is available for use in contests, as well as for regular meetings. It’s possible, albeit tricky, to share the timing light colors in an online meeting tool like Zoom, so that the colors automatically change at the correct intervals.

But even if you use a different technique to show timing signals, this tool can be useful because it automatically records times for each speakers when you stop the timer.

You can set the green / yellow / red intervals manually, but there are also preset times for standard speeches, table topics, and evaluations. The software imports the speaker names and speech times from the agenda, assuming the speaker recorded their project details correctly. The names of the evaluators are also pulled in from the agenda.

7. Dues Payments and Membership Applications

Many clubs were forced online recently before they had finished conducting dues renewals — still an issue for many, despite the extension until the end of April. Online Presenters has always had to collect dues online, so we had to address this early on.

Read about how to set up dues payments using the Stripe online payments service and a button on your site.

Online Payment

When you sign up for an online service, you typically fill out an online form and verify your identity using some digital mechanism such as confirming your email and making a payment. Toastmasters should be no different.

When prospective members fill out the web-based version of the membership application, the VP of Membership gets an email notification and can approve it online. That approval screen also shows whether the prospective member has paid their dues online.

The approved applications are also archived in the system, becoming part of the club’s digital records.

A digital membership application

On the occasions where we have needed to share one of these applications with Toastmasters HQ, typically for a transfer application, they’ve just asked that the member confirm its legitimacy by email.

We forward the email copy of the approved application to membership@toastmasters.org and CC the member, asking them to Reply-All with confirmation that they are requesting a transfer.

This digital application process also simplifies the creation of new member accounts on the website. When the VP of Membership approves an application, the system prompts them to also create an account. The new member gets an email notification inviting them to set a password.

Read up how to set up the digital membership application.

What Else Would Be Useful?

Have other ideas of what the software ought to do? Contact david@wp4toastmasters.com.