recording a speech

How to Routinely Record and Share Toastmasters Speech Videos

Toastmasters World Champions and other top speakers will tell you one of the best ways to improve is to record your speeches, watch them, and make adjustments so that you keep getting laughs where you want them and driving your points home more clearly. Watching yourself on video is just as valuable, maybe even more so, for beginning speakers trying to gain control over their body language and their ums and ahs.

One of my biggest contributions to my home club, Club Awesome, has been to make video recording of speeches a routine part of our program. We have videographer as a regular meeting role, and the person serving in it makes a brief speech about the purpose or the recordings (educational first and foremost) and how to opt out if you do not want to be recorded. Because this is now an established part of our club culture, something that guests see when they first visit us, we rarely have anyone opt out.

We publish the videos on YouTube, but tag them as “unlisted” so they don’t show up for strangers browsing or searching the site. We only make them public with the speaker’s permission — usually, if they’re really good and we want to share them as part of our web and social media marketing. But speakers can easily share the videos with family members, even without making them fully public. 

One important part of this program has been coming up with a streamlined process for uploading and sharing the videos, which is the focus of my own video tutorial above.

It helps that these days every smartphone is a powerful video recording device. I’m currently using my old phone, with the cell phone plan inactive, and taking advantage of the WiFi available at our meeting location to start uploading the videos before I even leave the meeting room.

I then take of a tool built into WordPress for Toastmasters (newly updated with the latest release) to publish the videos in two ways:

  • In blog posts marked members-only (meaning you have to be logged in to see them).
  • In an email broadcast that goes out to members. The RSVPMaker plugin for WordPress, which is part of the WordPress for Toastmasters solution, includes an integrated mailing utility.

I’ve set up the software to make it easy to pull in a listing of recent speeches with all the detail that was included on the meeting agenda (such as speech title and project) and associate those with YouTube links.

Here are my tips for recording the video:

  • Focus the camera on the person speaking, not their slides (if any). The image the camera captures of slides projected on a screen is not likely to be great. In the few cases where it’s important for the projected images to be shown to the video viewing audience, I’ve spliced them in later. That may be a topic for a future tutorial.
  • If you’re using a smartphone or any equipment that is short of a professional setup, positioning the camera as close as practical to the speaker is important for quality audio. Audio is one of the most important elements of any video, but particularly a speech video where you want to be able to hear the speaker clearly. If you’re recording something like a contest, you’ll need a front row seat.
  • Fortunately, smartphone audio pickup and audio processing to pick up voices has gotten pretty good.
  • A directional microphone could be one way of improving audio quality if you can’t be close to the speaker. Or if there is a sound system and you can either get a feed from the sound system or a recording that you can sync later with the audio track, that might be better yet. I’ve never gotten that fancy.
  • When recording contests with a smartphone, I’ve occasionally gotten critiqued by people with more professional video experience about the quality of those productions, particularly the audio. If the critics would volunteer to do the job and do it better, I’d be happy to let them. But in the absence of professional quality video equipment and skills, I still think it’s better to record the speeches — and do the best you can, with the equipment you have available — than to deprive the speakers of the chance of having their videos recorded. Particularly at the district level, where the speakers are serious competitors, the speakers are happy to have access to the recording whether they are celebrating a victory or plotting how they will do better next time.
  • To create a public blog post featuring a video, rather than one of these routine members-only posts, just copy and paste the web address for any YouTube video into the WordPress editor. WordPress automatically generates all the code to embed your video in any blog post or web page. This copy-and-paste technique also works with public videos from Facebook and other media sites.
  • When trying to reach viewers on Facebook, it’s possible to post the YouTube link and invite viewers to click through. However, for maximum impact — particularly if you are posting speech videos publicly (with the speaker’s permission) — you should upload them directly to Facebook. Facebook will display videos uploaded to its own platform more prominently, and viewers can watch them without leaving Facebook. In fact, Facebook contacts will see the videos start playing (without sound), and motion tends to catch people’s attention.
  • Another great way of creating online video is with Facebook Live, if you can get the speaker’s permission in advance. My home club will periodically announce that we’re doing Table Topics on Facebook Live, for example, and let members know they have the option of declining to participate. I’ve also suggested Facebook Live as a great way of publicizing the Table Topics and Humorous Speaking contests.
  • Posting club speech videos from your smartphone to a closed group on Facebook would be an alternative for sharing them online, but within a limited circle. The point is not to make anyone famous online before  they’re ready to be a video star.
  • I always volunteer that I can “destroy the evidence” if a speaker is embarrassed by what was captured on video. We want to make clear that this is a service we offer to members, not something they’re obligated to agree to.

P.S. After seeing this tutorial video, a friend who had been recording a series of Facebook Live videos asked if there was a way of cross-posting them to YouTube.

Answer: Sure, you can download your videos from Facebook, then upload them to YouTube or any other video service.

You can download Facebook videos by going to the corner of the video and clicking on the 3 dots … then choosing Download Video.

From there, you can edit if necessary and then upload to YouTube.

Toastmasters content blocks for WordPress

The New Agenda Editor

The new, improved WordPress for Toastmasters agenda editor takes advantage of an upgrade in the editor the underlying WordPress platform uses for creating and editing blog posts and website pages. Code named Gutenberg, this new editor will become the standard editing experience with the release of WordPress 5.0 (coming soon). Happily, it turns out to be a great way of handling a variety of content types, including agenda role signup widgets.

As a technology preview, the developers behind WordPress have made the Gutenberg editor available as a plugin — which I’ve made active as the editor for posts and pages on toastmost.org. If you run an independent WordPress site, you can add the Gutenberg plugin yourself.

After activating Gutenberg, you need to take a couple of additional steps to convert your agenda templates and begin using the new agenda editor. Here’s what that looks like:

Activating the new agenda editor

The Gutenberg editor is built around the idea that different blocks of content require different controls. If you’re writing a blog post, you can still go to Posts -> Add New and just start writing. When you enter a regular paragraph block, the controls that appear in the sidebar to the right are text formatting controls (to change the font size, for example). If you start entering bullets, that becomes a list block — with controls specific for formatting bullets or changing a bullet list to a numbered list. Paste in a YouTube link, and WordPress automatically creates an embedded media block and provides a space where you can caption the video.

Gutenberg formatting controls for a paragraph.

This framework allows me to define the signup page and agenda widgets as just another type of content block. As shown in the video, you click on the + button to reveal a listing of all the block types and then enter a search term to narrow down the list. Start typing “Toastmasters,” and you’ll see all the Toastmasters agenda widgets.

The current list is:

  • Toastmasters Agenda Role – placeholder for an signup widget / agenda display of that role. Choose from a standard list of roles or add custom roles that may exist in your club. Set the number of occurrences of that role (example: 3 speakers, 3 evaluators) and the time you’re reserving on the agenda.
  • Toastmasters Agenda Note – enter text that will appear only on the agenda. In the case of “stage directions” text, you can also reserve a block of time associated with that activity (Example: 5-minute break).
  • Toastmasters Signup Form Note – Text that will appear only on the signup form, not on the agenda.
  • Toastmasters Editable Note – A note that changes from meeting to meeting, such as a theme or word of the day. Can be edited on the front end of the site by a meeting organizer (who might not otherwise have editing rights).
  • Toastmasters Absences – Allows members to let the rest of the group know when they will not be able to attend.

You can also include regular paragraphs and images in the body of your event post, and that content will then be visible in all contexts — including both the signup form and on the agenda.

One other important concept to understand is the difference between an individual event post and an event template (which I sometimes refer to as an agenda template because that’s how it’s used for Toastmasters meetings).

The template is where you lay out the standard organization of your meetings. For example, my home club goes from self-introductions, to the Toastmaster of the Day introducing all the roles, the Table Topics, a Humorist, then a 5-minute break, 3 speeches, and 3 evaluators. I’ve spent time fine tuning that standard meeting organization in the template. If I add something — for example, an Agenda Note saying we do an Educational Minute from the VPE at the beginning — I can then update all the events based on that template to include that new instruction.

I can also add future events, months in advance. They are all copies of the template, but because they are dynamic documents they become different over time as members sign up for roles and interact in other ways.

I can also modify the list of roles and other event details independently. For example, I might want to have a meeting with 2 speeches rather than 3 to give members a chance to do longer speech projects, or do an all-Table Topics meeting, or reorganize the agenda around a club contest.

That’s one reason that updating future dates is a separate step — individual events don’t automatically update when you change the template. Instead, you’ll see a list of checkboxes representing future event posts associated with the template. If individual event posts have been modified independently of the template, you should see a warning that you risk overwriting changes. You would uncheck that to avoid overwriting your contest agenda, for example.

I think the new agenda editor is going to be a big improvement. It is new, so there may be bugs.

The Gutenberg plugin is also essentially a preview / beta release of the WordPress 5.0 editor and is still being debugged. One error I’ve seen repeatedly is “Updating failed” at the top of the screen, and sometimes I’ll see it several times before I get the happier “Post published” confirmation. Often, it turns out that the information actually has been saved, but the confirmation isn’t coming through for some reason.

That said, I think you’ll find this new agenda editor system much easier to work with. Previously, I had managed to add some buttons to the “classic” WordPress editor and make it possible to click on placeholder images for roles and agenda notes — but honestly, it was kind of a hack. It’s much easier to see how I will be able to continue to add improvements with this new setup.

Let me know what you think of it!

How WordPress For Toastmasters Pays Off For Your Club

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.

New item menu
If you have editing rights, adding a post or page is as easy as clicking on “New.”

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:

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.

“Online Tools to Market Your Club & Organize Meetings” – Video and Notes from the Broward TLI, July 2018

Below are some notes to accompany a presentation to the Toastmasters Leadership Institute training in Broward County, Florida. See also How WordPress For Toastmasters Pays Off For Your Club.

You can watch the actual presentation here:

We had an overflow crowd in the room, and the presentation was well received — although a friend told me I still need a clearer “elevator pitch” explanation of the case for moving your club website to WordPress.

Here’s the central argument: as a marketing tool, WordPress benefits from input from a critical mass of web developers, including some from publications like the New Yorker and major marketing organizations. For flexibility and user engagement, it will always beat Free Toast Host, a web publishing platform used only by Toastmasters. To me, Free Toast Host is a good tool for cranking out cookie-cutter club websites, but if you want access to rich tools you can use to show the personality of your club, WordPress is the better choice.

The agenda management tools I’ve built on top of WordPress take advantage of some of the strengths of the core platform. As a student of digital business (which I have been studying since I was an editor at Internet World magazine in the 1990s), I’ve done my best to make it an engaging, productive online experience — one you can get access to for free.

Notes

Documentation of the WordPress for Toastmasters software is organized on the How-To page.

Free club website service

My philosophy about what makes a good club website (from a few years ago)

My club websites:

Follow up blog posts (with updated info):

Questions? david@wp4toastmasters.com

1 Month Statistics for Toastmost.org – free websites for Toastmasters clubs

Toastmost.org, the free websites piece of the WordPress for Toastmasters project, continues to grow. It took me a while to get Google Analytics set up properly for a network of websites spread across multiple subdomains, but I now have some statistics to share.

For the period June 12 – July 12, here is what the audience looked like:

Toastmost.org audience

So 1,660 users (unique visitors) in a month, most of them returning visitors (club members or actively interested prospective members) and 9,000+ pageviews.

Here’s more on what they were looking at:

Pages viewed

These are mostly home page views, although farther down the list you see members visiting individual blog posts and event listings. Online clubs are heavily represented because they particularly depend on their websites to recruit members and organize meetings. An online club I founded, Online Presenters, is number 1 on this list (although it isn’t always) and the #10 spot represents a special event we held and aggressively promoted, our mini-webinar contest.

The page to sign up for a free account is toastmost.org, which also shows up on the list above. This is a volunteer-led product that depends on sponsorship and advertising to offset web hosting costs. For sponsorship opportunities, contact David F. Carr, DTM, at david@wp4toastmasters.com.

Support for Exporting, Erasing Personal Data (GDPR Compliance)

WordPress for Toastmasters now allows individuals to download a copy of their personal data or request that it be erased, in keeping with the provisions of GDPR.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is part of a broader trend toward giving individuals more control over how their data is secured and managed. WordPress 4.9.6 includes utilities for exporting and erasing user data on demand.

The WordPress for Toastmasters extensions piggyback on those features, so that data downloads include the additional member profile fields added to user records, as well as Toastmasters activity records such as lists of speeches. If you use the RSVPMaker event registration feature, see also the related post on RSVPMaker.com.

personal data export
Personal data export for demo user Abraham Lincoln

This data can also be erased, on demand.

In both cases, data will be retrieved or deleted based on a search for the user’s email address and all associated records. The website will send an automated email asking the user to confirm that request.

Adding a Privacy Policy

If you are running an independent WordPress site, you will see prompts suggesting you add a privacy policy to your website as soon as you update to version 4.9.6 or later. WordPress will suggest some default wording. You may also wish to consult my version from toastmost.org for wording specific to the RSVPMaker and RSVPMaker for Toastmasters plugins.

For club websites published on toastmost.org, a link to a master privacy policy now appears in the club website footer. Clubs may wish to add their own club privacy policy, particularly if they collect member or website visitor data using plugins other than RSVPMaker and RSVPMaker for Toastmasters.

How To Adjust The Timing On Your Agenda

agenda timing tool
The Agenda Timing tool lets you adjust the time associated with any item, or delete it entirely.

The Agenda Timing tool allows you to quickly adjust the timing of different parts of your agenda, without restructuring the entire event document or template in the WordPress editor (see How to Modify an Existing Agenda Event or Template).

Agenda Timing is one of the choices under the Agenda Setup menu you see when you are logged in and viewing a meeting on the front end of the website. If the event is based on a template, you will also see Agenda Timing: Template as a choice — the option you would choose to change the standard timing plan for your meetings.

This tool lets you change the amount of time allocated for a Role or an Agenda Note (like the 5 minutes associated with the instruction “After Table Topics, we take a 5-minute break”). For speeches, evaluations, and any other roles filled by more than one member, the time estimate is for the entire block. For example, you might allow 24 minutes for a block of 3 speeches, leaving room for two 7-minute speeches and one of up to 10 minutes.

In the example shown in the video below, a member has reserved time for an advanced speech project that will take considerably more time than the standard 5-7 minutes. To allow that to happen, we adjust the total time allowed for speeches and drop Table Topics from the agenda entirely.

Another common way of handling this situation might be to allow the long speech but change the plan for this meeting from 3 speeches and 3 evaluators to 2 speeches and 2 evaluators and adjust the timing accordingly. A control at the bottom of the Agenda Timing tool lets you change the number of speakers and evaluators simultaneously.

As you make your choices, the times in the Time Elapsed column will change to show how your time allocations are adding up. The goal is to make it easier for you to plan a meeting that runs on time. It’s still up to you to make realistic estimates of how long different phases of the meeting will take — and then discipline your members to stick to those times.

This tool works well when:

  • You want to quickly change the time estimates
  • You may want to drop a role or a note but do not need to add either
  • You do not need to make any deeper structural changes, such as reordering items

If you instead want to reorganize the whole agenda, or restructure your standard template, follow the instructions under How to Modify an Existing Agenda Event or Template. Example: you not only want to change the time estimates but you want to move Table Topics to the end of the meeting, so you can fit it in if there is time or drop it if other parts of the meeting run long.

This is part of a series of How to Do X posts that explain how to perform discrete tasks with the WordPress for Toastmasters solution.

How to Email the Agenda, Invite Members to Fill Roles

Club and meeting leaders can use the email version of the meeting agenda to fill open roles, sending it out with a link that invites members to sign up online with a couple of clicks.

You do that by selecting the Email option under the Agenda menu, like this:

How to Email the Agenda.

This tool allows you to add  custom message that will be included at the top of the email.

You can also change the default subject line of the email, for example to emphasize one particular opportunity to volunteer. For example, if I just got word that a speaker who had signed up previously has just backed out of speaking at tomorrow’s meeting, I would want to let them know. So the default “Agenda for Monday May 14” becomes “Speaker opening + 2 other open roles for Monday May 14.”

This is meant to be an easy way to send the current agenda, plus your volunteer needs, out to the whole member list via email.

Note to Site Administrators

If you have a mailman mailing list configured for your club website, it will be used by the agenda mailing tool. See Email List Integration for Your Toastmasters Club.

Otherwise, individual messages will be sent to each member on your current user / member list.

This is part of a series of How to Do X posts that explain how to perform discrete tasks with the WordPress for Toastmasters solution.

How to Modify an Existing Agenda Event or Template

If you have the required editing rights on the website, you can edit any existing agenda event or event template. You will find the events listed under the main RSVP Events listing of event posts. Templates are listed under a submenu, RSVP Events -> Event Templates.

You would modify the template if you wanted to change the standard organization of roles and notes listed on the agenda. After modifying the template, you can update all the events based on that template.

You would modify an individual event, independent of its template (if any), to change the organization of a specific meeting. For example, you might be doing an all Table Topics meeting with no speakers.

The Roles and Agenda Notes for a specific meeting are represented by colored placeholders on the agenda. Double-click on any of those placeholders for a popup editor dialog that allows you to change the data associated with that role or note.

Double click on the placeholder images for a popup editor.

You can also add additional roles (How to Add Agenda Roles) and agenda notes (How to Add Agenda Notes).

To delete any role or note, click it and then press DELETE on your keyboard.

You can also cut-and-paste or drag-and-drop the colored placeholders to change the order in which the roles and notes appear on the agenda.

See also How to Create a Meeting Agenda / Signup Form From Scratch.