How to Show Contact Info for Members With and Without a Meeting Assignment

To run a well-organized meeting, one important pre-meeting task is confirming members with roles and contacting members who do not have an assigned role to ask them if they can fill an opening. Broadcasting the agenda to your list can be helpful, but often contacting specific individuals is more effective.

For help with that chore, you can use the Agenda with Contacts view of your meeting agenda. This feature has been in the software for some time, but is probably used less than it ought to be. I recently updated it to work with the new agenda editor and to display the planned absences list if you are using that feature.

You will find this option under the Agenda menu.

Navigating to the Agenda with Contacts screen

This displays a listing of your meeting roles with not only the names of the members assigned to those roles but their contact information. (Encourage your members to check that the contact information on their profile is correct).

Agenda with Contacts listing

If you click the Email to me link, this information will be emailed to the address in your own user profile. I often use that feature to get the information onto my smartphone, which makes it easier for me to call or text message the members I want to reach.

Following all the meeting roles and assignments, you will find the listing of planned absences (where members have proactively recorded that they will miss one or more meetings) and the list of members without a role.

The listing of who is absent and who does not have an assignment.

Video: How to Import Your Member List, Then Add/Sync Accounts After Dues Renewal

To get the most out of WordPress for Toastmasters, create accounts for all your members so you can assign them to roles, or allow them to sign themselves up, using the agenda management software that is part of the package. The quickest way to do that is to import the member spreadsheet you can get from Club Central on toastmasters.org.

Whether one at a time or as a batch, you add member accounts from the Add Members screen under Users.

Batch Import option on the Add Members screen

After a few months have passed and the dues renewal period comes and goes, you will want to clean up your list — removing members who are no longer in good standing with your club. Again, importing the spreadsheet from toastmasters.org is the quickest way. This time, you will want to check the checkbox that says “check for missing members,” which compares your current user list against TI’s list of active members.

This video shows the process.

User Import Demo Video

One advantage of creating user accounts based on the spreadsheet is the system will capture the member’s Toastmasters ID #, which can then be used as a lookup key when you subsequently sync accounts. In the absence of a Toastmasters ID, the system can try to match records on other info such as email address, but the Toastmasters ID is more foolproof (it works even if the member has multiple email accounts or changes their email address).

If you didn’t capture the member’s Toastmasters ID when creating their account, the system will now let you enter it manually before attempting to sync member records.

Creating and Editing Pages and Blog Posts with the New WordPress Editor

These are updated instructions on how to create and edit the marketing content for your website using the WordPress editor.

These instructions are specific to the new Gutenberg editor, known as Gutenberg, which is active today on the Toastmost.org club websites hosted as part of the WordPress for Toastmasters project and will become standard across all WordPress sites with the release of WordPress 5.0.

Inserting a block

The idea behind Gutenberg is to organize documents around “blocks” of content and provide specialized editors for paragraph blocks versus heading blocks versus image blocks and so on.

WordPress for Toastmasters takes advantage of this approach in its new agenda editor, with special blocks for meeting roles. However, here I’m concentrating on the tools you will use to customize your home page and create blog posts that tell the story of what makes your club special.

How to Tweak the Time Allowed for Each Part of Your Meeting

WordPress for Toastmasters helps you plan the time allowed for speakers, Table Topics, and every other phase of your meeting. You can plan your standard meeting agenda around these time allowances, but you can also tweak the timing for an individual meeting.

Consider a couple of common scenarios:

  • Someone is giving an extended speech, which means you will not be able to fit as many other speeches into your agenda. So you change your agenda from 3 speeches and 3 evaluators to 2 and 2.
  • Your meeting is tomorrow, and you only have 2 speeches rather than the usual 3. So again, you want to change the number of speeches and evaluators. You will also allow extra time for Table Topics.

The video below shows a technique that requires you to be using the new agenda format (new as of late summer 2018). You make adjustments by going into Edit Signups mode, which means you can do it at the same time that you are recording other changes to your agenda for a specific week.

I also show how you can apply this tool to planning your standard agenda template.

Tweaking the Timing

Tutorial: Agenda Editor

This is the new agenda editor, introduced summer of 2018, which takes advantage of the new “Gutenberg” editor for WordPress.

Agenda Editor Tutorial

The new Gutenberg editor is active on all Toastmost.org club websites. It will become the default editor with WordPress 5.0 and meanwhile is available as a WordPress plugin. If you are running an independent website, outside of toastmost.org, you will need to install and activate that plugin to get access to the features shown here. Or wait for WordPress 5.0, which should be released soon.

If you previously created your agendas with the pre-Gutenberg editor (the “classic” editor), you should see a prompt to upgrade your meeting template on the WordPress dashboard. Click the Convert Now link for an automated conversion — then check whether you need to make any further adjustments before updating the specific meeting agendas based on your template.

Convert Templates Prompt

The Gutenberg editor is organized around “blocks” of content. Paragraphs, headings, images, and embedded media such as YouTube videos are all blocks. For meeting agendas, we have our own blocks.

The Agenda Role Block

Agenda Role Block
  • Role: choose one of the roles from the list or “custom” for a role that is unique to your club
  • Custom Role: Enter the label if this is a custom role. Otherwise, leave blank
  • Count: If more than one should appear on the agenda, set the number here. Example: 3 speakers
  • Time Allowed: The total time allowed for those who sign up for this role. For three speakers, you would set this to 21 at a minimum (3 7-minute speeches) but might want to go to 24 or 26 to allow for some longer speeches. If too many members sign up for long speeches that would exceed this limit, a warning will be shown. 
  • Padding Time: This was intended for use in combination with speech roles. In addition to the time allowed for speakers, you can build in another minute or two for introductions and set up between speeches.
  • Agenda Note: You can enter an additional explanatory note that will be displayed on your agenda, beneath the role.

Agenda Note

Agenda Note blocks

An Agenda Note is a block of text that appears only on the agenda, not on your signup form. It includes basic formatting controls. Each of these “stage directions” notes can also have time associated with it.

A few other Toastmasters block types are available to you, including Signup Note (appears only on the signup form, not on the agenda), Editable Note (can be changed for each meeting to show content such as meeting theme or word of the day), and Toastmasters Absences (adds a button on the signup form people can click to record that they expect to miss a meeting).

How and Why to Switch to the New Agenda Editor

If you have been working with the WordPress for Toastmasters software for more than the past few weeks, you will need to convert your agenda in order to take advantage of the latest and greatest version of the agenda editor.

The Toastmost.org club website hosting service has already switched to the new WordPress editor, known as Gutenberg, which will become standard when WordPress 5.0 is released very soon. The revamped editor is one of the biggest changes to come to the WordPress publishing platform — and fortunately a very positive one for the WordPress for Toastmasters solution. To take advantage of the latest features, you will need to convert the content of your agenda template (and the specific meeting agendas based on that template) to a new format.

If you are on Toastmost, or if you install the Gutenberg plugin (or WordPress 5.0, when it’s available), you will see a prompt to convert your agenda when you log into the administrative dashboard.

The convert your agenda template prompt.

The steps are:

  1. Convert your old agenda templates
  2. Edit your regular agenda template (the automated conversion is not guaranteed to be perfect).
  3. Update your agendas for individual dates.

You will want to update because new features will be coming to the new agenda format that will not necessarily work with the old format.

For example, here’s a nifty tool that allows you to edit the time allocated to different parts of your meeting and see the effects of those changes. It also addresses a common scenario I’ve encountered in my clubs where you want to adjust the number of speakers and evaluators for a given meeting because someone is giving a longer speech.

New Tweak Timing tool

I created two videos to show off the new editor. The first covers how to work with the new WordPress editor in general, when creating the content to market your Toastmasters club. The second goes into more detail about editing your agenda — blocking out roles, stage directions, and the time required for each portion of your meeting.

Introducing the new WordPress editor
Agenda Editor Tutorial

The Gutenberg editor is organized around “blocks” of content. Paragraphs, headings, images, and embedded media such as YouTube videos are all blocks. For meeting agendas, we have our own blocks.

The Agenda Role Block

Agenda Role Block
  • Role: choose one of the roles from the list or “custom” for a role that is unique to your club
  • Custom Role: Enter the label if this is a custom role. Otherwise, leave blank
  • Count: If more than one should appear on the agenda, set the number here. Example: 3 speakers
  • Time Allowed: The total time allowed for those who sign up for this role. For three speakers, you would set this to 21 at a minimum (3 7-minute speeches) but might want to go to 24 or 26 to allow for some longer speeches. If too many members sign up for long speeches that would exceed this limit, a warning will be shown. 
  • Padding Time: This was intended for use in combination with speech roles. In addition to the time allowed for speakers, you can build in another minute or two for introductions and set up between speeches.
  • Agenda Note: You can enter an additional explanatory note that will be displayed on your agenda, beneath the role.

Agenda Note

Agenda Note blocks

An Agenda Note is a block of text that appears only on the agenda, not on your signup form. It includes basic formatting controls. Each of these “stage directions” notes can also have time associated with it.

A few other Toastmasters block types are available to you, including Signup Note (appears only on the signup form, not on the agenda), Editable Note (can be changed for each meeting to show content such as meeting theme or word of the day), and Toastmasters Absences (adds a button on the signup form people can click to record that they expect to miss a meeting).

Old WordPress Content

Agendas and content you created in the pre-Gutenberg era should still display and function properly, but will be more awkward to work with. In the case of old blog posts and home page content, you will see them displayed within a special block type labeled “Classic” for the “classic” WordPress editor.

A blog post created with the “classic” editor

You can upgrade such content by clicking the 3-dots menu button and choosing Convert to Blocks.

Do not do that for agenda content — follow the Convert Templates prompt on the administrator’s dashboard described earlier in this post.

In Gutenberg, agenda templates created with the classic editor will show up with more coding than most non-programmers are comfortable with. You could still edit these by manually tweaking the content of the agenda role and agenda note placeholders (“shortcodes”), but you’ll have a better experience and unlock new features if you upgrade.

Agenda in the old format.
webinar replay

Webinar Replay + Follow Up Video

Below, I’m including a replay of my tutorial video from Aug. 18, 2018, but first I’d like to share a follow up video that covers a few refinements I made after that session was over.

Webinar Follow Up

Here is the webinar replay, which is good to watch to see the questions people asked. If you have more questions after watching it, you can contact me at david@wp4toastmasters.com

Seeking Our Next Premier Sponsor — Help Keep WordPress for Toastmasters Free

The WordPress for Toastmasters project is all about free software and free services for Toastmasters clubs, but it’s still true that “there ain’t no free lunch” — we have web hosting bills to pay.

Thank you to SpeakerPromos.com for agreeing to be our first “Premier Sponsor” in return to preferred ad placement on this website and the toastmost.org network of free club websites. We only have one Premier Sponsor at a time, and the next opportunity opens on Sept. 15. You can also purchase just a sidebar ad, starting at $100 for one month.

For $400, a Premier Sponsor gets:

  • Three months worth of advertising, including:
  • One month: Preferred placement in the sidebar ad slot that appears on each toastmost.org club website. There may be up to three sidebar ads in rotation, but yours will be shown first.
  • Two months more of sidebar ad placement (not guaranteed to be shown first)
  • One month of exclusive placement in the ad slot at the bottom of every page.
  • One month of exclusive placement on the member’s dashboard (shown on the main dashboard page, not necessarily every page).
  • One month of exclusive placement at the bottom of every email agenda sent out from toastmost.org.

You can see some of this in action on sites like the one for Online Presenters, but I’m including some screenshot examples to help you visualize the whole package.

You can sign up on the sponsorship page or contact me with questions at david@wp4toastmasters.com.

A sidebar ad

Ad on the member’s dashboard

Ad on the email version of the agenda

Ad at the bottom of every page

Toastmost.org Stats

Here’s a glimpse of three months worth of traffic to the toastmost.org network (May – August 2018) according to Google Analytics.

Pageviews / Unique Views
Users / new users / sessions (includes repeat visits)

WP4Toastmasters.com Stats

Your ad would also appear on the WordPress for Toastmasters site used as the documentation and marketing hub for this project, which gets between 500 and 2,000 views per month.

Toastmost.org Activity

Finally, these charts from a presentation I did a few months ago try to show something about the growth of Toastmost.org in terms of clubs setting up websites (at least on a trial basis) and creating user accounts for their members.

Sites created
User accounts
Growth in active use, measured by members signing up for roles.

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!