Turn on “Show in my timezone” for online meetings

If you are inviting people from around the world, not just around town, to your online meetings, turn on the timezone display and “Show in my timezone” options for your event notices.

Show in my timezone

Displaying the timezone is the bare minimum you want to do if you’re promoting a meeting or event on a global basis. But rather than forcing the potential attendee to do the mental math to calculate between timezones, let the computer help them.

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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.

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Add RSVP Registration to Your Toastmasters Meetings

There are lots of reasons you might want to add an events registration form to your Toastmasters club website, but I am writing this in the midst of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic as many clubs are moving to meeting online, at least temporarily.

RSVP Now! button on my home club’s website
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Tool Updates and Updated Advice for Online Contests

Option to record votes on behalf of a judge.

The contest tools available at contest.toastmost.org got a vigorous workout in a division contest held online for District 77, where I was invited to serve as chief judge. I came away with a few lessons learned, as well as ideas for improving the software.

One thing that happened is that overwhelmed judges either didn’t see or didn’t read the email notifications inviting them to set a password. So one important lesson for next time is to make sure Toastmasters who are not used to doing everything online get a proper orientation and are prompted to make sure they can sign onto the personalized judging links for the contest ahead of time.

In this case of the division contest I volunteered for, some judges never did get the hang of submitting their votes online, or did so inconsistently. One change I made to the software is to make it easier for the Chief Judge or Ballot Counters who have access to the password protected contest dashboard to record votes on a judge’s behalf.

I recommend that you have judges send you their votes by some other means as a backup. If you’re using Zoom, the private chat feature will work for that purpose. If you get their votes via private chat or email or text, you can record them so the dashboard will include their votes in the final ranking. (Without that feature, I had to resort to hustling together a quick spreadsheet to calculate and rank the totals).

In addition, if you’re setting up multiple contests rather than just one, and the same people will be acting as judges, timers, or ballot counters for each of them, you can import the settings from an event you set up previously.

Finally, I’ve added some additional error checking. I had one judge submit a blank ballot. The JavaScript code that was supposed to prevent that from happening apparently didn’t work properly, possibly because she was using an old version of Internet Explorer. I added an additional check to keep such votes from being recorded.

Suggestions on what else needs to be changed or improved are welcome.

Interactive Speech Evaluation Forms Now Independently Available for Free

The interactive evaluation forms created as part of the WordPress for Toastmasters project are now independently available at https://toastmost.org/evaluation-forms/

While perhaps not as pretty as the Pathways PDFs or the old manuals, they contain the same prompts and can be easier to work with for clubs functioning online where you’re not all in the same room. Even in pre-pandemic times, members of my brick and mortar club found them useful when someone forgot to bring their manual or their Pathways printout. I personally find the process of printing and manually filling out forms, scanning them, and emailing them to someone pretty awkward.

These forms are being made available as a free resource, no obligation written or implied. You can use them without changing your club website setup.

When used independently of a club website, you just have to fill in your email address and the email of the speaker if you want the form emailed. Or you can copy and paste into an email message after the completed form is displayed on screen.

When used in combination with the WordPress for Toastmasters agenda management tools, the evaluation form automatically pulls in the speaker and evaluator information, plus project information as recorded on the website.

Public version of the evaluation forms on toastmost.org
Emailed evaluation form

Current Traffic to Toastmost.org Club Websites Using WordPress for Toastmasters

Toastmost.org is a web hosting service for clubs that want to use the WordPress for Toastmasters software without managing all the technical details themselves. In 2020 to date, it’s attracted 37,505 page views according to Google Analytics, with a recent surge of interest related to the current interest in online clubs (several of which use the service).

The Toastmost.org audience

More details in these downloads.

It’s been a while since I’ve shared these statistics, which could be of interest to those interested in advertising or otherwise supporting this service for Toastmasters. I’m also interested in recruiting others with skills in training, documentation, usability, promotion, fundraising, design, programming, usability, and anything else that could make this project better.

You can contact me at david@wp4toastmasters.com.

A Note on Financing

I’ve been running this project largely as a one-man-show for the past several years as a loss leader for my small business, Carr Communications Inc. I’m lucky to have a small group of supporters who have given me moral and in some cases financial support. But even with the $30 per club website I recently began charging for toastmost.org (after a one-year free trial), I am not profiting from this venture — nor am I trying to. My selfish interest is in learning from the experience and gaining professional exposure that might lead to opportunities.

I would happily form a nonprofit foundation to oversee WordPress for Toastmasters, except that would be a project in and of itself that I’d need help with.

If I seem defensive, it’s because I’ve been attacked for trying to “profit from my relationship with Toastmasters” when in my own mind I’ve been trying hard to give my contributions away for free, or as close to free as I can afford to do.

Suggestions? david@wp4toastmasters.com.