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 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

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.

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.

Do you have a product or service or a message to promote? Or can you introduce us to someone who does? You can purchase a sidebar ad, as shown below, starting at $100 for one month.

The more exclusive Premier Sponsor level is $400. became our first “Premier Sponsor” in return to preferred ad placement on and the network of free club websites.  We only have one Premier Sponsor at a time, and the opportunity is open now. 

A Premier Sponsor gets:

Thank you to for agreeing to be our first “Premier Sponsor” in return to preferred ad placement on this website and the 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 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

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

A sidebar ad

Ad on the member’s dashboard

Ad on the email version of the agenda

Ad at the bottom of every page Stats

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

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

Finally, these charts from a presentation I did a few months ago try to show something about the growth of 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 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 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, 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 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.


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):


1 Month Statistics for – free websites for Toastmasters clubs, 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: 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, 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

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

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 for wording specific to the RSVPMaker and RSVPMaker for Toastmasters plugins.

For club websites published on, 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.