Attracting Attention (and Members) to Your Club – Training Presentation Links and Resources

Here are a few resources posted for the benefit of attendees at a Toastmasters Leadership Institute presentation on Saturday, February 2. Since I’m posting this the night before, I’ll likely add to this with documents, links, answers to questions that come up during the session and possibly a video of the session itself.

Carr's law of marketing: First, they have to know you exist. Click To Tweet

Video workshop at Online Presenters, Monday February 4, 2019

Register at https://op.toastmost.org/video-editing

Meeting opens with meet and greet at 7:30 pm, workshop starts at 8

Blog post: How to Routinely Record and Share Speeches at Your Club

The free video editor in Windows 10:

Here’s an example of a Club Awesome promo video featuring multiple testimonials:

WordPress for Toastmasters
https://wp4toastmasters.com

Get a free website or free software for any self-hosted WordPress website (not WordPress.com)

Club Awesomewww.clubawesome.org

Club Awesome Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/awesometoastmasters/

Note the extensive use of video, including a video cover image.

List your “place of business” (club meeting place) on Google
https://google.com/business

How to Completely Optimize Your Google My Business Listing (Tutorial)
https://www.searchenginejournal.com/local-seo/optimize-google-my-business/

Collect Dues and Event Fees Online

WordPress for Toastmasters can now help you collect club dues, thanks to a new integration with the Stripe online payment service that’s part of the RSVPMaker events scheduling plugin. Better yet, Stripe is introducing discounted transaction fees for nonprofits, and my contact told me I could invite other Toastmasters clubs to participate in the beta program.

Here’s what the payment buttons look like on the Join page of the Online Presenter Toastmasters. To see the user experience, you can post a test transaction (using a fake credit card for demo purposes).

Dues payment at Online Presenters

You can use the same mechanism to collect money for other purposes, such as fundraisers and events. The integration with Stripe online payments is a feature of the RSVPMaker plugin WordPress for Toastmasters uses for event scheduling. If you are hosting a workshop or conference for which attendees will pay a fee, RSVPMaker will record the registration and ask members to click the button to pay at the end of the process.

In the case of dues, members can also be asked to sign up for a “subscription” plan where their credit card will automatically be billed every 6 months. We’re piloting that at Online Presenters now. For new member dues payments you can put in a different price for each month of the year, reflecting how TI dues are prorated depending on when someone signs up.

Read more about how it works in the blog at RSVPMaker.com.

Stripe Beta Program for Nonprofits

Here’s what Stripe told me about their pricing for nonprofits.

We’re currently testing how we can better support US nonprofits, and we’d love to offer you our new nonprofit beta pricing of:

2.2% + 30¢ for non-AmEx transactions
3.5% for AmEx transactions

Please note that by accepting these discounted rates your organization will also be subject to any updated policies on our pricing page:

https://stripe.com/us/pricing

If you’re interested, create an account at stripe.com and then write to nonprofit@stripe.com.

You will need to provide the EIN tax ID for your club. In the case of Online Presenters, which does not have an EIN because of its international nature, I was able to provide the EIN for Toastmasters International (95-1300076), explaining we operate under that umbrella.

How to Change the Number of Speakers and Time Allowed

A very common scenario for Toastmasters meeting organizers is that you may need to adjust the number of speakers, time allowed for speeches, or both for a given meeting — for example, because a member is planning to give a 15 or 20-minute speech rather than one of the 5-7 minute speeches.

You can accomplish that, without having to restructure the whole agenda (or agenda template), through the same Edit Signups feature you use to record role assignments.

Changing the number of speeches to make room for a long one.

You can actually adjust the timing for any portion of the meeting this way; I’m just underlining the number of speeches and total time allowed for speeches as the most common need.

Time estimates change as you make your choices.

As you make changes in this mode, the time estimates change to give you an idea of whether you’re doing a good job of allocating time to each phase of your meeting appropriately to finish on time. For example, if the end time after adjustments shows up as 8:35 and your meeting is supposed to be over at 8:00, that’s a clue that you may need to tighten up your plan a little more.

Treated as a matter of “tweaking” the agenda, this function does not require the same editing rights as editing the underlying agenda or template.

Note: The tweak timing function shown here requires that your agenda documents have been updated using the “new” version of the agenda editor introduced in 2018, which in turn is based on the new WordPress editor.

Changing the Standard Timing on Your Agenda (Changing the Template)

If you are the website administrator or an officer or other member who has been granted editing rights on the website, you can make deeper changes such as reordering the roles as they will be displayed on the signup form and the printable agenda.

Changing the timing in the editor.

The animation above shows a scenario where we edit the Agenda Role block for speaker, changing the number of speakers and timing, and also insert a new agenda note, setting the time requirement for a 5-minute break to 5 minutes.

To rearrange blocks of content, including Agenda Role and Agenda Note blocks, click on the one you want to move and use the up-and-down arrows that appear to the left to move that item up or down relative to other content. To insert a block of content, click the + button that appears at the top of the page, as well as between any two existing blocks of content when you hover the mouse over the border between them.

There is a difference between editing an individual event post and editing the event template, which is a model for your individual events. I compare it to the difference between the cookie and the cookie cutter. The cookie cutter (the template) is designed to stamp out identical cookies. Cookies that start out identical can then be decorated differently. Perhaps you decide to turn some of your horse-shaped cookies into unicorns. If you decide you want them to all be unicorns, you can go back and change the template.

Because these are digital objects, we don’t have to worry about how the cookie crumbles. Once we’ve updated our template, we can not only stamp out new events based on the template but update the events we created previously to match the new template.

If you make changes to this week’s agenda, your changes will only affect this week’s agenda. They won’t automatically alter the setup for future weeks. Setting the model for future events is the job of the Event Template. Once you update the template, you can add or update the event posts for future dates. (Stamping out new cookies and reshaping existing cookies).

However, if you decide the changes you made to this week’s agenda ought to be permanent, the new Update Template Based on Event option, which appears on the black admin bar at the top of the screen, allows you to work backwards from the event to the template. Once you confirm this command, the content of the template is overwritten to match the event you have edited to perfection. From there, you can update some or all of the other events in the series — click “Check All” to select all of them, uncheck any that you don’t want to overwrite, then submit your changes.

Note that using the Tweak Timing option under edit signups does exactly the same thing as using the editor to change the Count and Time Allowed parameters for an Agenda Role block. The Tweak Timing function actually makes it easier to see how your changes affect the overall timing plan for your meeting. So one tactic might be to play with fine tuning the timing for individual meetings, then apply them to the template (and your other meeting events) once you’ve got it right.

WordPress for Toastmasters at Your Own Domain?

Does your club want or need its own website domain? That is something you do not get with the free club website hosting offered through WordPress for Toastmasters, but you do have the option of using the exact same software with a web hosting account you set up at your own domain.

Domain options

If your Toastmasters club operates on a tight budget, free is probably the right price for you. On the other hand, if you have a little money to spend, I’m developing a more affordable option for those who want their own domain. Click to jump ahead to the details or read on for some background.

For those not familiar with the jargon, google.com, facebook.com, and wp4toastmasters.com are all domains.

My home club has clubawesome.org, which is also an independent domain.

On the other hand, op.toastmost.org and buddies.toastmost.org are club websites hosted at subdomains of the toastmost.org domain. The main toastmost.org website is where you go to sign up for a free club website. I seek ads and sponsorships to cover the cost of running this service. As I write this, all toastmost.org websites are running sponsor ads for Geeks on Tour, the technology tutorials for travelers website run by my friends Chris and Jim Guld.

Running a website at your own domain costs money — some combination of the cost of registering the domain (securing the rights to use myclubname.com) and hosting the website (paying someone to operate the computer servers and network services where the content of your website is stored), plus technical support. The domain registration expense is relatively minor, something like $10-$15 per year. Unless you have a company or university sponsor providing your hosting, you might expect to pay $100 or more per year for a web hosting account for capable of running the WordPress for Toastmasters software.

There are two advantages to a website hosted at your own domain:

  • Branding: Your clubsite looks a little more “professional” with its own domain, and the web address is easier to print on a business card or a flyer. Personally, I think having the right content on your website and telling the story of what makes your club special is more important. Most people will come to your website by clicking on a link from Google or Facebook or TI’s Find a Club service, rather than typing in the address. Still, if we were talking about a business rather than a Toastmasters club, I would tell you that you absolutely need your own domain.
  • Independence: You have more administrative control over your own website, meaning you can install whatever plugins and make whatever design changes you like. The clubs with toastmost.org subdomains have control over their own websites, but within limits. (On the other hand, they don’t have to worry about as many of the technical details such as installing software updates and worrying about website security).

The main drawback to running an independent website, aside from the expense, is that you shoulder more of the technical burden of setting up the website and getting it running properly.

Other strategies are possible. The online Toastmasters club Competitive communicators registered competitivecommunicators.com but set it up to forward to https://competitivecommunicators.toastmost.org/. You can register other internet services such as email to work with your domain, while still using toastmost.org for your website.

Toastmasters Domain Hosting Offer

As an alternative to a toastmost.org subdomain or a completely independent website, I am offering $50 web hosting at your own domain, not including domain registration. This price is conditional on allowing me to run ads on your website, just as I do on the toastmost.org sites. This is a limited time offer, until Jan. 31, 2018 — subject to being extended if there is sufficient interest.

One reason for this offer is to make WordPress for Toastmasters more attractive to clubs who may already have their own web domain registered — or who think having their own domain is important — but have a limited budget for web hosting. I would provide the same preconfigured set of software that I do for toastmost.org sites but host it at your domain. You get the freedom to administer your website as you see fit, but with me backing you up and assisting with software updates and website security.

Please understand that this is not a money-making venture. The only way I stand to make money on this service is through referrals of other business or job opportunities (I’m a writer, editor, and digital impresario – look me up on LinkedIn). I do WordPress consulting on the side. My small business Carr Communications Inc. subsidizes the WordPress for Toastmasters project when it falls short of break even.

Meanwhile, sponsors of the WordPress for Toastmasters project get to run their ads on a larger network of websites. More sponsors ought to help me get this project to break even. Still, there is enough additional technical effort on my part to support the independent websites that I need to charge something for hosting at your own domain.

If your club would be interested in the hosting-at-your-domain offer, contact me at david@wp4toastmasters.com.

Bonus Branding Tip: Whether or not you have registered a domain, you can make your club more visible in Google search by going through Google’s “add your business” process to register your meeting location as a “place of business.” Google will then display your club website more prominently to people searching for “Toastmasters in [city name goes here].” As a result, you will get more visitors who are actively looking for a club in your area. There is no charge for this service (although once Google will send you lots of promotions asking you to advertise).

Styling Your WordPress for Toastmasters Website

When you set up a WordPress for Toastmasters website, you get a site design that fits within Toastmasters branding requirements — but with the freedom to introduce your own flourishes.

For example, here is a version with customizations to the banner image, heading text color and font, and a background image instead of a plain colored background. While you don’t have to go crazy with these options, you should at least know that you do have options.

What’s shown below is the “out of the box” design for a new site set up on the toastmost.org club website hosting service, with banner design choices displayed in the WordPress customizer tool. If you are running an independent website, you can install the Lectern theme to get access to the same options.

Toastmasters banner choices.

Customize is one of the menu options displayed on a black bar at the top of the page when you are logged in as a website administrator.

The Customize menu option

Here are a few of the design changes you can make using the customizer tool.

The basic black banner
Changing the background color
White banner, background and heading text colors matched to the Toastmasters logo.
Changing the font for the headings

If you’re not afraid to mess around with a little code, the Customize tool also allows you to alter the default styles associated with your website by adding CSS code like this.

#toastmastersheader h1.site-title {
	font-size: 50px;
        font-family: "Comic Sans MS", cursive, sans-serif;
}
#toastmastersheader h2.site-description {
	font-size: 40px;
}

Here, we’re using the traditional web-safe fonts, which are commonly present on most computing devices with some fallback choices specified.

It’s possible to pick from a much larger variety of fonts by taking advantage of Google Fonts and similar programs. The Easy Google Fonts plugin is pre-installed on toastmost.org sites, but you have to activate it. In the example below, I’ve used Easy Google Fonts to change my main heading font to Charm.

Google Fonts example

With these techniques, you can give your club website a unique look, while still respecting the boundaries of the Toastmasters International brand manual. What I believe is even more important is the content that goes inside the frame of your website design. Remember to show what makes your club special!

Automated Meeting Reminders: Setup and Tips

You can configure the WordPress for Toastmasters software to send automated reminders to members who have taken a role (so we make sure they didn’t forget) and everyone else (so they can volunteer to fill open roles). Here’s how.

Setting reminders

Assuming you already have future meetings scheduled, the date of your next meeting should be displayed under the Email Reminders section of your Settings -> Toastmasters screen. You must be a website administrator to access this screen.

You can set one or two reminders that will go out automatically, a specific number of hours or days before your meeting starts. After you have saved your settings the scheduled time of those reminders will be displayed on this screen.

One goal of automated reminders is to minimize the chance that members will forget what they signed up for. If they’re on the agenda to speak, we want them to show up prepared to speak — or let us know as soon as possible if they won’t be prepared. At my home club, Club Awesome, which meets Friday mornings at 7 a.m., members get a reminder two days in advance for that reason.

Optionally, you can also specify that everyone else who doesn’t have a role will get a meeting reminder that includes the current agenda and shows any roles that still need to be filled. If you have members recording planned absences through the website, they will be skipped when the reminder emails go out.

The example above is from Online Presenters Toastmasters, an advanced club that meets via video-conference Mondays at 7:30 US Eastern time. Reminders are set for four hours before and one hour before our meeting time.

Once you have set one of these reminders, it will go out on a weekly basis. However, the software does check first to make sure you actually have a meeting scheduled. So if you meet every other week, or occasionally cancel a meeting because of a holiday, everything should still work.

You want these reminders to be perceived as helpful, not annoying, so ask for feedback from your members on the number and timing of reminder emails you send. Try to find the right balance between automation and personal interaction.

Role-Specific Reminders

The reminders can be customized for each role. I provide a default set of notification templates, which you can further customize if necessary. For example, the notifications for Online Presenters are customized to include the online meeting link.

Here’s the notification you would get if you will be Toastmaster of the Day.

Agenda with contact info for participants sent to Toastmaster of the Day

By default, all the other role reminders also include the contact info for the Toastmaster of the Day in case the member needs to make their apologies or make a special request.

If you’re signed up to speak, your reminder occurs the speech details recorded on the website (meant to nudge the speaker into filling in any missing details).

Reminder for a speaker

The reminders that go to the evaluator and general evaluator include a listing of who all the speakers and evaluators are, along with their contact info. The idea is to make sure the members of the evaluation team can communicate with each other and with the speakers they will be evaluating. (Again, this is a default setup that can be changed).

The default notification for all other roles lists the member’s role, meeting date, link to the agenda / signup page on the website, and Toastmaster of the Day contact information.

If your club has a role that requires a little more explanation, you can create your own notification template (details below). Here’s an example of a custom notification for the Timer role used by Online Presenters that includes a paragraph on how to fulfill that role in an online environment.

Reminder for a meeting role

Notification Templates

If the default templates work for you, stop reading now. Consider the instructions below an advanced topic.

On the Toastmasters settings screen, you will see a link labeled “See also Notification / Reminder Templates.” You will also find a link to this screen under the RSVP Mailer menu.

This screen includes notification templates for RSVPMaker event registration notices as well as for Toastmasters meeting reminders.

Notification templates screen

The placeholder codes that you can use either in the body of a message or in the subject line are documented at the bottom of the page.

For example:

[rsvpdate] will be replaced with the meeting date and time

[wpt_tod] will be replaced with the name and contact info of the Toastmaster of the Day.

[officer title="VP of Education"] will output the name and contact info for the specified officer (the title must be exactly as you’ve spelled and punctuated it on the Toastmasters Settings screen).

The point of the codes is to make sure the most recent information will always be displayed, since officers and meeting participants change. But you can also enter regular paragraph of text or some simple HTML (like an on online meeting link).

Also on this screen is a link to a preview that will allow you to see the messages as that would be sent out to meeting participants, using real data from your next scheduled meeting.

The preview of a notification to an evaluator.

Tell me how all this works for you. The goal is to save time and hassle, while maximizing participation for everyone involved in your club.

Replay: WordPress for Toastmasters Tutorial / Q&A for November 2018

This session didn’t attract a large crowd, but it attracted a good one — with lots of excellent questions. I hope you benefit from learning the answers.

Show Notes

The two plugins used in the WordPress for Toastmasters system are RSVPMaker and RSVPMaker for Toastmasters.

They are pre-installed on Toastmost.org accounts.

The Lectern theme makes it easy to add Toastmasters approved branding.

The documentation is at WordPress for Toastmasters (wp4toastmasters.com) and you can go to Toastmost.org to register for a free (ad supported website).

Video: Working with the Interactive Agenda

This tutorial covers some hidden gems and relatively new features in the WordPress for Toastmasters agenda management system, such as the ability to assign roles based on who hasn’t done them lately and the “Agenda with Contacts” view that lets you see contact information of members in the context of who has or has not taken a role.

Agenda menu tutorial

I presented this as a speech at Club Awesome Toastmasters in Coral Springs, Florida, where the WordPress for Toastmasters software was born.

This tutorial doesn’t cover absolutely everything, but it touches on the major menu items. The basic idea to understand is that the agenda is a document that can be viewed in multiple modes:

  • A role signup form
  • A meeting organizer’s view of the form for editing assignments
  • A printable agenda
  • A version you can send to members via email when you are trying to fill roles, showing openings on the agenda and the link to follow to sign up
Continue reading “Video: Working with the Interactive Agenda”

Making It Easier To See Which Members Haven’t Taken A Given Role (or Not Lately)

The clubs who use the WordPress for Toastmasters software include a mix of those who ask for volunteers, those who make assignments, and those who do a little of both to fill their meeting agendas.

In any of those modes, good club leaders seek to encourage members to take on a variety of responsibilities. Now, it’s easier to see who hasn’t taken a given role, or who hasn’t done so lately.

The “Last Did Role” listing

In the screen shot above, an example from demo.toastmost.org, we can see there are several people shown who have never given a speech in this club. George Washington and Teddy Roosevelt are listed as having spoken, but not since May 2017. So any of these people might deserve a nudge (or a kick in the pants, if you prefer).

What you are seeing here is the drop-down listing of members in the Edit Signups view of the agenda. If I pick a name, this speaking slot will be recorded as assigned to that person.

An alternative is to check “Recommend instead of assign” which will display a notes field where I can add a message encouraging the individual to take that role. They will then get an email notification and can accept with one click.

This feature was added in response to a request from a club VP Education who had been spending a lot of time trying to make sure members rotated through all the available roles.

If you have ideas for features that would make the software more productive for the operations of your club, just ask, and we’ll try to make it happen.

Update: Role Report

After seeing this history displayed in the dropdown list, my friend Roger Fung, VP of Education at Online Presenters, asked for a report where he could see all this data shown side-by-side.

Here is what the new Role Report looks like:

Role Report summary of who did what when

How to Move Content and Member Data from toastmost.org to a New WordPress Site

If you use the free website hosting on toastmost.org, which is part of the WordPress for Toastmasters project, you may eventually want to graduate to hosting at your own domain.

There are tradeoffs (more responsibility for technical details), but you also get more control over the site setup and potentially a branding advantage from hosting at your own domain. For example, my home club, Club Awesome, is clubawesome.org. Toastmost sites all have a subdomain address like op.toastmost.org for my own beloved Online Presenters Toastmasters.

If you decide you have outgrown your toastmost.org site, you can move at any time. The process I recommend is:

  1. Get yourself a new WordPress website, which might cost you a couple of hundred dollars a year from any reputable web host. (It can’t be a free WordPress.com site because it won’t allow you to install the WordPress for Toastmasters software).
  2. Install and activate the RSVPMaker and RSVPMaker for Toastmasters plugins on your new website. I recommend you also install and activate any of the other optional plugins you have been using because if they’re not active, that can cause problems with the import process.
  3. Optionally, also install the Lectern theme and select one of the standard Toastmasters International approved logo banner images.
  4. Transfer your member account and speech record data from your toastmost.org site to your new site (explained below).
  5. Export your website content from your toastmost.org site and import into the new site (explained below).

Transferring Member Data

Way down the end of the Toastmasters menu on the administrator’s dashboard is an Import / Export screen, which among other things allows you to export summary member data to a spreadsheet.

A recent addition to that screen is a new feature for transferring member accounts to another computer.

Rather than having you download a file from one site and upload it into another, this is set up so you can transfer the files directly from one site to another.

You do this by copying a coded link from the old site to the new site.

The code that allows you (or another webmaster you are working with) to copy over the member data expires after 24 hours. You can reset it if necessary.

Copying the coded link for transfer between websites.

This does NOT copy over passwords, so one chore when you start actively using your new site will be resetting member passwords. There is a section of the Add Members screen that allows you to “re-send” invitations to members, which you can use for that purpose.

Export and Import

WordPress provides a standard mechanism for downloading an export file from one site and importing it into another. I recommend using a modified version of that approach.

Two problems I’ve run into with the standard WordPress export / import:

  1. The size of the export file often exceed the file upload limit on the target new website.
  2. RSVPMaker event posts may not import properly, and this is particularly true of multiple events with the same title (like your weekly meeting agendas), which it thinks are duplicates.

I recommend using the Export RSVPMaker screen under the Tools menu instead of the standard Export screen. If you export your RSVPMaker posts using this method, then import them using the standard WordPress import screen, they will come over to your new site properly.

The default is to copy over future posts, templates, and other special documents (like agenda layouts) but not past events. Optionally, you can also export your standard WordPress content (pages, posts, menus etc.) at the same time.

Example: exporting future events, plus pages posts and other content, with a 2MB file limit

In the process, you can specify a file size limit so you will not exceed the file upload limit of your new site. The export feature will generate several smaller export files rather than exceed that limit.

Multiple export files generated.

Instructions from WordPress.org

To import from a WordPress export file (WXR) into a WordPress blog follow these steps.

  1. Log into that blog as an administrator.
  2. Go to Tools → Import in the blog’s Administration Screen.
  3. Click “Install Now” link under the “WordPress”
  4. Click “Run Importer” link.
  5. Upload your WXR file using the form provided on that page.
  6. You will first be asked to map the authors in this export file to users on the blog. For each author, you may choose to map to an existing user on the blog or to create a new user.
  7. WordPress will then import each of the posts, comments, and categories contained in the uploaded file into your blog. In addition, you can import attachment by checking the “Download and import file attachments” option.

Caveats

The order stated above is important. You want your user/member accounts set up on the new site before you import content. As part of the import process, WordPress will prompt you to specify which authors from the old site should be associated with which user accounts on the new site.

The “Download and import file attachments” option mentioned above should work to copy over images and other files in your media library such as PDFs. However, it doesn’t necessarily automatically change the links or image urls in your blog posts and pages.

I’m trying to do my part to make this as easy as possible, but there is still work involved.