Support for Exporting, Erasing Personal Data (GDPR Compliance)

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

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

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

personal data export
Personal data export for demo user Abraham Lincoln

This data can also be erased, on demand.

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

Adding a Privacy Policy

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

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

Testimonial: Paul Finkelstein of Competitive Communicators

THANK YOU TOASTMOST! More about our online club which uses TOASTMOST since chartering back in July 2017. We achieved the SMEDLEY RIBBON, the FOUNDERS RIBBON and the PRESIDENTS DISTINGUISHED RIBBON and could NOT have done it without TOASTMOST! THANK YOU SOOOOOO MUCH DAVID!!

Our club: http://www.CompetitiveCommunicators.com

Where you compete with yourself! Cheers!!

Best Regards,
Paul Finkelstein
Club President ACG ALB Going DTM very soon! http://www.CompetitiveCommunicators.com

Premier Sponsorship: 3 Months for $300 (Limited Time Offer)

Update: We just got secured our premier sponsor, so this “limited time offer” is now off the market. We’re still looking for other sponsors and supporters if you’d like to purchase a sidebar ad or make a donation to the cause. The exclusive bundled promotion offer will reopen in a few months.

Help keep the club websites associated with the WordPress for Toastmasters project free by advertising on the toastmost.org network.

For a limited time, you can sign up to be the exclusive sponsor of the project for USD $300, with your promotions displayed across the club website network, and I will also work with you to develop a webinar promoting your product or service. (Eventually, this bundle will be limited to sponsors who make a one-year commitment at a higher price point).

This is your opportunity to reach a global audience of innovative Toastmasters who interact with the club website not just as a marketing tool but as an integral part of how members sign up for roles and leaders organize their meetings.

sidebar ad
Basic sidebar ad

The premier sponsor bundle includes:

  • A sidebar ad (as shown above)
  • A second promotional ad slot that appears at the bottom of every page.
  • An ad included with the version of the agenda that is sent out by email (an important tool club leaders use to fill open speaking slots and other roles)
  • An ad included on the administrator’s dashboard. This could appear in the self-hosted versions as well (where the open source software is installed on a site other than toastmasters.org). Probably would only be shown once per login, so as not to interfere with functional use of the site.
  • A webinar hosted by me showcasing your product.
  • Acknowledgement in WordPress for Toastmasters events, online or off, such as tutorial webinars.

Write to david@wp4toastmasters.com if you are interested in this offer. I reserve the right to refuse ads that would be inappropriate for the Toastmasters audience.

Here is a series of mockups I created, featuring the SpeakerMatch service as a (hypothetical) example.

gold sponsor
Ad placement at the bottom of the page
sponsor email promo
Ad placement in an agenda email
admin dashboard ad
Sponsor ad placement on admin dashboard

Write to david@wp4toastmasters.com to discuss this offer. The goal of this program is to make the free club websites financially self-sustaining. If you would be more comfortable sponsoring a non-profit, talk with me about how we might work together to create a foundation to support the WordPress for Toastmasters project.

Growth Stats for WordPress for Toastmasters and Toastmost.org

Here is a progress report on the growth of the WordPress for Toastmasters project, compiled partly so potential sponsors will consider what a great opportunity they have to connect with a growing community of innovative speakers and leaders.

The most telling statistic is the growth in users on toastmost.org. That’s the “software as a service in the cloud” version that is the easiest way for a club to get access. As of May 2018, there are almost 2000 user accounts registered for club members.

user accounts
Toastmost.org user accounts

It’s also possible to set up an independent WordPress website with the same software. Since I released the software as open source on WordPress.org in late 2015, the plugin has been downloaded 2,246 times. However, I think that includes downloads of updated versions.

The Lectern theme, which makes it easy to add Toastmasters approved branding to a WordPress site, is active on more than 1000 websites.

On toastmost.org, the Toastmasters plugin and theme come pre-installed. You just register for the email list and fill out a form to get yourself an administrator’s account for a new club website.

Here’s the growth in the number of sites on toastmost.org:

Toastmost.org sites created

This includes some inactive sites that members are still testing, but not the inactive sites that I purged from the web server under the “use it or lose it” policy I enforce for these sites. If you go many months without either making a site public or contacting me to help you over the hump, it will be archived and eventually deleted.

We’re at about 45 public websites as of today. Some of those sites are being used strictly for marketing. What interests me more is the number of sites actively using the agenda management tools I provide. The chart below tracks the number of signups for speeches and roles using the WordPress for Toastmasters software.

member activity
Member activity (interaction with the online agenda)

I’ve had trouble getting accurate traffic numbers for the network of toastmost.org sites, but here is what I see here on wp4toastmasters.com — an indication of interest in the platform and people coming to look up the documentation and the articles I’ve published on things like effective use of web and social media marketing for your club. Note the big spike around July 2017, presumably reflecting interest from incoming club officers in upgrading their websites. I hope to top that this year.

Stats for this website.

Online Voting, Vote Counting for Toastmasters Contests

As part of the planning for a mini-webinar contest at Online Presenters Toastmasters, I cooked up a tool for online voting intended to help both the judges and the Chief Judge / Ballot Counter team compile the results very quickly. This should be of particular interest to clubs that meet online or allow members to attend online. I can see potential for it to be used in a traditional club (or area/division/district) contest as well.

The software is bundled with the latest release of the WordPress for Toastmasters solution, but I’ve also made a version of it available independently (see below).

As the judges are voting, contest organizers can watch the votes roll in on a dashboard that updates every few seconds until everyone has voted:

scoring dashboard
What you see when all judges have voted.

Here’s a video demo of the voting process:

Having some sort of online voting tool strikes me as essential for an online club, where working with the printed ballot forms is awkward. A certain amount of scanning in and emailing forms for speaker and judge eligibility may still be necessary, particularly for an official contest, such as the Video Speech Contest that Toastmasters International makes available to online clubs and other undistricted clubs. But doing that with the actual ballots seems crazy, when all the judges are sitting in front of a computer and can easily enter their votes into an online system.

With online voting, we can let the computer do the math for tallying up the judge’s scores for each contestant and producing a final ranking when all judges have voted.

Online Presenters is piloted this with an unofficial webinar contest. This allowed our Chief Judge to focus on verifying that the computer-generated results are correct. He also provided the judges with alternate ways of contacting him to register their votes if the computerized system should fail.

If you’re using the dashboard in combination with a WordPress for Toastmasters event agenda, you will find a link to the Contest Scoring Dashboard under the agenda menu.

contest menu
Item on the Agenda menu

The setup process goes like this:

  1. Choose the contest you’re going to be running. Pick from the list of standard contests or define your own unofficial contest, as we did with our webinar event.
  2. Either enter a list of contestants or pick a role from the agenda to track as people sign up, so your contestants link will be in sync.
  3. Enter a list of judges and designate one as the Tiebreaking Judge.
  4. Optionally, add a list of members (other than the website editors and administrator) who should have access to the main contest dashboard. For example, your chief judge and ballot counter for the event.
  5. Set the speaking order, either manually or by allowing the software to automatically shuffle the list of contestants.
  6. Prior to the start of the contest, send each judge and his or her personalized link for the online ballot. Also send the link for the Timer, if you will be using the online timing setup.

Since not everyone uses WordPress for Toastmasters, I’ve provided an alternate way you can get access to this tool independently.

Create Contest Page


Give your page a name, such as Area Contest or Video Speech Contest

A few other notes:

  • The requirement to sign your ballot: In an official contest where you want to eliminate any question about whether the online votes are legitimate, I suggest having the judges fill out and sign the paper ballot also, take a picture with their phone and email or otherwise send it to the ballot counter (who can then verify it matches what was submitted online). Or get a ruling from some authority that the online checkbox can be counted as a signature.
  • Use outside of online clubs: In a club that does not meet exclusively online, you might still allow some judges to participate from a remote location via teleconference and vote this way. If only a minority of judges are participating this way, you might not use the software to tally the final result.
  • In person voting on laptops or tablets: For the past few years, I’ve used a Google Sheets spreadsheet on my iPad to tally my scores when acting as a judge, even though I had to record my final vote on a piece of paper. Some contest organizers might choose to encourage use of this system even by judges voting in person. You’ll have to consider whether that makes the identity of the judges too obvious (they’re the ones with the tablets).

Tracking Planned Absences Through the Agenda

Something people have been requesting for a while is an easy way for members to signal that they will miss a specific meeting. Here is what I’ve added:

Planned Absences button and listing on the signup form.

If you place this widget at the bottom of your signup page, members can let the club know they plan to miss the meeting in question by clicking the Planned Absence button. Planned Absences that have been recorded are listed right above the button, along with any “Away Messages.” This information is only displayed to logged in members.

Away Messages, which have been supported for a while now, allow you to signal that you will be missing meetings for some extended period of time (weeks or months) — it’s a message with an expiration date.

Clicking the Planned Absence button works better if I know I’m going to miss, not the next meeting, but the one after that. It’s more precise.

To enable this feature, you must add a placeholder code to your meeting template. I think it works best at the very bottom, as shown below.

Adding the required code in the agenda editor.

The code is:

[tm_absence]

Or, if you want this information to appear on your agenda:

[tm_absence show_on_agenda="1" ]

The absence / away message information also shows up in a few other contexts, such as the drop down list you use to assign members to roles.

Absences indicated in the dropdown list for assigning roles.

Automatically Suggest Assignments: Are You Sure?

One powerful feature of the WordPress for Toastmasters software that was introduced a few months ago has had some unintended consequences for a number of clubs, including my own. From now on, if you take advantage of the “Suggested Assignments” mode (which previously showed up on menus as “Assign”), you will get this warning:

Are you sure? warning

Even though I had previously made some changes designed to make sure anyone who used this feature understood what it did, it apparently wasn’t as clear as it ought to have been. If you use this feature routinely, you can turn off the warning as a personal preference. Otherwise, you must confirm you know what you’re doing before you can proceed.

In Suggest Assignments mode, the software fills open roles on the agenda based on a list of members without a role. The choices are semi-random but also take into account factors like who has not filled that role recently. As the person assigning roles, you have a chance to review those choices and make changes, but they will be recorded when you click Save Changes.

Unfortunately, I’ve gotten several reports of meeting organizers getting into this mode by mistake, intending to make a single change to agenda, and belatedly realizing they had made a whole batch of assignments they hadn’t intended to make.

The Recommend mode of the agenda editor is similar to Suggest Assignments, except that it kicks off an email telling the chosen member they have been recommended for a specific role. The assignment is not actually recorded until and unless the member accepts. That can be a good way of nudging people to take a role, rather than telling them to do so.

Suggest Assignments is meant to be helpful to clubs whose leaders proactively assign members to roles, rather than waiting for them to volunteer. This feature was was a specific request from a couple of clubs, but it’s not necessarily appropriate for everyone. In fact, it’s now turned off by default. In the Random Assignments section of the Toastmasters screen under settings, you will see options to either turn on Suggest Assignments, turn it on selectively for site Editors, Managers, and Administrators, or leave it turned off.

 

You can also choose to hide the link advertising the Multi-Meeting Role Planner tool, which allows members to book speeches and other roles for multiple future meetings at once, The display of that link on the agenda is still turned on by default, but you can now turn it off if you prefer.

Let me know if you agree this is an improvement. As always, I welcome other suggestions for how the software can be made better.

Thanks,

David Carr, WordPress for Toastmasters project leader

Keep WordPress for Toastmasters Free: Seeking Small Advertisers, Major Sponsors

You can help keep the club websites associated with the WordPress for Toastmasters project free by advertising on the toastmost.org network of sites or introducing me to potential sponsors.

Keeping the software free is not a problem — I periodically upload the open source code to a repository on wordpress.org, and anyone with the technical skill to configure a self-hosted WordPress website can take advantage of it. That part is easy. However, what is more useful to most club leaders is having access to a free service where a non-techie can sign up for a club website account, invite in members, and immediately begin using that site for marketing/recruiting and to organize their agenda. That was the motivation for establishing the toastmost.org site, which is the “software as a service” incarnation of WordPress for Toastmasters.

As more clubs sign up for the toastmost.org service, the costs of server, storage, and security upgrades are starting to grow. That means the free service needs to be paid for somehow.

The ideal sponsor would be a business or nonprofit that offers services to speakers (I’ve been talking to some of the major online speaker directories) or products and education for people interested in professional development. Toastmasters International itself is unlikely to help because they already subsidize the Free Toast Host service, which they consider to be a good enough option. To provide an alternative, we’ll have to find alternative funding.

sidebar ad
Basic sidebar ad

I will accept advertising for as little as $100 for a one-month placement in the sidebar ad slot that appears on each of the free sites. See (see wp4toastmasters.com/support/).

My preferred option would be to secure a “gold” sponsor or possibly an exclusive sponsor willing to make a 1-year commitment and partner with me to build the audience for the service. Continue reading “Keep WordPress for Toastmasters Free: Seeking Small Advertisers, Major Sponsors”

Switching Agenda Templates for a Club Contest

Setting a standard meeting template is one of the keys to using the WordPress for Toastmasters software productively. In addition, it can be helpful to have different templates for other types of meetings or events — with a club level contest as a prime example.

If you will hold your contest during one of your regular meeting times, here is how you would switch from your standard meeting template to a contest template.

Switch to contest template

That “Switch Template” option on the menu is new, something I realized was needed to make this option either to find. The other way to get to the “Apply Template to Existing Event” option is through the Dashboard -> RSVP Events -> Event Templates.

To make this more useful, you will want to create event templates that reflect how your club runs its contests. See Sample Contest Agendas: International Speech and Table Topics and Sample Contest Agendas: Evaluation and Humorous Speech for examples.