The (New) Rules of Engaging Virtual Meetings – Tip #1

by | Jul 2, 2020

A Series of Quick Tips for Success: Tip #1

Admit it: like COVID-19, virtual meetings and virtual trainings are not going away anytime soon.

In fact, due to the global pandemic (aka – these uncertain times), they have become our new normal. And, despite all the Zoom, Teams, Webex, GoToMeeting, and Bluejeans meeting fatigue we’re all feeling, the undeniable financial and time efficiencies virtual platforms offer lead me to believe that the virtual meeting is out of the stable for good, even when we do have the ability to break bread sans mask.

So, if these are the cards we’re dealt, it’s time we form a winning hand. Let’s get focused on how to meet, and how to train, in the most effective, brain-friendly, and engaging ways possible. As the head of automätik, an award-winning training and events firm whose mission is to “eradicate boring training from the face of the Earth,” I (and our team) take this challenge personally.

Over the past few months, we’ve been relentless in attending “best practice” webinars, researching tips, strategies, exploring virtual platforms, and testing production methods in the pursuit of elevating the virtual meeting and training environment to unprecedented levels.

During this time, we’ve assembled a broadcast quality virtual training / meeting studio at our SPACE 1335 event venue. We have conducted months’ worth of client demos, virtual training pilots, and produced several on-demand videos—many of which I’ve had the honor of being “the anchorman” on-screen host (and no, I don’t own a trident). It is from this position of wisdom seeking and trial and error, that we’ve arrived at the insight I’m sharing in this blog series.

To pull off an engaging virtual meeting, there are indeed new rules, and in this series of upcoming posts, I’ll share some of our top insights we’ve found to crack the code on designing and running engaging virtual meetings. Today’s primary makeover topic is one I’m sure very near and dear to your heart: YOU.

Tip #1: Turn Up the Wattage

Let’s clarify one thing: I am not talking about your run-of-the-mill weekly staff meetings, nor am I talking about your Friday happy hours. For those, conserve your energy and “you do you”. What I’m referring to here are your high-stakes virtual meetings, make-or-break client presentations, and organizational training initiatives.

For these types of moments of truth, you—and anyone involved in representing your organization—needs to turn up your presentation wattage (more than) several clicks. This includes your physical energy, your smile, your tone, and most of all your eyes.

My sister, Heidi Thiel, is a two-time Emmy Award-winning videographer. She routinely coaches adults who’ve never been on camera (but who are about to be). She puts it this way, “When on camera, you need to shoot words through your eyes directly into the camera lens.” 

I know it sounds crazy, but when I started taking her advice, my on-screen presence went to another level. Here’s a fun way to practice this concept:

  1. Put your phone in selfie-video mode (or have a friend film you).
  2. Practice staring directly at the tiny camera lens (spoiler alert: this is also Tip #2).
  3. As you talk—really, saying anything—try to SHOOT WORDS THROUGH YOUR EYES.
  4. Really, try to overdo the eye contact, the energy, the smiles, and the changes in voice tone!
  5. Watch your game film. (And I get it, no one likes to see their game film, but do it anyways.)
  6. Try again, dialing it up or down based on what you see.
  7. Repeat until you’ve found your best on-screen self.
  8. Save that video version for future reference.

I won’t lie, you’re going to feel like a wide-eyed lunatic for a while, but every time I’ve had a teammate try this exercise, they go “Oh my Gosh, I look like a professional news anchor”. You see, what you think is you at your most deranged is most likely just about right for the audience. That’s largely because in a virtual world, you need to over-project just to connect.

That’s your Virtual Tip O’ the Day!

About the Author

Michael Thiel is the Executive Vice President and lead Imaginator at automätik, an organization dedicated to “Eradicating boring training from the face of the Earth.” He is a passionate advocate for the development of engaging learners via effective presentation and instructional design. With over a decade of experience with the integration of educational technologies in the corporate learning and events space, Michael has been featured as a lead instructional designer, guest speaker, and Facilitator with some of the largest and most trusted brands in the world, including BMW, Toyota, Volkswagen, Kia, Honda, and the Sub-Zero group (to name a few). You can find more articles from Michael at or visit the automätik YouTube channel.