When the pandemic struck, professional actors were forced off camera and stage and into their homes like everyone else while millions of people who had never been in the spotlight found themselves constantly on camera for the first time.
School and work moved online while Victoria-based actor Emma Rendell's career was sidelined. Then she realized some of the skills she employed as an actor could help people now meeting on Zoom and other video conference platforms.
Rendell and fellow actor Emily Steck decided to make a career pivot and the pair have launched their own company — Once More With Feeling — to offer tricks of their trade to help people communicate better, and feel more confident, during camera meetings.
The first tip Rendell offered during an interview on CBC's On The Island is to breathe properly under pressure.
"Breath is your best friend," she said.
Rendell recommends taking a few deep, diaphragmatic breaths before presenting virtually. This can slow your heart rate and help relax nerves.
"Breath is so important, it is the cornerstone of good acting and also good communication," she said.
WATCH | Emma Rendell offers breathing tips for your next virtual meeting:
Vary your voice
Another tip to keep in mind is how you use your voice.
Rendell suggests varying your tone, pitch and pace to keep your audience engaged.
"I think people underestimate the power of the voice," she said, adding that differing your voice patterns can keep others from zoning out during a presentation as virtual meetings can have an exhausting affect on participants.
But don't stress your voice. In this helpful video, Rendell says to avoid vocal stress, do not lean forward into the camera and raise your voice volume as people tend to do.
Sit back and speak at a normal volume says Rendell, this makes you look more confident and at ease.
Be prepared (to forgive)
In a blog entry on Once More With Feeling's website, Rendell refers to what she calls the "half-hour call".
In the theatre, actors are usually given a 30-minute warning before curtain to make sure they are stage ready. Rendell suggests taking a few minutes to prepare yourself.
This prep might include grabbing a glass of water, stretching, reviewing your meeting materials and taking some of those recommended deep breaths.
And if things don't go perfectly when the meeting begins, Rendell says don't dwell on it.
As an actor, she practices what she calls "instant forgiveness" which means when something goes wrong on stage you instantly forgive, breathe and keep going.
"Mistakes happen," says Rendell. "Forgive yourself and move on."
Rendell trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and has worked across theatre, television, radio, and cabaret, both in the U.K. and in Canada.