A long time ago in the south tower of the cathedral in Cologne, Germany, Fat Peter was hung. He wasn’t some shady character who died a mysterious and untimely death. Fat Peter was, and still is, a bell; officially known as St. Peter’s Bell. Bigger than a bedroom and weighing more than a loaded cement truck, it’s easily one of the biggest bells in the world. When Fat Peter sings, you don’t just hear it, you feel it in your bones. You are immersed in vibrations. It’s not just sound, it’s an experience.
St. Peter’s Bell has something to teach us about how to communicate effectively. The way a bell produces sound has profound lessons for speaker. Specifically, a bell works with little effort, total engagement, and complete generosity. Let’s explore those three points.
A bell is never working hard. It swings at its own rhythm. Force it beyond its natural rhythm, and you get less from it rather than more. The same is true for human speech. You don’t get more from your voice by increasing your level of effort. Increased effort causes muscle contraction, and that results in less space for sound. You end up with a smaller bell. The trick to getting maximum sound and impact from your voice is to get out of the way and allow it to work rather than forcing it. You must work with your voice rather than pushing it.
When a bell rings, the whole bell vibrates with sound from top to bottom. The same is true for you. When you speak optimally, it’s not just your vocal fold vibrating. Sound doesn’t just come from this hole in your face. Your whole body vibrates. There’s no body part that doesn’t potentially vibrate with the sound of your voice. When your whole body vibrates, there’s a pretty good chance you’re speaking with your whole voice, and when you’re speaking with your whole voice, there’s a pretty good chance you’re communicating with your whole being, but if you’re using only part of your voice, then your listeners are only getting part of you.
A bell is never holding back. Think about it. Every last vibration of sound is traveling outward, being given away generously. There’s no reservation. That’s the way you could be speaking, but in the real world, all sorts of things tend to happen. Your voice can sit in your chest, get stuck in your throat—die in your mouth. It seems humans will do anything to avoid putting their whole voice out there in the world. Learn to give all of your voice when you speak, without reservation.
It’s easy to assume speech is about words, but that isn’t half of it. Great speakers make powerful connections and have profound impact because they are relaxed, fully engaged and totally available to their audience. Listeners love that. We will overlook all sorts of imperfections in your performance if you will show up and give yourself generously. That is the challenge of great speaking; the ability to be fully open, fully engaged, and fully available.
You don’t have to be a gigantic bell to fill a room and make an impact, but you do have to work like one. By exploring and mastering these three basic principles—little effort, total engagement, and complete generosity—you discover your unique potential to be a confident and engaging speaker.
For more training to enhance your speaking skills, visit voiceandspeech.com and enrol in the free video mini-course, The Sound of Success.