Again, Please… Slower (Issue 983)

In which we are reminded to speak slower, breathe, and pause so clients can follow us.

The late afternoon sun cut thin angles through the Music Department window into the practice room where I sat, baritone horn across my lap, music stand perched a few feet ahead of me, flanked by two high school band directors. The door to the hall was closed. The room smelled stuffy with overtones of the old building’s well-worn wood floor spiced with a tiny hint of camphor. There was a dark-stained upright piano to my left, several yellowed keys chipped. One of the band directors sat cross-ways on the piano bench, the other in a shiny beige folding chair, just to my right.

“Thank you for coming, we’re looking forward to hearing you,” one of them said. I took a deep breath… or tried… it didn’t come easily. I nodded. It felt like the top of my head would blow off at any second.

“We’ll ask you to play sections from the pieces selected for the high school Regional Band. After we’ve heard you, we’ll give you some feedback. You should find out in a couple of weeks where you’ll sit in the section at the Regional Band festival.”

“OK,” I replied. I was thinking first chair.

I don’t remember anything from that point until the last piece in the audition. A march. They chose a transition section where the baritone horns play up and down one minor scale and one major scale in sixteenth notes. Double-tongued.

My double-tongue technique was sharp. I’d practiced these scales over and over. Even now, several decades later, I can hear them in my head. So, I played, every tone perfect, and looked up to see the band directors’ reactions.

Their faces were quiet. They looked at me for a moment, then at each other. Then, the band director to my right said, softly, “Well, thank you, but I think you rushed a bit…. Could you play it again, please, slower?”

I had another go.

“Again, please, slower…” and he began to clap his hands, like a metronome, setting the pace. I must have blushed. My face felt hot. I played the scales again but they were uneven as I listened to his clapping hands and tried to match his tempo.

“Thank you,” they said, as I left. “We’ll let you know in a couple of weeks.”

A guy named Alan from Altoona High School got first chair. I sat to his left, second chair. I think I was the better player overall, but… I’d rushed things.

The modern march is played at somewhere between 120 – 130 beats per minute. John Phillip Sousa played the Stars & Stripes Forever march at around 128. I’d probably hit close to 150 in my audition. Too fast.

But, it turns out, 150 – 160 words per minute would be a great pace when we’re speaking to clients. Slow enough that they can process what we’re saying. However, some of us (and we know who we are) naturally speak much faster – 200 or more words per minute in normal speaking, even faster when we’re excited.

Sales calls get us excited…. 150 – 160 words per minute is good. Breathe. Slow down.


Steve Jobs speaking 203 words per minute (feels a bit fast)

Steve Jobs speaking 165 words per minute (a good pace)


Nick Miller and Clarity train banks and bankers to attract and develop deeper relationships with small businesses. Many more Sales Thoughts like this and a host of other articles and resources at .

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