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    I also have the problem outlined in the introduction. I have been seeking and receiving a lot of advice over the years, but only one thing really made a huge difference (when I remember to do it): focus entirely on getting the last one or two sounds of each word out really clearly. At least for me, everything else automatically followed after that.

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      How slow is slow enough? How do I practice speaking slowly?

      You try to explain a thing to another person and as long as they say “what?” or space out periodically, you speak too fast.

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        That works in conversations, but when giving an actual conference talk, I can’t get that kind of feedback until after it’s too late!

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          Gotta read the crowd a bit. A really good lecturer told me it’s half education half theater.

          If you seem relaxed and in control of the content, they’ll latch on.

          But if you’re trying to jam-pack a talk, you’ve got competing goals there that’s the art you’re inventing for yourself if you want to do talks a lot. <3

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            I mean rehearsing your actual talks with a person willing to help, or a small audience of a few people to make it less awkward.

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              You could try to get someone to help you with that. Hire an aid or even someone at the conference to just give you some kind of signal when you’re doing it. It can be visual or even something that physically buzzes you at a press of a button. The latter lets you not look at them.

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            Golf for your mode function:

            0 { ~. \: #/.~
            

            The first element of 0 { the uniq elements ~. sorted down by \: the number of times each occurs #/.~.

            Try it online!

            I need to emphasize that this entire process was pointless.

            Pointless as great art!

            Beyond the trivial sense in which it’s obviously true, I suspect you don’t really believe that statement, given the time you’ve devoted to J :)

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              Golf for your mode function:

              0 { ~. \: #/.~

              I had to play with this for ten minutes to understand how the heck it worked. Bravo.

              (Took me a while to realize I was supposed to read it as a fork…)

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              I would practice; drill the talk in private to a Furbie on a chair; record and listen and self-critique.

              Think about your “ums-ahs” and when they come up, resist and pause. Usually there you can just take a breath, relax, let the pause in; the way its heard is much faster than your brain is getting that high-RPM treatment, which you want to keep. Often sounds like an agreeable pause to your audience.

              I am ADHD and do speaking, played instruments in a lot of performance contexts. Human bullhorn. It’s a thing to manage.

              This is a technique many standup comics use also (self-recording).

              edit: Also best of luck I wish you prosperity hope any of this helps.

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                Think about your “ums-ahs” and when they come up, resist and pause.

                I’ve watched videos of my talks, and my problem isn’t verbal misfires. Usually it’s two things:

                1. I speak so fast my mouth dries out, so I have to stop at random times to drink water
                2. I add something extraneous, like a quick off-topic joke about testing or something. It doesn’t feel wildly out of place to the audience, but it really annoys me when I think about it later.

                Both have significantly reduced since I started practicing slowing down. Really the big benefit is that I’m rehearsing more slowly. Once I’m on stage, I inevitable go a bit faster than when I rehearse off stage, because I get excited and feed off the audience energy. But if I rehearse slow and speed up a bit then it balances out to a good pace.

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                  I speak so fast my mouth dries out, so I have to stop at random times to drink water

                  Watch yourself to determine when that’s likely to happen for a given talk. Look at good times for breaks that come way before that. Sip water during those. Maybe even make a note in your slides (water drop or blue dot) for when to do it. Then, you get less interruption during critical moments and maybe dodge some of the dry mouth.

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                  And also compare a recording of you doing it at your “gigs” wherever they may be to your practices.

                  Usually you just have to buffer in more slowness and relaxation (nervous!) your head knowing you’re serving the right pace to your listeners.

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                  When I am giving talks, I rehearse them a lot.

                  For a talk I gave a year ago, the manuscript was more or less done in time for me to rehearse twice a day for about two months. During which, by the way, I also learned that walking around with a stroller trying to get your kid to sleep while talking loudly to yourself gets a lot of raised eyebrows. I rehearsed the manuscript, out load, about a hundred times, total.

                  I find that in the first couple of iterations, I usually talk slowly—I guess, I don’t really know the manuscript at that point—and use a lot of smaller filler words and pauses for me to think. Over the next chunk of rehearsals I get more and more confident in the material, I learn it verbatim—which doesn’t come easy to me—and the pace increases, filler words gradually disappear along with pauses. In the last dozen, or so, rehearsals, I not only say the words; I, as cheesy as it sounds, deliver them. It feels more like acting at that point. The pace decrease back to a slower pace, but without the filler words (and probably without some of the other words as well, words that eventually seemed unnecessary).

                  So. I guess what I am trying to say is: I feel that the pace of a talk, and the number of smaller unnecessary words, very much depend on how much it’s been rehearsed.

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                    Speaking to audiences where English is not the their first language helped me. I go into a mode now where I slow down, lower my diction, and concentrate on enunciation. Putting yourself in this situation, your natural empathy for your audience will be the driver.

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                      I find that speakers like Bryan Cantrill speak pretty fast in talks but I don’t feel that it’s an issue. I’d be interesting to have a comparison of his speed and check how he might cope with it.

                      Maybe you don’t want to slow down sentences but adjust the pause between sentences :)

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                        I’d like to offer a differing opinion: Don’t slow down.

                        For recorded videos, speed can be adjusted at read time instead of write time. All video players I’ve used (including online ones like Youtube) have an option to scale speed. I don’t think its such a big deal that I have to watch your talk at 1.3x instead of the usual 1.5x - 2x [1].

                        For a live talk, I can only say often I wish there was a way to speed those up too. Maybe you were just catering to a niche audience. :) I don’t know.

                        If there was needless or content-less talking, sure I’d say take some of that out. While anything can be more compact, I didn’t feel the videos you linked were wasteful.

                        In fact, I’ve been thinking of ways to do the opposite. For talks where the speaker talks quickly but have too many long pauses, adjusting speed in the video player doesn’t work well since my attention isn’t there when the burst of speech comes. I’m hoping of finding a way to lengthen the spoken parts to fill the gaps of silence while keeping something like the midpoint constant.

                        | talking 1 | silence 1 | talking 2 | silene 2 | talking 3 |
                        | talking   1  |sil| talking         2 |sil| talking     3 |
                        

                        I know tools that can find regions of silences. They’re just not malleable enough (or I don’t know them well enough) to apply the transformation.

                        [1] Unrelated side remark: there’s an oddity with every pitch-adjusting speeding up method that every video player uses which makes speeding up speech beyond 2x quickly incomprehensible. Applying the same speed up algorithm twice does not produce this issue. For example, write the output of a 1.5x speed up to a file and then apply another 1.5x speed up for a total of 2.25x makes the video comprehensible, but a straight 2.25x speed up does not.

                        The sharp drop seems to be at exactly 2x. If anyone know what’s going on, please let me know.

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                          Great article! I appreciated how @hwayne kept the dead-ends in the post along with the solution, and I wish people did this more.

                          As for training yourself to speak more slowly: I used to do radio in college, and I trained myself to do this by practicing speaking slowly in normal speech. If you try to speak about 80% slower in an everyday setting, you can feel a tension where your brain wants to go faster but you’re intentionally holding it back. (If you need more imagery, imagine letting your brain idle while your mouth finishes speaking each sentence). I find it mildly uncomfortable! By practicing a bunch you can learn to recognize and expect this semi-uncomfortable feeling.

                          When you go onstage you can try to focus on holding the feeling rather than concentrating extra hard on your words or whatever. Since you’ll naturally speed up on stage (or are perhaps just fast in general), the feeling of speaking slower will counteract that and leave you speaking at a normal speed.

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                            Nice analysis!

                            And wow, I skipped through your TLA+ talk and it really reminds me of when I watch talks at 1.25 or 1.5 speed, I think slowing down is good :) I’m not a native speaker but I am quite used to listening to English and this example talk is definitely on the upper end of the speed variance I know.

                            // edit: but I think your 160 wpm current target sounds fine, if you talk fast you can still be faster than average. Too slow is also not good, but looking forward to the next talk and revisiting as a listener and comparing.