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Andy Wonder
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Auckland, New Zealand
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I video taped one of my shows recently, for a review. Everyone that has seen the video notices the same thing. I seem to be talking too fast. Maybe twice the speed of a radio news reporter. The show was for about forty 5 & 6 years olds and 10 adults without any PA system. The children seemed to understand most of what I was saying but I don’t know if speech so fast is the best.

I find that if I slow down my speech speed it gives the children an opportunity to butt in. You know what 5 year olds are like. They don’t understand the whole concept of watching a show and think you are there just for them. I guess they really have not experienced much interpersonal communication that is not one on one. Whenever the pace of my show slows down they assume it is their turn to talk. That is why I keep my show for this age group so fast paced & I guess why I have learned to speak so fast.

How fast do you speak for this age group? What do you think is the optimum speech speed for performing for children? Is there one, or just it just depend on your character? How can I slow my speech speed down yet still keep the show fast paced?
Andy Wonder, Auckland, New Zealand
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Profile of kenscott
WOW! Andy, that is my biggest problem. I too talk really fast. Trevor Lewis saw me in Feb. at MagiFest and he said it was great but I needed to slow down. I have tried but cannot seem to do it.

Sometimes with kids just talking softer and pausing helps a lot.

Steven the Amusing
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San Francisco Bay Area
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Watch a number of children's shows. (Sesame Street, Blues Clues, etc.) A leisurely pace is a good for most things with kids. Vary the pace, pitch and inflection to make your points and keep it interesting. People who talk too fast sometimes lose the interest of their audience not because of the speed, but by the lack of "interesting" variation - although excessive speed is also detrimental.

Billy Whizz
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Plymouth, UK
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Hi Andy, I've always talked very fast, but not in my shows. I do tend to slow down a lot during the show, and if children butt in, I tend to use their comments to my advantage. Quite often the things they say are very funny, and I repeat it so the rest of the audience hears what has been said.
Tim Zager
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Kansas City
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I used to have the same problem...I'm getting better! When I finally slowed down, I noticed most of the interruptions came between tricks. I had to create a seamless flow of "communication" while putting away and getting new props.

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Andy Wonder
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Auckland, New Zealand
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Yes, Tim, the flow can be quite important. When children have a short attention span I know they easily burst out with irrelevant comments. They just want to be part of the show. I do successfully get in a nice long pause right after I introduce my puppet and before the children see him. They are all trying to get a peek and I have build up the anticipation or expectation that helps me hold the silent pause.

Yes, Steven, I have often watched children’s TV shows. I thought I should talk at the same speed as the presenters. To carry that same TV presenter style over to a live performance with an enthusiastic crowd is difficult. The TV show does not have to anticipate interruptions and children talking back. I know those comments can be sometimes absorbed into your presentation, like you say, Billy. A recurring situation I find myself in with my school show, I will have 100 kids aged from 5-10 and the 5 year old boy in the front row will be oblivious to the fact he is watching a show and be trying to tell me about his weekend. I find the faster I talk the less likely that is to happen.
Andy Wonder, Auckland, New Zealand
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Plymouth UK
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Profile of Emazdad
The speed of my speech depends on who I'm performing for. I'll naturally slow down for the younger the kids, but the interruptions, etc., are an important part of my interaction with the kids. If it's something trivial like, "Mr Magician, I've got a rabbit at home," etc., I just say, "Oh that's nice" and carry on. If they persist, I just say, "Brilliant. Why don't you tell me all about it later after the show?" But sometimes it can be something that you can latch onto and get some good laughs out of. Interacting with the kids makes them feel that you are their friend, not just an entertainer, and they will tell mummy about their friend and how they want him at their party.

I suppose if you're doing stuff where the kids are only watching and not participating, then their talking would cause a problem, but I don't do anything like that. I talk to them while I'm setting up, when I'm packing away, and even during the show if the chance occurs. Then when I say I need an assistant, the ones who were a bit shy feel more at ease as I'm not this distant character and are more likely to come up and help. The number of mum's who can't believe their shy child is actually standing next to me during the show shows my approach works.

Sometimes something just pops into my head that I can use as a new way of linking the next trick, or Mr Knowitall has just come out with a really funny comment. The main difference then is the conversation during the show is with all the kids, not an individual, and isn't always part of the normal script.
Yours Funfully
Clive "Emazdad" Hemsley

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Richard Landry
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Chatham, Illinois
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I find that I tend to talk fast also, but not to compensate for interruptions by the kids. It's just my tendency. I use a lot of audience participation which helps curb the interruptions, I think. I am learning to slow down my speech, react with facial expressions, and to use "The Pause" effectively. I was watching some old Johnny Carson shows a while back and noticed that he got just as much out of a pause as he did his jokes.
Richard, Smile
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