The speed reading course I went on yesterday produced truly amazing results. My reading went up from 373 words per minute at the start of the day to a staggering 1566 words per minute by the end of the day. The guy taught us loads of tricks and techniques (which I'm sure we obviously have to practice quite a bit to perfect). One non-obvious thing he showed us was to use your finger or a pen to guide your eye as you read - it made us feel like kids again, but it worked really well! Increasing peripheral vision by hold the book slightly further away helped too though how anyone can read 7 or 8 lines at a time is frankly beyond me.
Obviously comprehension starts to go down at first as your reading speed increases but as you practice more and more you begin to retain more and are able to recall more of what has flashed before your eyes. To further help this we learnt how to establish a memory map of the reading material first using amongst other things an initial "power browse". It's amazing how well this worked and how enthusiastic you got about a book or article without actually having read it. I must say I'm rather sold on memory maps now.
At points during the course I suffered from a bit of eye strain as I raced through page after page. But in the end there was an immense satisfaction in having devoured a piece of text so quickly. Obviously it's not a technique you would want to apply to a special piece of poetry or a favourite novel where getting there is most of the fun. But for business items, newspapers, magazines, technical journals and trashy page-turners it's a 'must'. I only hope I keep it up.