I find the normal 1x playback speed to be pretty slow for most videos of talks and videos. Thankfully, it is pretty easy to change the playback speed in VLC.
Here is how to do it:
By default, VLC does not display the current playback speed anywhere in its UI. Enable View -> Status Bar to display the status bar at the bottom. You can see the playback speed in the status bar.
To change the playback speed go to Playback -> Speed and choose to playback at Faster, Slower or Normal speed. The Faster and Slower options change playback speed in increments of 0.5x. The Fine options change playback speed in increments of 0.1x. If you like to repeated change the speed using the mouse, note that this submenu can be pinned to the display by clicking on its threaded top.
The keyboard shortcuts = and - can be used to change playback speed within the range 0-1x.
What you are probably looking for are keyboard shortcuts to go beyond 1x. Use ] and [ for that. These are the keyboard shortcuts that I actually use for playback speed control.
More: Peteris Krumins blogs about other ways to speedup video playback by using AviSynth and Mplayer. I find the VLC method the most simple and straightforward.