I spent most of this week in Rio de Janeiro at the Congress of the Americas, a biennial event for higher education specialists from across the Western Hemisphere.

Here’s my piece summing up the main themes of conversation over the three days.

It’s been an eye opener for many reasons.

First, to make so many good contacts with those in the know, which will be very helpful when writing future stories. And second to see how Rio goes about greeting so many – there were 600 people registered – foreign guests.

The debates were well managed and there was a huge number of experts from as far apart as Canada, the West Indies and Argentina.

But the organisation was predictably awful. Queues were so long for registration that they were abandoned. The main session started a full hour late. The hotel has almost no electricity sockets. Most unforgivably for a conference that seeks to be modern was the lack of wi-fi.

The worst thing about the three days of debate is Latin America’s endless and pompous formality.

Before every debate, each participant is introduced as ‘illustrious’ or ‘honoured.’ Every speaker has to suck up to every other speaker before they’ve even said a word. The moderator even spent five minutes one day thanking every single one of the sponsors.

It’s not just false and hypocritical and boring, it’s time-consuming. Get to the point!