Conference Adventures in Rome

    In 1987, I gave a presentation in Rome at a congress about Kathon CG. This was my first international appearance. I learned a lot from this 'adventure', both about myself and about Italians. I found out that I do not enjoy trips to other countries and talking to people that I don't know, that I am not adventerous and that I cannot suppress nervousness, despite being well aware that this nervousness is absolute unnecessary.   


    De Groot is nervous

    Later on I have given some lectures abroad (most of them by invitation), but those trips to other countries are not for me, I am not adventurous enough and I am much too nervous that I will miss the train, the plane, can't find the taxi stand, have to go to the toilet when you can't, arrive late for my lecture and stand in line at the conference restaurant while I haven't been able to find a plate yet.

    But more importantly: it turned out that I don't feel comfortable in unknown company and that makes me insecure. I am very bad at small talk and often don't know what to say. And later, when I had a little more experience, I saw the conference attendees, after the lecture was finished and the questions answered and I walked away, from the corner of my eye sneeking up to me: 'Professor DeGroet, may I ask you a question, please?' Horrible. And I was always so nervous beforehand. Even at the beginning of 2020, when I was still teaching in Groningen, I was often nervous before my presentation. And that while I knew it to be absolutely unneccessary, because it has ALWAYS gone well and I know from evaluations of the UMCG that the students really appreciate my talks (actually: interactive presentations) and rate them as very good. And then, that nervousness, WHY? Well, you can imagine what it's like abroad at international meetings. Okay, I have made myself sufficiently vulnerable again for now.

    De Groot falls asleep

    But another reason why that conventions are not for me, is that ALMOST NO ONE CAN GIVE A DECENT LECTURE!!! Way too much text on a slide, talking too fast, an overdose of information, way too hard to follow, a bone-dry presentation without a moment to laugh, way too hot in the room, extremely long-winded, all reasons why I regularly fell asleep. Incidentally, research has shown that a not inconsiderable proportion of conference attendees actually do fall asleep! I knew very quickly that I would learn almost nothing at conferences. I would much rather read something in a magazine.


    A then still young drs. De Groot (I was only allowed to call myself dr. in December of the following year) in Rome in 1987

    Not really an admirer

    Now to the Italians. I'm not making any judgments about it, just telling you what I've seen. During the conference, the projector suddenly broke down. The light bulb in it didn't work, so everything stood still, because there was only 1 room for the entire conference with 1 projector (OK, it was 1987). Plug in, plug out, doesn't help. A man goes to put beer mats under the front legs of the thing and looks disappointed that it doesn't help. 10 minutes later another employee arrives who …..does exactly the same. Slunk off grumpily. An hour and a half later a new projector arrives.

    Second observation: the work ethic of the Italians (or in this case (some of) the Romans, or should I say it more carefully, the congress staff) was - to put it euphemistically - not optimal. I wanted to return home a day early and asked several congress staff ('hostesses', but the decent kind, that is) if they would help me. Only the sixth was prepared to do so and indeed was very helpful. At one point when she and I stood with a group of her colleagues, they looked at her with pity and sighed 'Lavorare, lavorare, semper lavorare' ('work, work, always work').


    These adventures are also presented in the section 'Meeting reports and abstracts'. They are shown here as a separate page so that they can be found more easily by visitors of the website.

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