Hotel del Coronado, San Diego, California
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Hotel del Coronado, San Diego, California
Mark Verheul
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31/1/2022

How our partnership began

Earlier this month, it was my privilege to take over Protocol International together with Ambassador Csilla Würtz and Maryse Larché Mele. Founded in 2007 by Gilbert Monod de Froideville, former Master of Ceremonies to H.M. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Protocol International has provided many training, interim and consultancy assignments for the private and public sectors around the globe, ever since.

In all these years, I have been grateful to provide many of these services together with Gilbert, but I also had the pleasure to deliver numerous programmes on an individual basis. I also enjoyed contributing to all kinds of seminars, masterclasses and conferences, and it was during the 18th Annual PDI-POA International Protocol Education Forum in San Diego in July 2019, that Maryse and myself got connected at the beautiful Pacific shores in front of the renowned Coronado Hotel during its closing reception. Maryse mentioned that she attended my breakout session on the characteristics of a good protocol officer earlier during the Forum and she recalled that she joined my presentation on flags fundamentals at the 2017 Forum in Dublin, as well. Maryse indicated that in her capacity of Executive Officer at NATO HQ’s Supreme Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, Virginia, she was also responsible for the development and design of the Protocol Course at the NATO School in Oberammergau, Germany, and she suggested I consider a role as guest speaker during this week-long course. Obviously, I happily accepted her offer and six weeks later our first collaboration took place amidst the majestic Bavarian Alps.

On our way back to Munich Airport after the second course in January 2020 (just two months before the worldwide lockdowns due to Covid-19 started…), we were wondering if we perhaps could join forces after Maryse’s early retirement somewhere in 2021. We picked up this conversation in the first months of last year, indeed. Some interesting brainstorming about services, focus and ambitions brought us to the conclusion that ideally we look for a third partner in order to be able to offer an even broader scope of work. Maryse had cooperated very well with Csilla, while Csilla served as Secretary of the North Atlantic Council and Chief of Protocol of NATO HQ in Brussels, and knew she was very much committed to additional endeavours related to international protocol and strategic networking. After having reached out to her, Csilla responded positively straight away and quite some virtual sessions followed in the months afterwards to put everything in place. We realised that with our vast experience, different backgrounds and a strong diversity, we would make a great team. Due to several restrictive travel measures, we only had the chance to finally get together physically with the three of us in September and assembled in a historic villa near Milan to make the final plans for our partnership.

We have started working on quite some inspiring projects already and we are truly looking forward to being involved in many others in the future!

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