Council of the European Union, Brussels
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Council of the European Union, Brussels

Protocol is all around us

From royal, diplomatic, corporate, and military, all the way to global sports events. Since the end of my summer holidays, I have had the privilege to have taken part in a wide range of projects related to international protocol and high-level events again, emphasizing that protocol is all around us, indeed.

From being one of the keynote speakers on the academy day during orientation week for new hotel management students at NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences in Leeuwarden, to preparing liaison officers for multilateral summits at the Council of the European Union in Brussels. Or from offering a protocol workshop for the Local Organising Committee of the Invictus Games Düsseldorf 2023, to providing multiple-day training programmes for Aramco in Al Khobar, the Ministry of Culture in Riyadh, as well as for numerous individual professionals in my home office in The Hague. And from coordinating the diplomatic relations related to the FIVB Volleyball World Championship 2022 on behalf of the Dutch organising partners, to sharing personal experiences at the annual conference of l’Association du Réseau du Protocole in Canet-en-Roussillon on France’s Mediterranean coast, as well as at the Future Hospitality Summit in Dubai.

I very much enjoy the great variety of clients and individuals we work with at Protocol International. I am glad to see that protocol is (re-)gaining importance in so many diverse sectors, especially after the heavily affected past years by the Covid-19 Pandemic. Whether we for example train novices of Generation Z at universities around the world, or prepare individuals with a wide range of experiences for temporary protocol roles as volunteers during tailormade courses, we are happy to hear that the participants truly appreciate receiving the ins and outs of protocol and intercultural communication, which add to their social and diplomatic skills toolkit.

Winston Churchill once described diplomacy as ‘the art of telling people to go to hell in such a manner that they will ask for directions’. And indeed, also in protocol it can occur that we have to respond with a firm ‘no’ to certain requests, but when we can make sure that we offer an alternative that cannot be refused, we can still create a win-win situation. While always keeping in mind: c’est le ton qui fait la musique.

I am happy to share our 15 main characteristics of a good protocol officer:

1. Plan and work ahead, making use of checklists

2. Be frank and clear, but also respectful and diplomatic

3. Cooperate with relevant internal and external stakeholders to achieve your goals

4. Do not be afraid to ask for assistance and to delegate

5. Be flexible and creative

6. Understand balance: take personal time to avoid stress and leave work at work

7. Give honest and strategic advice, even if your principal will not like it…

8. Be gracious and well-groomed

9. Realise that nobody is perfect

10. Treat integrity as being key

11. Be loyal: also to yourself

12. Assure quality and the right atmosphere

13. Organise, as well as improvise in unforeseen circumstances

14. Deal with difficulties and distractions

15. Enhance reputation management and make impact

I am really looking forward to many more impactful projects to come!

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