WHAT IS PROTOCOL?
At the international level, “protocol” refers to the observance or application of long-standing rules and traditions which allow for appropriate levels of recognition, respect and treatment to be given to officials. In this way, protocol guides the conduct of relations among countries. Protocol at the State and local or organizational levels feeds on from what happens at the international level. However, it may also be influenced by the culture and customs of the country. In all instances it refers to giving to persons treatment that is consistent with their status, taking into consideration the particular occasion or event. The way officials are treated or feel treated influences their participation in meetings and, therefore, helps to determine whether the objectives of an engagement will be achieved.
A main element of protocol is flexibility. Rules and conventions may be adjusted depending on the situation. In other words, it is the occasion that determines the protocol and not the protocol that determines the occasion. This is the reason why specific matters relating to protocol are often not permanently scripted. There is no one size fits all for every occasion.
Given the above, definitions of protocol may include the following:
(i) the official procedure or system of rules governing affairs of state or diplomatic occasions
(ii) the accepted or established code of procedure or behaviour in any group, organization, or situation (Oxford Dictionary);
(iii) a system of rules that explain the correct conduct and procedures to be followed in formal situations
Basically, protocol relates to how people are seated and treated in formal settings. Since the treatment is according to rank or status, not all persons at an event will be treated the same way. At the same time, there should be no noticeable difference in the way persons of equal rank are treated when attending the same event.
In hosting an event, organisers should ensure that the following are given proper consideration:
(a) the placement of the flag or flags
(b) the set-up of the room i.e. will there be a head-table or not?
(c) the list of officials/persons who have confirmed their attendance at the event
(d) the rank or status of the official
(e) salutation or oral recognition of the official during the event i.e. correct pronunciation of names and calling of titles
(f) properly addressing written correspondence, including invitations
(g) the time and timing of the event
(h) the smooth flow of the event
(i) the use of ushers
(j) greeting VIPs on arrival and escorting on departure
Among the protocol services provided by the Ministry through the Protocol Division are:
(a) Airport facilitation for local and foreign officials on travel
(b) processing of requests from Diplomatic Missions and International and Regional Organisation, based in Barbados, regarding the their functioning in Barbados under the Privileges and Immunities Regime
(c) preparation of Apostilles
(d) assisting in the planning of State events the convening of conferences and other major meetings and official visits hosted by Barbados
(e) assisting with ushering at official events
(f) advising public and private sector entities on the protocol to be follow for particular occasions
THINGS TO REMEMBER ABOUT PROTOCOL
- it is a way of facilitating the conduct of business and avoiding disorder
- it is a show of respect for persons and the offices they hold
- it is the occasion that determines the protocol and not the protocol that determines the occasion
- protocol always has an element of flexibility but there must be a clear rationale for any decision(s) taken
- advance planning is a significant part of Protocol
- the successful skills set in protocol is knowing what is the appropriate thing to do for the occasion or at the time
- protocol is applied with a “soft hand”
A list of the current diplomatic and international communities
Table of Precedence: A list showing the ranking of officials. The higher up one is on the list, the higher is one’s status for official events
Position or Place of Honour: This refers to the focus point in the meeting room where the VIPs for that occasion will sit. Often it takes the form of an elevated head-table looking on towards the others or may be one side of a hollow-square or U-shaped seating arrangements