As a protocol professional, what is the most significant challenge you faced related to COVID-19?
The most important challenge I have faced this year was the uncertainty of what COVID-19 would bring. In my work environment, we rely a lot on intelligence gathering in order to allow us to plan accordingly. The "not knowing" what would happen when we first quarantined, when we closed non-essential services, when international and domestic travels were halted, when schools and businesses started to shut down, when people started losing their jobs, when we had a second wave - that to me, was the hardest challenge because it caused confusion and chaos especially as rules and new measures kept evolving and changing.
At first, I was grateful that our work's tempo slowed down and that we had the luxury of working from home from time to time. This time allowed me to rethink and reinvent our work in order to bring events to people rather than people to events. This allowed us to start kicking back into gear by early summer and start re-connecting with our allies and partners by having meaningful interactions virtually -- and at times even physically -- while respecting our public health measures.
One event that comes to mind is the Canadian Army Week that normally includes activities in Ottawa that culminate into the Canada Army Run. It is our biggest event of the year where we raise funds for the Canadian Armed Forces “Soldier On” and “Support Our Troops” programs. This year, we held hybrid events and hosted the first-ever Canada Army Run (Virtual). The virtual aspect of the event allowed us to connect with partners, friends, and stakeholders that we would have never reached had we held a physical event only. The in-person event allowed for strong ties to be built for those who were lucky enough to participate physically but it was also a great way to reconnect in a time of COVID-19 for many. The event in its hybrid format made it truly memorable and engaging for those in the room but also for those at home.
If you had to define a protocol officer in one word, what would it be and why?
A protocol officer is resilient. I believe a protocol officer is able to quickly adapt, overcome and recover from challenges that they face, but moreover, they are able to anticipate what may go wrong and analyze the risks of each decision they may make. This altogether helps them create that resiliency and allows for our principals to focus on their business at hand.
What is your most valuable protocol tool or resource?
It would have to be our network. As a protocol officer you must be able to be quick on your feet and adapt to every situation that you encounter. In order to do that, your network must be strong and wide as it will allow you to quickly solve arising issues. My network is my most valuable tool and it never stops growing.
What piece of advice would you share with a new protocol professional, or someone who wants to take their career in protocol to the next level?
As a protocol officer, I’ve become a good friend of Murphy’s Law (the adage that "anything that can go wrong will go wrong"). I would share that any protocol officer should create plans and know their risks in order to quickly adapt and react to any situation. By being prepared, analyzing plans two steps ahead, and having a good network of people that surround you at work -- but also in your life -- can be a great asset.
For those who want to take their career to the next level, I would say be eager to learn. Be a student of other protocol officers, event planners, and your leaders, as everyone approaches problems and tasks differently and perhaps one day you'll face a problem and their way may be what you need to solve it.