As a protocol professional, what is the most significant challenge you faced related to COVID-19?
The most significant challenge I have faced related to COVID-19 has been the added layer of complexity when managing events, principals and guests. As a protocol professional, our jobs are already rather complex. We are expected to be an expert at reading the room, being one step ahead of any needs that may arise, and having the ability to magically create calm out of chaos. COVID-19 has made this especially challenging as people have differing opinions about safety measures and event expectations. Shortly after the start of the new year, I was asked to work with an organization to plan and execute a groundbreaking ceremony. The organization wanted to bypass all COVID safety guidelines, have 500 guests in attendance along with an open bar. Typically in my role, if I have to say no, I like to offer an alternate solution. In this situation, I had to say no to the 500 guest list and I had no alternative to offer. The 500 head count went against city ordinance and my organization's policy as well. The working relationship was strained a little bit, but I worked hard to compensate for the loss in different areas of the event.
If you had to define a protocol officer in one word, what would it be and why?
If I had to define a protocol officer in one word, it would be adaptable. The ability to adapt is essentially the essence of what we do. One of the most beautiful and challenging things about the world of protocol is that it is ever changing and we must be willing to reassess and adapt to it.
What is your most valuable protocol tool or resource?
This was a hard one for me to answer. You will never find me without my handy dandy book - Honor & Respect: The Official Guide to Names, Titles, and Forms of Address by Robert Hickey. Additionally, I rely heavily on my fellow protocol friends who I have had the pleasure of meeting in this line of work. They are a safe place in which I can remove my protocol hat, ask the silly questions, and learn without judgement.
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?
Give grace. Give grace to the principal who has expectations that are making things a little harder. Give grace to the support staff who don't understand or care about the seat of honor. Give grace to the guest who failed to confirm attendance, but still shows up to the event. Most importantly, give grace to yourself. Give grace to yourself when you feel like good isn't good enough and rest in the knowledge that you are adaptable, capable, and called to work in the world of protocol.