Protocol Pointers -Part I

Protocol Pointers – Part I

In February, we hosted Georgia’s Chief Protocol Officer Abby Turano who discussed protocol and event planning tips. For those who weren’t able to attend (or need a refresher), we are happy to share the first segment of a two-part series highlighting her suggestions, resources, and ideas.

What is Protocol?

  • The art of creating conditions for business or diplomacy to take place.
  • Using the parameters of a “…transparent, commonsense system for conducting affairs.”
  • Traditions, cultural awareness, etiquette, and courtesy.

How Do We Engage in Correct Protocol?

First rule of thumb: Always use a checklist when planning any event or visit and remember the basics.


Some details to consider:

  • Are your principals or guests arriving from out of town?
  • Are they high level enough to be greeted at the airport and at the hotel before the event? Or should they just find their way to the venue?
  • Will you have a snack or a bottle of wine delivered to their room?
  • Will you or someone from your organization host them at dinner the night before the event?
Venue Setup
Flag Protocol
  • The place of honor is to the audience’s left (over the speaker’s right shoulder).
  • The U.S. flag, as the home country, holds the place of honor, followed by state, city, university, organization, etc.
Seating Protocol

The most simple approach to follow:

  • Host and co-host – OPPOSITE each other.
  • Guest of honor – to the host’s RIGHT.
  • Second highest-ranking guest – to the co-host’s RIGHT.

From there, seat in ranking order, alternating on either side of the host and co-host. Be mindful of balancing men/women, language ability, overlapping interest, or expertise.

Side Note: On occasion, the best seating plan may necessitate breaking protocol. Situations in which it makes sense not to follow protocol rules include: informal events; seating guests based on what they have in common, rather than rank; speakers’ time constraints; principal’s preference.

Click here for basic seating arrangement illustrations.

Detailed Run of Show
  • Plan to the minute. Click here for Run of Show examples.
  • Put yourself in the guests’ shoes. What would they want? Consider physical comfort (temperature, lighting, etc.).
  • Recruit volunteers. You have thousands of able-bodied volunteers at your fingertips. Ensure they know answers to likely questions – from restroom locations to speaker times. Click here for examples of Volunteer Duty Forms.
  • Remember to cater for dietary restrictions. Ask about dietary preferences and have backups. A quick Internet search can give you the ins and outs of eating kosher, as well as Muslim dietary restrictions (for those guests observing religious guidelines).
  • Develop a communications strategy that includes photographer, videographer, social media, and press needs.
  • Ensure you have asked if any special accommodations need to be made for your guests.

In our June issue, we’ll share Part II of the protocol presentation, including protocol resources and how to personalize the guest experience.