Protocol comes from the Greek meaning "the first glue." Protocol can be seen as
the glue which holds official life together and makes it work. Protocol and etiquette,
especially when dealing with international visitors, provide ground rules and a
framework that all the participants understand. It takes only some very simple steps
to ensure that you "do the right thing" when it comes to hosting international visitors:
- Properly prepare for your guests.
- Know your guests’ titles and ranks, so that you can greet them properly and make
sure they are seated according to their rank or position for a meeting or meal.
- In professional life, it is best to err on the side of formality. Titles should
always be used when greeting people or introducing them.
- The protocol behind proper introductions is logical and easy to remember: A junior
or less important person is introduced to a senior or more important
- For example:
"Mr. Popov, I want to present Jane Rowley, a trade specialist in our international
division. Jane, this is Alexi Popov, the Deputy Minister of Cultural Affairs in
- Know what your guests hope to accomplish with the meeting, and how their agenda
may differ from your agenda or your supervisor’s. Having the agenda for the meeting
written out, accompanied by a list of all participants in the meeting, is a good
- Have any materials for the meeting prepared and in sufficient quantity for all of
your guests. However, try not to load your international visitors down with paper,
unless you can offer to ship it to your guests’ country.
- Be aware of any cultural differences, including issues such as dress or diet.
- Determine before your guests arrive if a gift is necessary or appropriate. If you
are unsure, it is acceptable to ask your visitors’ staff in advance of the trip
if they will be bringing any gifts, noting that if so, you (or your supervisor)
would simply like to be able to reciprocate appropriately. If the gift is more than
a small token, you should offer to ship it to your guests’ final destination.
- If your international visitors are not proficient in English, find out if a translator
will accompany them, or if your agency will need to provide a translator to ensure
that the meeting is successful.
Your local library or bookstore will have many books on international and business
protocol and cultural differences. The websites listed
on this site may also prove to have useful information when you are preparing for
an international visitor.