Introduction to the Course and the Course Format

Welcome to Practical Protocol: An Event Planners Secret Weapon


What is Protocol Anyway ?


When most people encounter the word protocol they generally think of a collection of set forms of etiquette to be observed by the likes of royals, heads of state, and senior government ministers. But, in fact, there are protocols for pretty much everything.

A protocol is a widely recognized and accepted rule describing how an activity should be performed—in medicine, computing, science, politics, in diplomacy... and at meetings and events.


Technology, Science, Medicine

In computing, a protocol is a set of rules governing the exchange or transmission of data between devices—the vast array of connection protocols that govern much of our daily lives around smart phones, laptops and social media—IP Internet Protocol, HTTP Hypertext Transfer Protocol, and FTP File Transfer Protocol.

In science and medicine, a protocol is a procedure for carrying out a scientific experiment or a course of medical treatment. And, in the wake of COVID-19, the word protocol has entered the event planning vocabulary in a health and safety context.

Diplomatic Protocol

In politics, a treaty agreed to in conference and signed by the parties involved, is a protocol.

In diplomacy, protocol is a a set of internationally-recognized principles, standards, rules, and procedures that underpin the official interactions between and within nations and states. Diplomatic protocol has been updated, tested and fine-tuned, and retested and fine-tuned some more over millennia.

Meeting and Event Protocol

Meeting and event protocol is an event-centric subset of diplomatic protocol that course co-creator David Dunlop has regularly employed in a range of typical meeting and event scenarios over his four+ decades in the field.

Practical Protocol is a synthesis of this road-tested subset, distilled into a 'meeting and event protocol basics guide' for meeting, event, and VIP visit practitioners—a specialized toolkit to add to your event planning skill set.

The beauty of a protocol is that it reflects a tried-and-true and universally accepted way of doing something. When your clients, your boss, or your event guests are second guessing your expertise, or your judgement, some protocol know how can be critically important, especially in the heat of the moment at an event in progress. Referencing a widely used standard affirms that you know what you are doing, so that you can take charge with confidence.

Knowing your protocol is a bit like knowing all your times tables—because you know them inside out, you don’t have to do the math.


Practical Protocol Fundamentals

How does meeting and event protocol differ from a standard event planning skill set?

Meeting and event protocol is a specialized, value-added skill set that builds on a typical event planning and management knowledge base. It adds two specialized knowledge areas and three event planning concepts to your toolkit, that work together to help you move through the planning and delivery of an event like a well oiled machine.

Thoughtfully planned and skillfully orchestrated programs and scenarios set the tone for all meetings and events. They provide a strategic environment and friction-free backdrop for the business at hand, promote goodwill and enhance participant satisfaction—all of which are key to the realization of function objectives.

The Five Fundamentals of Practical Protocol

Meeting and event protocol capability is founded on a sound knowledge of the rules of precedence (an international standard) and past practice, coupled with full and appropriate attention to detail (even the smallest), common sense, and the impact of personal presentation.

These five key protocol components work together to smooth the way, polish the performance and promote successful event outcomes—fundamentals from which you can build your own scenarios, knowing they are founded on established and internationally-accepted tried and true principles.

Precedence—is an indisputable rationale for the order of something, be it a collection of flags, or ranking participants for a seating plan.
Past practice—is how something has been handled in the past, or a longstanding way of doing things.
Attention to detail—not a single detail should be left unexamined or left to chance.
Common sense—sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts —Merriam Webster Dictionary
Personal Presentation—how you appear to the people around you affects your authority.

A knowledge of past practice serves as a guide for analogous situations, and a command of precedence provides accepted models for ceremonial order. Together, they reflect tried and true procedure, and proven ways of effectively handling an assortment of scenarios, standard or otherwise.

At the same time, just because something was done a certain way in the past does not mean you should slavishly continue doing it that way. By all means update the routine, but you must have a convincing rationale for the change, a rationale that reflects your knowledge of past practice and/or precedence tempered with sound judgement and common sense.

And, whether your boss, your client, event VIPs, and/or event participants trust and accept your guidance depends on how you present yourself.

Well-conceived planning—including attention to even the smallest details—and thorough preparation, plus a strong acquaintance with precedence, provides for all the requirements of a well-run scenario. They are key to the success of critical meetings, important conferences, key visits and special events. And, they help to ensure that changing circumstances are accommodated, that the unexpected is handled in a professional and orderly fashion and that events unfold as planned.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this course you will have a solid grasp of basic meeting and event protocol fundamentals, and understand the role and importance of protocol in a range of typical event scenarios, including:

  • Galas and receptions.
  • Ceremonial events.
  • Hi-level meetings and conferences.
  • Domestic and international VIP visits.
  • VIP management.

And, your newly acquired practical protocol toolkit will provide you with internationally accepted and road-tested best practices to guide the planning and delivery of many event logistics, such as:

  • Seating plans.
  • Speaking order.
  • Flag setups.
  • Greetings and styles of address.

A command of protocol fundamentals is a very useful skill set to have in your back pocket. You do not need to be making it up as you go along, hoping for the best.


The protocol in this course is based on an international standard—universally recognized and followed across the globe—and presented from a Canadian viewpoint. Because the material covered in this course adheres to an international standard, it can be easily adapted to similar scenarios in other countries.
This is not an exhaustive treatise on protocol, rather it is a practical look at the role some key protocol practices play in an event planning and management context—a subset of basic and straightforward rules that you can immediately adopt and adapt to an assortment of typical event scenarios and circumstances, including protocol-centric guidelines for orchestrating a successful production.
And, unlike other expensive and immersive programs in this field, Practical Protocol cuts to the chase and deals only with the core basics of functional protocol practice. (It does not address dining etiquette, dressing for success and personal image development, or networking and relationship building.)


Who Should Take this Course

  • Meeting and event planners who want to add to their expertise and elevate their game.
  • Meeting and event professionals who manage meetings and events involving senior government officials, corporate executives, and/or foreign VIPs—for clients, or as part of their job in government or the corporate world.
  • Public and private sector personnelwho are NOT meeting and event planning professionals—who find themselves dealing with special events and protocol issues as part of their job—visiting delegations, visiting dignitaries and VIPs, senior executives and/or hi-level foreign officials, seating plans, ceremonial events.
  • Non-professional meeting planners who must organize meetings and events—who need to know how to set up and effectively stage-manage important domestic and international meetings, functions, VIP visits and special events.
  • Event planning and management school students—who want to know more about planning high-level meetings, conferences and special events.
  • Senior executives and decision-makers responsible for the successful outcome of meetings and events—senior personnel who must know what to expect, rather than those who actually do the work.
  • Mid-level managers responsible for organizing and coordinating meetings and events—the doers—who need to know how to plan scenarios, implement details and ensure that the work is executed as planned.
  • Lower-level staff—who actually do the leg work involved in setting up and delivering meetings and events, so that they know what to do and how to do it.
  • Junior members of an event management team—who need to know more, in order to take charge/move up.


Protocol as an Enabling Tool

You could be a foreign affairs official showing appropriate respect to a head of state, or ranking diplomats in the chronological order of their accreditation. Or you are a meeting and event professional making seating plans for senior government officials or business executives, arranging flags at a multi-state conference, setting the stage for an awards ceremony or gala dinner, or greeting and introducing senior officials and VIPs to one another. Whatever your role, protocols are involved.

Many people associate protocol with dated formality and ceremony, and consider it dispensable in the 21st century. In fact protocol is as relevant and important today as it has been through the ages; perhaps more so, as we spin ever faster through our increasingly interconnected and wireless world.

Protocol is also a term that strikes fear into the hearts of even the most organized amongst us, conjuring up an array of hoops to jump through before an event can be executed. It shouldn’t—a basic knowledge of protocol is an invaluable tool to have in your event planning toolkit.

Many routine but potentially daunting meeting and special event requirements can be substantially mitigated by some basic protocol knowledge, allaying the fear and trepidation associated with the preparation of seating plans, orders of precedence, the proper flying of flags, and a host of other decisions and setups that are often challenged by clients and even participants.

Protocol also encompasses etiquette and cultural sensitivity. Seemingly routine actions such as shaking hands or exchanging business cards are normal protocol actions. However, these niceties vary from one culture to another. Greeting event participants and making appropriate conversation on the job with people from different backgrounds and cultures, is where etiquette, cultural sensitivity and protocol intersect.

Think of protocol as an enabling tool. Protocols are enablers that smooth the way in successful communications.


Course format

This 5-part course includes text content and quizzes. Each Section is divided into Lectures and ends with a quiz. Some of the Lectures are quite short, others longer and more comprehensive. 


The course comprises the following sections:

Section 1 | Practical Protocol—Introduction—About the course.
Section 2 | Protocol—the Backstory—A look at the origins of etiquette, its evolution into protocol, and protocol's enduring relevance.
Section 3 | Greetings, Customs and Conventions—The professional business-social and ceremonial niceties of meeting and event logistics, beginning with Greetings, Titles and Styles of Address and moving on through: Invitations and Acronyms; Dress and Gala Events; Words of Welcome, Grace, Toasts and Anthems; and Gifts and Mementos.
Section 4 | Precedence and the Rule of Right—Hardcore protocol including: precedence (the key to all); seating scenarios, flag protocol; and arrival and departure courtesies.
Section 5 | Protocol and You—Taking charge with confidence—A look at how the way you present yourself underpins, or undermines your authority.
Section 6 | Loose Ends—This section touches on other considerations such as: risk management; pandemic compliance protocols; translation and interpretation; photographs; involving the media and members of foreign missions in your events; and the "Working Logistic Program", your event bible.

Course subscribers can proceed at their own pace, but should complete each lecture, within each section, before proceeding to the next section. Each Section concludes with a true, or false quiz, which you must complete before progressing to the next section.


When You Have Finished the Course

Upon completion of the final quiz you will receive a a downloadable Practical Protocol Course Completion Certificate, and a downloadable Practical Protocol: An Event Planner's Secret Weapon eBook version of the course. As well, once you have worked through the written material and completed all the quizzes, you will receive invitations to two upcoming Q&A Zoom sessions.


Course Content Questions?

A Q&A interface is in the works. In the meantime, you can contact the Course moderator at: [email protected] with any questions you may have about the course.


Q&A Zoom Sessions | Monthly Q&A sessions are included in your course fee

Once a month, your Course moderator will host a 60-minute, live Q&A Zoom session, at which the course material can be discussed. Two of these sessions are included in the price of the course. You will receive notifications about upcoming sessions and an invitation to attend. All Protocol Course subscribers must register to attend these sessions—registration is limited to enable all attendees to participate, so sign up early.


One-on-One Coaching Sessions | $100 hourly fee

Coaching sessions between the Practical Protocol course Moderator and course graduates are available for an hourly fee. Sessions are held on Zoom, at a mutually agreed upon date and time, and focus on topics that have been identified and agreed upon in advance. You may just want some one-on-one general coaching, or you have an important event coming up for which you need specific advice and support. For more information or to book a session, contact the Course moderator at: [email protected].