Thursday, January 22, 2015

The "Invisible Man"

“When you don’t know what you don’t know, you don’t know what you’re missing.”
Judith Rasband AICI CIM

Professional Presence: Social and professional stance that elicits trust, respect and camaraderie. It responds appropriately with behaviors and mannerisms acceptable in a civil society.

Protocol is an established code of behavior. It is rooted in tradition and steeped in courtesies and required decorum. A breach of protocol or etiquette is often unspoken, but has been the ruin of many promising relationships. However, the command of protocol and etiquette is often overlooked in today’s “business casual “marketplace.

As the business arena becomes more culturally intertwined, protocol and etiquette have assumed an increasingly important role in establishing long-term relationships. Professional presence facilitates a positive personal rapport and builds the foundation for solid relationships. It is the invisible cloak worn on top of your suit and just inside your skin. John Kuypers “Who's The Driver Anyway?” states that "presence is self awareness and the foundation to growing your presence with others. It is the polish inside of a person. When worn correctly, it is the edge that quietly distinguishes you as charismatic and self-assured professional." These attributes coupled with requisite social skills make up a person’s “presence power points”.

Professional Presence is not part of an employment application. It is not listed as a job title or function, or measured according to the number of degrees behind your name. It does not show up on standard tests measuring intelligence or technical expertise, but it identifies you to everyone you meet. In short, it is the essence of who you are. It is exuded in all of business and social affairs, every time and everywhere. It is in fact, the "invisible man"!

But, how does one gain this presence? Unless one was reared in the genteel society of charm schools and debutantes, it is a skill taught rather than caught. Proper protocol instruction makes sense of the nuances of professional behavior from knowing when, where and how to sit, the significance of a handshake, making a proper introduction, and to whom honor is given at a dining function. Protocol instruction delves into the challenges of the international arena and paints a clear picture of how to avoid and recover from social faux pas. This knowledge is necessary to be confident and in control in any business or social setting.

Today, training courses in Protocol and Etiquette should be championed by Human Resources departments as part of employee on-boarding as well as annual refresher training curriculum. Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and company managers would do well to consider contracting Protocol Instructors before employees are asked to interact with clients in a private or social manner. Private lessons are always valuable for personal training or as refreshers for host/hostess duties. Because military protocol is different in many aspects from civilian life, protocol training may be used as a social and cultural bridge back into society or to help civilians provide the proper respect and consideration when honoring military personnel. Whether in a group or private setting, protocol instruction benefits all involved. From the company CEO to the college graduate entering the workforce, professional presence is the edge that gives everyone a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Protocol…the silent language of the accomplished professional.

Pamela Coopwood, CEO of Speaking of Protocol, LLC is available for corporate training and workshops in professional protocol and business etiquette. For a complete list of available training visit or to book her as speaker at your next event contact her now at

Wednesday, July 2, 2014 behave!

Recently, I was berated by a sweet faced lady, who assuming I was familiar with all of the local landmarks, curtly informed me that I should make it my business to "know" my city if I expected people to frequent here. Then, she sped off, turning across several lanes to reach whatever destination was next on her agenda. As I shook my head, I thought, "Welcome to tourist season!".

Hello,  are you a tourist? Yes? Well, welcome to our city, our community, and our world in Any Town, USA! We really appreciate that you have chosen to travel our streets, explore our sites, stay in our hotels and taste our culinary delights! We will try not to stare at your choice of dress, snicker at your accent, or beep when you are lost and make wide left turns from the right hand lane! But, we do need you to know that this is our home and like any good guest, there are rules for civilized and polite engagement which enhances the experience for all. 
Vayama, an online international agency states, "over half of travelers (54%) said they typically stick to U.S. customs when traveling abroad, and nearly half (47%) said they did something when traveling outside the U.S. that they later learned was inappropriate behavior in that country." I would take this a step further to include "local culture" as a "country" replete with its own dialects, customs and traditions. Even within the U.S., Americans do not all speak the same cultural language. 

Tourists, visitors and locals alike sometimes need a reminder of proper protocol and the expected manners, i.e. social graces, which provide the glue and ground rules of a civilized society. The basics, please, thank you, etc., we assume were mastered before leaving home, and like driving in another state, should be simply a matter of carefully navigating the street layout in order to arrive at the appropriate destination! 
But, in case the zeal of vacation finds us bereft of proper behavior, I offer a few friendly tips to the savvy traveler in hopes of making the encounter a pleasant experience for us and you .

1. Don't assume everyone is local or familiar with the local landmarks. Visit tourist information centers and map out what you want to see and do, where you want to sleep, etc., and then orientate yourself by driving through the city.

2. Out- of -State license tags do not grant immunity to local laws, courtesies or merit special privileges. You must still give way to pedestrians, use your turn signal and give way to oncoming traffic. And please, if you are lost, don't just drive slower, pull over!

3. All local traffic is the "worst you've ever seen"! Plan for delays and expect to get lost at least once. Learn the local traffic patterns to alleviate frustration and avoid most traffic jams. Refrain from using your horn except in emergencies! 

4. Do some research on local culture. Don't expect to go to the opera in a small rural town or find a hayride in the middle of a metropolis.

5. Random photography of people doing things that are normal for them is seldom welcome. Always ask permission. Also , remember, that social media is public and someone always knows the face or situation you carelessly post. A word of caution...don't! 

6. Accents are part of culture. Once, when traveling south, my companion asked a young lady to repeat herself numerous times because he found her drawl so hilarious! Chances are that if the local dialect sounds funny to you, the locals are thinking the same thing about yours! Refrain from snide remarks and giggling as people speak.

7. Dress appropriately at cultural or religious events. Regardless of the current fad, people still equate dress with breeding and protocol. Always bring "event neutral clothing" when traveling. For women, this may be a long skirt which doubles as a dress. For men, it may be a pair of khakis, a shirt and loafers.

8. Hotels, even chains, vary in quality and price. Research, research, research! It does no good to demand an amenity like an indoor pool when it is not a part of that property!

9. Remember, crime is not a respecter of tourism, so try not to look like a tourist! Store valuables out of sight before you arrive at your destination. Use ATM's with caution and avoid flashing large amounts of cash. Pickpockets and vagrants are everywhere, therefore always use caution and wisdom before giving handouts. Place valuables out of reach when you ask for directions or the windows are down. Try to avoid secluded places at odd hours. Always locate the nearest hospital, pharmacy or grocery stores as well as the local police station.

10. Finally, respect the local sites and history of area. A battlefield is still a battlefield, even if it's within a park! Don't trample over graves, pick flowers, carve trees or deface property. As my Girl Scout leader use to say, "take only pictures, and leave only footprints." 

I am Pamela Coopwood and I am Speaking of Protocol.

Pamela Coopwood, a Certified Trainer of business protocol and etiquette, offers corporate seminars, classes and training to enhance the soft skills of protocol and etiquette.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Yard Sales...the Signs of Summer!

I love a great bargain! Department store clearance racks aside, nothing spells summer like a handmade YARD SALE sign!  For the avowed  bargain hunter, it's enough to cause salivation like Pavlov's dog!  I would rather spend an hour in search of a relic than ten minutes choosing from a rack of properly priced and neatly arranged anything. Cataloged and pristine items have a place during the holiday rush or end-of-season sales, but there is a feeling of accomplishment from unearthing a hidden treasure at the back of a bin of purses or the bottom of a crate of books!  "Junk stores" and road side shops are also intriguing, but a yard sale is the urbanites hunting ground!  So, when we spot the sign, alert the car to make the u-turn, slam into park and attempt to amble nonchalantly amongst the goodies, here are a few tips to make our hunting ground a more enjoyable experience:

1. Assume everything you touch has a sentimental value. It was once a gift, belonged to a loved one, or is part of a treasured memory.

2. Resist the urge to ramble and scatter. If you spot something at the bottom, carefully move the items above without breakage or damage.

3. Prices are often thought about and pre-set prior to the sale. Mild haggling is permissible, but berating an items value or the seller's pricing preference is rude. Remember rule #1.

4. Be mindful of where you step. Space is often at a premium and items may be placed in a haphazard manner. Stepping on or over anything may obligate you to purchase the damaged item.

5. Stick to the sale area. Refrain from opening doors, wandering around back or helping yourself to items that are clearly not a part of the sale or requesting to use the facilities.

6. Respect the posted hours. A sale which begins at 7 A.M. is still really early and to show up or poke around at 6 A.M. is tantamount to entering a store with the employees!

7. Yard shoppers assume all risk after the sale! If you bought something which you thought had value which  later proves to be a great replica, well, if it fooled you, then it obviously is good enough to use, display or place in your next yard sale!

8. When you finally reach the bottom of the barrel and still cannot find the matching item, accept that it may be missing or a mismatch and that is what renders it a yard sale item.

9. Be patient and  be kind to other buyers.  Don't push, snatch or shove to get to something first.

10. Mind the little hands and feet of children who accompany you. Also, remember that a toy or stuffed animal may not decrease in value, even if a tantrum is thrown by the adult or the child. Don't allow your child to bond with the item before you have successfully  purchased the it. Pay first, smile longer.

I am Pamela Coopwood and I am "Speaking of Protocol". 

Pamela Coopwood, a Certified Trainer of business protocol and etiquette, offers corporate seminars, classes and training to enhance the soft skills of protocol and etiquette.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Did you hear about poor old....

(In loving memory of my brother, Gregory.
 You always believed I could.) 
It's been a while since I have written something public but recent events have driven the protocol person inside of me crazy! Through a series of unfortunate events, I found myself seated in a funeral parlor surrounded by friends, family, well-wishers, and onlookers. One hardly expects to know everyone who shows up at such a gathering, but cordial behavior is extended to all, no matter how severe the grief. But, there is a line. Crossing it whether knowingly or unwittingly, always causes the recipient of such foolishness to reassess their tenacious hold on their present reality. They must first ask themselves, if the person is actually real. In times of grief, it is easy to imagine things another way because each moment is filled with "what if's and why's". After ascertaining the obvious, yes, there they are, the next question becomes, "did I really hear that or did they actually do that?" This also bears a moment's reflection because hallucinations or surrealism often accompanies grief.  And if the internal checks accept the truth of the current situation or person, then it is incumbent on us to either smile and step aside or politely shove them into the flowers. Either way it is handled, it will always be remembered with extreme forgiveness  at as such seemingly abrupt rudeness or aloofness on your part, because, "poor dear, they were grieving so hard!"  Here are some general rules of protocol for expressing condolences that allows you to express real sympathy without becoming part of the pain:

1. Respect the family's time to grieve. I haven't spoken to one person who hasn't been appalled at the media's "camera in face" footage of the poor waiting families when they heard of the recent plight of the missing Malaysian aircraft. Truly, we didn't want to share or know that much. You are an outsider pretending to be concerned. What you call sensational news is truly personal pain to us. Go away.

2. Refrain from asking questions which require repeating the horrid details that led to the current situation. Clearly, no matter what could or should have happened, didn't. To ask the same question that every insensitive person has asked since the occurrence is like pouring salt on a fresh cut. It burns to tears each time.  In time, you will know what is public. If you were closer than that, you wouldn't have to ask.

3. Sudden bereavement is seldom a time of exuberance. If you are attending the visitation, refrain from any attempt to turn it into a social hour. Loud, rambunctious laughter may have been the past style of the deceased, but at this moment, the reminder may not be so welcomed. Gauge the atmosphere before joining the receiving line. Respectfully greet, smile, nod, or even hug if appropriate, but never assume that this is the time to reminisce about the good old days or hold up the line with inappropriate inquiries (See #2 above!)

4.  Unless you are immediate family, don't assume liberties such as pointing out perceived flaws in the deceased dress, facial expressions, and/or other banal findings which may ramble through your thoughts. Resist dragging unwilling participants over to verify your findings or asking a family member to take or put something in place. It is not party dressing but parting dress and careful scrutiny has already occurred before you arrived.

5.  Taking unsolicited photos of grieving family members or their loved ones in the casket is a no-no! Even if you are a professional photographer, do not attempt to corral the family, snapping like paparazzi, or worse, asking the bereaved to smile; I assure you, no matter how glad they are to see you, this is the last expression the face wants to make. 

6. By the same token, if the person was indebted to you in any manner, and/or you are feeling anything other than grief, do not canvas the crowd or haggle with family members to discover details about legal matters or proceedings. It is not only in bad taste, it reeks of rudeness and apathy.

7. Burials are personal. Yours will be also. If you accompany the family to the gravesite, don't' offer meaningless platitudes such as "they are in a better place", right now, the "they" that you are mourning is being placed into the ground! While spiritually it may mean more later, at that moment, the reality of not seeing the person tomorrow makes rational thoughts of a better place hard to swallow. There are moments in life when words may not be necessary. This is one of them... let the meditation of your heart be acceptable...choose silence.

8. Don't ask for things. Leftover flowers or plants may be a free for all at the funeral home, but selling the car or renting the house is another. It has been said that “Death is the most viral of all life events” , i.e., it is big news! Some people shamelessly scour the newspapers looking for obituaries of people they know or whose family, in their own eyes, appears prominent or needy. Then,  although the person is barely gone, the telephone begins to ring or the letters of inquiry arrive offering a promising solution to what appear to be  "just an additional financial hardship"! The family has a right to take their time in decisions of disposable and release. Even if they appear burdened with excessive debt or you are privy to the personal financial status, resist the urge to become a vulture! 

9. Please remember that although something may have been promised to you, it still belongs with the family until they can stand or bear to part with it. If you never get it, find another way to live with your memory. In addition, words for future peace to the wise - if a person cares enough for you to have a thing, make sure they put it in writing.

10. A good friend, family member understands that grieving is not quick or pleasant. Be prepared for unexplained emotions, random acts of confusion and anguish. Learn how to "hold" an emotional moment close in quiet empathy without demeaning the person because " it's been 3 months!".  In some cultures, grieving rituals last up to twelve months! The best way through grief is by grieving. Rev. York, writes in an article, Seasons of Grief, that as anniversaries, significant events or shared memories approach, allow the bereaved  to have opportunities to create rituals of remembrance and mark milestones of memory. There is not an prescription, a scripture or a prayer that will bring back what is missed the most. Time heals and time, well it takes time.

I am Pamela Coopwood, and I am Speaking of Protocol

Pamela Coopwood is a Certified Trainer of professional Protocol and Etiquette. Her company, Speaking of Protocol, LLC, offers seminars, classes and corporate training to enhance the soft skills to be successful in today’s business arena.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Point of Protocol: It may be your birthday!!...or not!

A Point of Protocol: It may be your birthday!!...or not!: So, maybe your beginning story wasn't so great…or maybe it was. You were blasted into a cold world of happy, romantic, baby loving bl...

It may be your birthday!!...or not!

So, maybe your beginning story wasn't so great…or maybe it was. You were blasted into a cold world of happy, romantic, baby loving bliss and you grew up the cherished angel of so many hopes and dreams and then you became, well, you. Or, you were tricked into coming into a cold dark reality where you not only had to eek out an existence, but somehow manage to make sense of it all while holding onto your sanity until you became, well, you. Whichever the case, with the new year starting all over, I think it’s time we celebrate! It’s your birthday today or if not today, then another day like it is coming soon and one of them has to be yours! You were meant to be celebrated, you were meant to be special, you were meant to be, well, you! Perhaps, depending on the clarity of your glass, half empty or full, you may want to do something different fun, even exciting or daring. Maybe, even to learn something new because today is the first day you will ever be this young again!
Here are some protocol tips to keep you on the receiving end of well wishers and family. Remember, birthdays only count if you continue to have them, so be safe!

1. Don’t assume that everyone already knows! If you want to be celebrated, simple state “Today is my birthday and I want to….” This sentiment is best practiced on friends and family who have a vested interest in helping you to make this a great day. Advance notice is also nice in case said friends or family wants to give you a gift or may be otherwise occupied at the last minute.

2. If you want to do something wild or adventurous, consider who you ask. Don’t attempt to coerce others into your fantasy without permission. I once had a friend invite me to explore a famous cavern for her birthday celebration. Imagine my horror when we drove four hours to embark upon a six-hour spelunking trip complete with interior cave exploration crawling on hands, knees and stomach in tan shorts, a white tee-shirt and with only a headlight in total darkness!  A word to the wise, this is not the way to keep future friends!!

3. Be prepared to pay if you invite your guest to a restaurant. I know it sounds crazy but the old rule still applies, unless offered, if you ask, you pay. Do you ever recall emptying your piggy bank just to go to someone’s birthday party?? Remember, other than a gift as a token of celebration, it’s your party and they can pay if they want to… so, pick your guest and your celebration location wisely.  On the other hand, if someone offers to pay, don’t argue, reach for the check or cause embarrassment, simply say “Thank You” and smile!

4. Don’t assume special privileges from perfect strangers. It was once taken for granted that you would receive a small token just for existing if you proudly announced your special day. The kids would allow you to move to the head of the cafeteria line, you got to sit in the front seat with the parents, your boss let you leave a tad early and even restaurants gave freebies! But today, even if you are able to “have your cake and then eat it too” you should not expect the same level of wonderment and awe unless you go to a restaurant that sings and/or you get to wear the special hat!

4. Speaking of Cake, if there are candles, blow gently! Try to avoid at all cost using flying spittle to help extinguish the flames. Unless you are in a restaurant or a catered affair, it is also good protocol to cut the cake and serve your guests first, then yourself. Birthdays do not exclude you from being a great host/hostess! However, if someone offers to cut and serve the cake, then you as the guest of honor should be served first!

5. Don’t make friends and family feel obligated to gift you especially if you have not been an ardent gift giver yourself. By the same token, if you have given and you do not receive, demonstrate maturity and remain quiet. (Note: this does not pertain to married people. Be prepared for emotions and lots of them!) Next year, drop hints before your big day and plan early to reciprocate in other celebrations. When given a gift, American tradition is to open it, comment and thank the giver, and yes, protocol dictates that you should still send a thank you message later. By the way, gift cards to gas/convenience stores count and make great last minute gifts!

6. Don’t lie. If your day has passed, then accept that today is about someone else! Don’t milk the celebration by declaring “well, my birthday was last…!” You will appear petty and selfish and next year, you may be dubbed ungrateful by more than just your family. If asked, politely state that your birthday has recently passed and speak about the adventure of it all.

7. If you didn't get the celebration you had hoped for, chin up! One thing that is certain –if you live long enough, you’ll have another chance!

I am Pamela Coopwood and I am “Speaking of Protocol”

Pamela Coopwood is a Certified Trainer of professional Protocol and Etiquette. Her company, Speaking of Protocol, LLC, a subsidiary of The Planned Event, LLC, offers seminars, classes and corporate training's to enhance the soft skills necessary to be successful in today’s business arena.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Your Future Self

 “The future is always ideal: The fridge is stocked, the weather clear, the train runs on schedule and meetings end on time. Today, well, stuff happens.”
Hara Estroff Marano Psychology Today

I had almost forgotten what I pledged to do this time last year, to make this year a better year than the year before, and the year before, and the year before! Each year, I look myself in the mirror and make a promise about how I will change first, my eating habits, then improve on my professional appearance, and rev up my physical regime. I vow to feed my intellectual self with profound reading and snazzier social choices and began a new path to spiritual enlightenment while doing more of my meager part to save a suffering humanity!  Every year, I put on things that will never be checked off! I feel guilty for about the first six weeks as I pass the list on my bathroom mirror, flip past it in my planner or tuck it behind the grocery list on the refrigerator. Then, just about the time the weight loss advertisements began to wane, and I have adjusted to the monthly gym deductible, or have joined a local lecture series by roll, but not attendance, and have amassed an impressive amount of neatly stacked articles and/or books written by the latest divine guru…it happens. Life returns to normal and my routine once more becomes an endless cycle of rituals deemed necessary to endure today and get to tomorrow. That list I spent hours agonizing over on New Year’s Day is lost, forgotten and/or buried in a myriad of daily priorities, where it shall remain until I randomly stumble across it while sorting through my junk mail or am in need of a quick scratch paper while on the telephone, or (gasp!!) it is once again New Year’s Eve!
So, I ask myself, “Self, why do you continuously make these promises to you and then allow everything else to become more important than taking care of you?” Rarely does self answer right back or give a straight answer because to do so would mean admitting that the entire thing was a charade that I thought was necessary and it clearly is not…at least, not right now!  I am a victim of what David McRaney, author of  “You Are Now Less Dumb”, terms “present bias” which is being unable to grasp the reality that what you want will change over time, and what you want now isn’t the same thing you will want later. This bias also prevents the business professional from admitting that where they are now, is not going to take them to where they want to be later. Something always has to change and change always involves a conscious decision to become more valuable to ourselves and those around us.
Which brings me the long way around, to my first 2014 point of protocol.
My friend has a quote on her white board that simply states “My future self cannot be trusted to accomplish today’s task”.  This is true. We cannot wait until we are in a better place in order to get to a better place! Another quote stated that “when opportunity knocks, it is too late to get ready!” Professional Presence is like that. If you wait until you need it or don’t understand that it is assumed, you may never realize you don’t have it or even be aware when it’s expected! If you don’t know how to shake hands or make a proper introduction, you won’t know that you are lacking in this skill until you are in the situation. If you don’t know how to navigate a Business dining situation, you will miss important elements of the conversation focusing attention on trivial external stimuli (which glass is mine?!), rather than seizing an opportunity to make a great impression by demonstrating impeccable manners and a honed intellect! Good manners and business savvy are soft skills that are not cited, but are assumed of every job applicant, regardless of physical abilities, social acumen or education level.  Because we never know what or where life will take us, or when we will have an opportunity to make a great first impression, the professional business person who wants to actually be, and not just appear polished, ensures that professional protocol training is part of their yearly check-up. The CEO or company executive that wants to ensure their workforce always represents their highest standards in the best style, makes protocol and professional savvy awareness part of the Human Resources training process through refresher courses, new employee orientation or workshops that target specific aspects of professionalism. 
Protocol is more than just knowing the right thing, it is doing it. The person who understands the power of professional presence exudes a level of confidence which elicits trust and trust always affects the bottom line.
So, at this time of year when we are all so noticeably focused inwardly and assessing our need to make self improvements or change, remember that protocol is the one thing that requires us to focus outwardly.  It summarily requires us to make an conscious investment of attention to other people and be present in the moment. Whether in business or socially, professional presence requires us to always do one thing, and that well; to interact with charisma and respect, regardless of our personal resolutions.
Protocol ~ the silent language of the accomplished professional.
I am Pamela Coopwood, and I am Speaking of Protocol.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Party Perfect!

Party Perfect

It's holiday party time! The season for festive sweaters, glittering jackets and sequined skirts! All year long we plan for this and some of us have saved last season’s bargain finds for this year’s festivities…but as we study the invitation, we wonder if that reindeer nosed sweater is really appropriate for this year’s event?   What should you wear? Oh wait! There's no dress code on the invitation! What should you do? Well, first, don't leave dress to guesswork. If you're not sure, ask the host/hostess.

Next, realize that in spite of the dress code, your attire should always reflect professional presence. Just as one is cautioned not to overdo casual Friday i.e., change only one item of clothing, dress up times should be equally as conservative. Clothes communicate powerful messages about status, authority, power and rank. Whether we like it or not, success and professionalism have developed their own image within all social circles. Our clothing is our social exchange for belonging within a certain group. According to Wikipedia, “dress codes are written and, more often, unwritten rules with regard to clothing.”  Clothing has a social significance and is an important part of social exchanges. That means you can't show up with your blinking nose reindeer sweater and assume it will be OK "because it's just so cool".  Protocol demands that you take pains to ensure you wear the proper attire and don't give away your personal power.

In her book, Etiquette in Minutes, Etiquette Expert Syndi Seid offers guidelines to selecting appropriate party attire:

Black Tie: Men should wear a single or double breasted suit jacket with a black silk bow tie, black slacks and shoes. This is commonly referred to as “tuxedo or tux” dress for civilians or "full dress uniform" for military personnel.  Women should dress in a floor length gown, one piece or separates.

Black Tie Optional: Men may wear tuxedo attire or a dark suit with a white shirt and a tie. Avoid light colored suits, sweater jackets or sport coats. Women's choices are a floor length gown, an elegant suit or cocktail attire.

Business/Smart Casual: Business casual, meaning slightly informal but neat attire is the least understood dress code because it is only used in America! It can include items such as a leisure suit, nice shirt or sweater, slacks or khakis. But, you should err on the side of caution. It is best to be overdressed than undressed. Removing a jacket or necklace can tone down an overdressed outfit, but nothing disguises denim or athletic wear! Generally, you do the following when attending a business casual event:
Men should wear a sports coat, colored or white shirt, slacks and loafer-styled shoes. Women can choose business attire, church attire, or skirt/slacks with a matching jacket/sweater or blazer. Select shoes that accent your outfit, but avoid sequined or high heeled stilettos unless that is what you normally wear.

Casual Dress: Men can dress in long or short pants and a collared shirt with a coordinated sweater or a sports jacket. Ties are optional. Women can wear shorts, pants or skirts with a blouse, sweater or jacket.

Formal: Men may wear a dark suit with coordinated tie and shirt if the occasion is before 6PM. Women traditionally wear cocktail attire, business attire or a dressy suit. After 6 PM, formal is equal to Black Tie.

Informal or Semi-formal: For occasions before 6 PM, this attire is similar to Business Casual in the United States. A coat and tie or a business suit is appropriate for men. For women, a dress suit or church dress is appropriate. Any event after 6 PM should be considered dressier. So, men may choose to wear a dark business suit while women dress in a long cocktail dress or business suit.

White Tie: Men are expected to appear in a tailcoat with a white bow tie. Women should appear in the fanciest floor length formal gown, complete with gloves should they desire!
Following proper protocol when choosing your attire is essential to establishing and maintaining the power of presence. Remember, you're not dressing to impress; you're simply and silently communicating the power of your presence.

So, when selecting your party clothes this holiday season, don't forget about protocol....because it matters!

I am Pamela Coopwood, and I am “Speaking of Protocol”

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

To Tree or not to culture the difference?!

I have a friend who has a love/hate relationship with Christmas. She loves to give gifts but tries to limit them to a certain age range to save money. She abhors receiving gifts because she feels it obligates her to reciprocate whether she can afford it or not. She likes Christmas trees and decorations but hates putting them up and taking them down. If she could, she would go into hiding and opt out of December all together. I am certain that she is not alone in this sentiment.

Holidays can be expensive and stressful, but a few Christmas protocol pointers will help you hang onto your holiday cheer.

What is the protocol for Christmas trees? Ultimately, there is none. Displaying evergreen trees in homes during winter months actually predates Christianity.  But many people think that the Christmas tree originated in America. But in actuality, the oldest record of a decorated Christmas tree is from Strasburg, Germany in 1605 and it was ornamented with apples, nuts, and other edibles! And we don't see a record of a decorated tree in America until 1747, but even then, it was linked to German tradition, as it was displayed in the German Moravian Church's settlement in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. So, whether you display a fully decorated tree or no tree at all is a matter of personal choice. Any religious meaning or protocol attached to it is based on the memories of one’s own ancestral heritage or familial customs.

What is the protocol for decorations? Like the Christmas tree, whether you choose to decorate or not is a personal choice. This is not true, however, when it comes to taking them down. For outdoor decorations, it is a matter of etiquette to put them away shortly after the holidays. Your neighbors should not have to battle wind tossed elves and singing Christmas lights year round.

What is the protocol for gift giving? Gifting is used to celebrate a person, an event or accomplishment, or to commemorate an agreement or occasion. Different regions, countries, and cultures have their own history and significance for Christmas gifts. For example, many American Christians believe Christmas gifts are symbolic of God’s ultimate gift of Jesus to redeem mankind. This follows the tradition of the Magi who brought gifts to commemorate the birth of Christ. Conversely, cultures with different belief systems may assign a dissimilar value to gift giving or choose not to exchange gifts at all.

Regardless of cultural beliefs, the accepted protocol is that when you receive a gift, to offer something in return. However, there are some protocol considerations which are exceptions to this rule.

1.  Some people give “just because” and want nothing in return. If you can't or won't let this act of kindness slip pass without reciprocation, keep a small stash of generic gifts to give in return!

2. Remember that gifts are not tied to price tags! It is bad protocol to assess the value of a gift or to suggest or hint that you are even thinking about it. Conversely, don’t belittle your gift with statements such as “it’s just a little something,” “I didn't have much money,” or worse, “you can return it if you don’t like it”. The last phrase more or less obligates the person to keep the gift to avoid offending you.

3. It is okay to give a gift to one person within a group. Gifts should be given in proportion to the relationship you have with a person. It is awkward and embarrassing to give a gift to people you barely interact with. If you wish to be selective in your gifting, present your gift outside of the group environment. Also, make sure you know the company policy before gifting your co-workers and/or boss. Avoid giving gifts with the company logo if the gift is not from the company as this may be considered poor taste.

4. If you're invited to a private home, good protocol indicates that a small gift is appropriate. But, never ask the host to display or use your gift for the evening’s events. Remember, it is their gift to use or display as they see fit.

5. If you are gifting overseas or to people from a different culture, avoid giving gifts that their country is famous for (ex. beer in Germany or cheese in France). Give items from your culture that conveys thoughtfulness and goodwill without being offensive. Also, be sure to understand the importance that a culture places on specific gifts. Don't assume what is significant to you will carry the same sentiment in another society. If you are presenting a gift to a business associate, research the gift beforehand. If the person is a close friend, consider asking them about their culture's protocols.

6. Finally, visitors to America are briefed that Americans open a gift immediately. However, remember that other traditions or cultures may have different protocols for opening gifts.

I am Pamela Coopwood, and I am “Speaking of Protocol”


Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Point of Protocol: The TRUTH about the turkey!

A Point of Protocol: The TRUTH about the turkey!: According to a recent news report, a certain brand of turkey refused to respond to the chemical concoction used to fatten them up for prop...