• Three Reasons to Love Protocol

    FROM THE Summer 2014 ISSUE

    Knowing proper etiquette about toasting, displaying flags, receiving lines and gift giving can save major embarassment. 

A LARGE PART OF WHY MY EMPLOYER, Lockheed Martin, has an Office of Protocol is because we have such a large government customer base. Our customer places much emphasis on protocol, and we place great value on knowing and respecting our customers. Every day I deal with being aware of the difference between military ranks, knowing how much we can ethically provide our customers in catering and working to make sure the appropriate level of attendees are in a meeting. get connected

Flag Placements

When flown with flags of other countries, they should all be on separate staffs of the same height, all should be the same size of flag and one nation’s flag should never be positioned higher than another nation’s in time of peace. The order of precedence is national flags (first the U.S. flag, then others in alphabetical order), state flags (flown either in alphabetical or date of admission), territories, military (Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard) and other flags.

When a flag is displayed on a podium, the U.S. flag should always be on the speaker’s right (the place of prominence), and other flags placed to the left of the speaker. When hung from a staff, flags should always be hanging down to the right (from the viewer’s stance). There is never any guessing when it comes to the U.S. flag-there are countless protocols in place and plenty of resources if a question ever arises. Before your next big event, do a quick check of the flags.

Gift Giving

When working with international customers, it is important to brush up on gift giving. The Japanese culture takes gift giving very seriously-a gift is an important gesture of your business and relationship. When giving a gift to a Japanese recipient, always coordinate with an appropriate contact about whether a gift exchange will be a part of the meeting and the level of gift to be exchanged. Do not give a clock or timepiece to a Japanese customer as that signifies a relationship coming to an end, and always be sure to wrap your gift-but never in white paper, as white signifies death.

Australia, Canada and European countries do not place such a high importance on gift giving in business relationships. But be forewarned: A small gesture-even a gift of flowers or wine-is still standard protocol when invited to an informal dinner party; if you show up empty handed, your host will notice.

Receiving Lines and Formal Dinners

When a receiving line is expected, a guest should never arrive after the line has been disbanded (usually show up within 35 minutes of the start of the event-no fashionably late entrances). A typical receiving line is as follows: announcer (if appropriate), host, guest of honor, guest of honor’s wife, host’s wife, and extra man. The extra man is placed there so that a woman is not placed at the end of the line (such chivalry!).

At a formal dinner, know the place setting when sitting to eat and sit only after being instructed to sit; ladies, allow the gentlemen to assist with your chair. The bread plate sits to your left (how many lunches or dinners have you been at where one person at a round table starts on the wrong side?), and the drink sits to your right. An easy trick is to make an "o" with your thumb and pointer finger on each hand; your left hand naturally makes a "b" for bread and your right hand makes a "d" for drink. And if the silverware at your place setting seems out of control, always remember to start from the outside and work your way in. And last but not least, if you are the one being toasted, do not take a drink. You must wait until the next toast is given to another person or dinner is served; never drink on a toast to yourself.


Leslie Lloyd is in the Office of Protocol & Event Planning for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, where she has worked for 11 years. Based in Littleton, she grew up in Colorado and graduated from Colorado State University.

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