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Building Business Relationships – Look no further than your neighbor!

Building Relationships – The hallmark of Business Etiquette and Protocol.  There are tombs written on the variables of relationship-building in business, but it is not that difficult…Look no further than your neighbor!

The new world order is to place your focus on people not selling.

Your neighbors, who are working from home and making their way through this maze of uncertainty, would be glad to chat with you.  The new world order is to place your focus on people, not on what you can sell them. 

International business communication is forever changed.

Building international business relationships, in particular, required hosting your clients in grand style…the best hotels, fine dining, entertainment, meeting facilities par excellence, interpreters and gift giving rituals.  All good then, but due to our rapidly changing worldscape, travel is severely curtailed for the foreseeable future, forcing businesses to use Zoom, which leaves a lot to be desired from a human interaction standpoint.

What to do? Consider interacting more with your neighbors.

Let’s assume that “zooming” is tier #1 in this new evolving business communication process, but tier #2 could be interacting with your neighbors…keeping a safe distance of course. This Pandemic is a great leveler in that most of us venture out with mask and sunglasses and casual clothes, so there’s no real image hierarchy. We’re free to talk to our neighbors, without judgments and have no idea who they might be…this is freeing on some level.

Case in point.

Last week, I met a new neighbor who has the most precocious Corgi.  My pooch (Alfie) and the Corgi (Mr. Tony) immediately hit it off.  While they were busy sniffing around, Mr. Tony’s owner and I became acquainted…being Irish, we chat with everyone…gift of the gab no doubt. 

Make new connections.

We set a playdate for our respective charges and sat on a grassy hill watching them run back and forth.  It was a lovely, serene moment in the midst of this Tsunami-like change.  The conversation evolved into who we are and what we do in a very natural way.  There was no mandatory Business Card exchange (who carries Business Cards in their shorts?) and conversation flowed easily. We each went home and checked out our respective websites and discovered ways we can help each other…win/win…the dogs were happy; we were happy and we made a great connection. 

Back to basics.

Back to basics folks – this is how it should be…no more hard selling, let’s focus on building meaningful, lasting relationships where we can help each other to survive and thrive.

Don’t leave home without your dog treats!

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Coronavirus – Shopping Panic!

Covid-19 is here…T-Paper stampede in progress!  Don’t harangue the store personnel if they run out of much sought-after items…it’s not their fault, it’s everyone’s fault for being in a state of panic!

Shopping is like driving on the freeway…stay in your lane to avoid a “Cart” crash.  Visibility can become impaired if you can’t see over your ten cartons of T-Paper. Beware of “The Browser,” who will hover like a drone and not move on.  A polite “excuse me,” will do the trick and will usually snap them out of their reverie.  

People from other countries may not be aware of the American unspoken rule of walking on the right side (nearest the products on their right) not in the middle of the aisle.  They’ll get it soon enough, no need to glare at them…learned this one from personal experience!

And then there’s the line at the checkout counter where the person in front of you suddenly makes a mad dash back down the aisle for their forgotten hand sanitizer which is sold out anyway…oh so frustrating while you tap your foot, or the person who, on completion of their transaction, stands there to check everything on their receipt before their retreat.  What to do?  Humans are imperfect so avoid shopping if you are already in a frustrated mood.  Remember your mother told you to count to ten! 

If you have a lot of items in your Cart, let the person behind you with two items go ahead of you…it will make their day and goodwill spreads to all of those around you…a single act of kindness goes a long way.  After a while, you will get to know the checkout people in your favorite store.  Ask them how their day is going?  Don’t stand and have a chat, but it shows they are not robots and have a tough job to remain polite and smiling for an eight-hour shift, despite the rudeness they inevitably experience…the customer is always right!  

Finally, the three most important words in the English language – Please and Thank You cost nothing but are invaluable.

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Better Not Shake Hands!

As the Founder of IPIC, I have given countless presentations on the art of the handshake. It is the only physical greeting acceptable in business, or perhaps I should say, the most powerful greeting that conveys “who you are” in a matter of seconds.

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, it is no longer wise to shake hands with everyone you meet as we all have to play a role in not transmitting this disease.

The answer is the “Fist Bump,” or even the “Elbow Bump.”  The “Elbow Bump” is probably even a safer method due to the fact that there is no skin-to-skin contact.

To avoid coming across as rude or unprofessional, my advice to companies is to put up signs in the lobby, displaying: “Please do not shake hands due to the Coronavirus outbreak.”

Clients may automatically extend their hand on greeting and you may be concerned that you are coming across as rude when you decline. Apologize sincerely and say that it is against company policy because of the current situation.

Good health!

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“LOOK,” Look where? Look at what?

Where shall we look? What shall we look at?

On watching the
Impeachment proceedings, democratic debates, republican interviews, esteemed political
interviewers and interviewees, it is patently obvious that, from millennials to
seniors, they all use “LOOK” at the beginning of their statements. 

Have you ever listened to teenagers and cringe when they use “like this” and “like that” ad nauseum?  This has now been replaced by people who should know better, using “look” at the beginning every sentence or statement.

“Look,” I’m making a point here…there are “bigger fish to fry,” but please show a sense of presence by not using slang to make a point that may change the course of this country.

Marie Betts-Johnson


International Protocol Institute of



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10 Rules of being an Excellent Host

By: Marie Betts-Johnson, International Protocol Institute of California

October 20, 2019

The Holidays are right around the corner and whether you are hosting your colleagues or friends, the following will set the stage for the delicate dance of being an excellent host.

1.    Logistics – Questions to ask: Are there sufficient parking options for your guests? If not, provide valet service if needed. Bonus: Enlist College Students…they will welcome the extra cash for the Holidays. What is the optimum number of guests the room will accommodate? Will there be a theme? Will it be buffet-style or sit-down dinner? Will you need a caterer or servers? Where will be bar be located? Where are the restrooms? Will there be decorations involved as in Thanksgiving or Holiday traditions? What will the entertainment be?

2.    Dietary preferences…if you’re inviting Muslim or Hindu guests and those with food allergies, make sure you serve a selection of dishes that are pork/bacon free, meatless dishes for vegans etc. Place a sign on the designated platters.

3.    Choose your guests carefully: Include a mix of interesting people who have both common and uncommon interests. If you wish to invite guests who have a propensity for debating current issues, insist that they are considerate of others’ beliefs and ideologies…might be a “wild card” here or there, but do your best.

4.    Be ultra-prepared. You do not want your guests to arrive to a frazzled, stressed-out host putting the finishing touches on a dish you haven’t tried before that bears no resemblance to the pictures on UTube.

5.    A delicate dance: You are the choreographer keeping all the dancers in step. Meet and greet your guests at the door, usher them inside to meet your guests. Proceed to make the introductions. Launch them into conversation by telling each party a little about how you know them or something about their common interests. Once they’re settled in, graciously make your exit to ensure your other guests are taken care of.

6.    If someone is shy: Introduce them to guests who are outgoing. 

7.    If it’s a large group: Have several co-hosts who know exactly who is on the guest list and are capable of making the introductions and supporting you in making the event a success.

8.    The inconsiderate host who expects guests to fend for themselves: It’s your job, as host, to be generous in all ways, including not talking about yourself, but listening actively to glean information that might be of interest to other invitees and sharing it. It’s about making everyone shine and guess what? The light shines right back on you! 

9.    The role of the guest: The “rules of engagement” are to know you were not invited for the food or plant yourself at the Bar not bothering to make an effort. You were invited because you have something to add to the occasion and to meet new people. If you want to be invited back, you will have to bring a positive attitude and “Sing for your Supper!”

10. How to be a warm and inviting host? Make sure everyone feels welcome and included. Be an excellent conversationalist, ask questions, LISTEN to the answers, prod people to continue telling you about themselves…most people’s favorite subject. If you’re a scientist, engineer or technical wizard, to contribute to conversations, read, read and read as much as possible outside your field of expertise. Have a sense of humor and make people laugh…not at anyone’s expense of course. Be careful with humor in the international arena…it doesn’t travel well! Depending on the dynamics of the group, you might want to consider games like Trivia, which is always a hit. Don’t assume people know each other. Watch for introverts or new people in the group, take them under your wing until they can fly solo. 

Contact us with all your business etiquette and international protocol questions:

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The “Eyes” are the Mirrors of the Soul!

“The Eyes are the Mirrors of the Soul!”


In my protocol and etiquette coaching and training seminars, there are three reasons why people don’t want to make eye contact:

  1. People are shy and lack confidence to look you in the eye.
  2. Cultural differences: It is well known that Asians may not look you in the eye as a sign of respect.
  3. Younger generations, who spend so much time on their computers, I-Phones etc., just don’t see the importance of this as a powerful communications / relationship building tool. As mentioned in the article, they don’t want to miss something. It is actually a struggle for many of them to learn this discipline.


One solution is to “pretend that the person whom you are speaking with, has a red dot (resembling a Bindi) between the eyes and to look at that spot while in conversation. Even if one is shy, it will still appear to the other person that you are looking them in the eye.

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Culture Shock

Culture Shock: How to speak business anywhere

An abrupt response to a simple telephone greeting changed the trajectory of Gayle Cotton’s career.

When Cotton began her career working at the United Nations in Geneva in the early-90s, she answered a routine phone call with a polite, “Hello, how are you?”

Surprisingly, the person on the other end of the call was annoyed.

“He answered, ‘That’s none of your business. Now what I want to talk about is…’,” recalled Cotton, now president of Circles Of Excellence Inc, which offers training and coaching programs to global clients from its offices in the US and Europe.

It was nothing personal; the caller, a Swiss German, wanted to get down to business, and the personal was irrelevant. She began answering her phone using just her last name — emulating her colleagues in Geneva.

The experience and some similar interactions led Cotton, author of Say Anything to Anyone, Anywhere, to her current career.

In an increasingly globalised workplace, where team members might be spread across continents and clients spread even more widely, communicating proper cultural norms can be the difference between working well together and securing a deal — or watching things crumble.

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The Gulf Today

DUBAI: Dubai’s chance to shine on the world stage! The Government is expected to spend $7 billion on infrastructure, a plan that is already in motion.

Hotels and the Tourism Industry will benefit enormously from this spectacular event. It is projected as a boon to the already lucrative real estate market.

Dubai forecasts 25 million visitors to the region and the importance of protocol and diplomacy cannot be over-emphasized.

Preparation and logistics are paramount to hosting international visitors, dignitaries and delegations.

The demand for trained and certified Protocol Specialists has never been more urgent in all areas of business from government entities, airport personnel, security, transportation, hotels, restaurants and expo personnel.

On April 23 – 28, 2016, The International Protocol Institute of California, in partnership with Levenbert Consulting Services will present: Train To Be An International Protocol Specialist 2016 A 5-day Intensive Training Programme covering International Protocol, Diplomacy and Cross-Cultural Relations which was successfully launched in Dubai, 2015 International Protocol Institute of California (based in San Diego) in partnership with Levenbert Consulting, successfully launched its first international protocol certification program, ‘Train To Be An International Protocol Specialist’ from Dec 6-12, 2015.


Barnali Dutta
Business Development Manager | Cell +971 52 7357300 | Tel: +9714 4172417 | Dir: +9714 4172477 | Skype: ria_dutta80

Marie Betts-Johnson

Director, International Protocol Institute of California® Tel: +1 858 259-8302

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Executive Presence

Executive Presence

Executive Presence are the buzz words for recent trends in career development circles.Recently, on being invited by a group of high-level executives to speak on this topic, it became apparent that few, if any, are born with this enviable trait, which then begged the question of, can it be studied and can one graduate from the School of Executive Presence?  The answer is “yes” and “no!”  Like great athletes, one must first have a natural ability followed by extensive study, practice and hands-on experience.


Nobody is born with Executive Presence.

Nobody is born with Executive Presence and successful people have learned it through a combination of mistakes, experience, vision and sheer grit. “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will” Mahatma Gandhi.

Royalty and others in positions of power are groomed from an early age.

Royalty and others in positions of power are taught, beginning in early childhood, the rudiments and protocol of deportment in every situation and therefore, have an immense advantage. By the time, they are ready to rule, they have already been groomed and need only to step into their positions with grace and knowledge…at least that is the hope! Note, image is everything and when we consider the concept of “dress for success,” it is a derivative of Queen Elizabeth I’s penchant for designing gowns with enormous girth that would hardly fit through doorways, hence the need for castles to make a grand entrance, with the desired affect of using space to impart an image of power and majesty…wonder what she would consider “dress-down” Fridays!

Religious and philosophical backgrounds play an important role.

Many famous, accomplished figures in history and politics have been influenced by religious and philosophical ideals in their childhood and hence, bring a sense of wisdom and inherent charisma to their rise in notoriety. Consider Mahatma Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King. Other leaders with religious influences include Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Theresa May. Their inner beliefs propel them in their self-belief that they have the capability to attain and maintain positions of such high authority. On researching their body language, it is evident that they have observed and learned the stance of power at meetings and during presentations.

In summary, nobody is born with Executive Presence, it is a combination or a result of all of the foregoing.

How does one acquire Executive Presence?

Is it possible to learn or acquire Executive Presence? Yes, first one has to recognize it in others and carefully consider what traits they have that impart Executive Presence. Having identified these traits (assuming one understands how valuable these traits are to his/her career advancement), then research and learning, beginning with polished corporate etiquette, impeccable communication skills, excellent memory, advanced emotional intelligence, diplomatic leadership, powerful presentation skills, media management and finally, cross-cultural and international protocol, are the foundation blocks to be built upon and perfected.

For inspiration, read biographies of successful leaders and understand that struggle is honing you for future possibilities! Be a student of history and you will see the machinations of power and where it was used for good and for the not so good!

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