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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!

Format for our programs include:

  • On site training programs
  • Public Seminars
  • Private Coaching

Upcoming Programs:


Telephone:+1 (619) 675-0001    E-Mail: 



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Protocol Matters!

Delayed business decisions, breakdowns in negotiations, offended business partners, missed opportunities, misunderstandings in communications, at a loss for what went wrong, wasted time and effort and financial consequences.

These are but a few of the outcomes experienced from breakdowns in the business of protocol. 

In an ideal world, it would be optimal to have a “Protocol Specialist” in every corporation or organization, that may not be realistic.  The International Protocol Institute has developed a specific program to fill that need, by devising a comprehensive program “Protocol Support Adviser,” whereby designated personnel are trained to deal with every interaction involving international clients and delegations, along with the expertise to brief international teams and partners.

In a competitive corporate environment, this expertise ensures you stand out from the crowd as a distinguished and innovative professional, who is motivated to be an invaluable asset in developing flawless global interactions  in support of the overall goals of your company/organization.

To become a Protocol Support Adviser, it is imperative that you understand every aspect of what is required to deliver a top-notch image that will transform the company’s business connections into strong, long-term business relationships worldwide.


Professional Presence & Competency – First impressions are lasting.  This module ensures that you and /or your team represents your organization consistently in a positive, professional manner.


Cross-Cultural Fundamentals – “Know the land and its people and all else will follow!”  To do business successfully in the international arena or host international clients and dignitaries, understanding cross-cultural fundamentals gives you the necessary tools to inspire trust and establish strategic, long term business relationships.


Culture Affects Negotiations! – Set the stage for successful outcomes!  Choose your team and learn the fundamentals of working with advance teams. Issues of precedence is paramount to respect.  Interpreters must be chosen with care to ensure they right fit to act as intermediaries should misunderstandings or conflict arise.


Protocol Event Management: Pre-Arrival Preparations, Arrivals, Departures,Precedence, Security considerations, Meetings in the Office, Event Site Logistics, Hotels (amenities, activities, menus, seating) Flag Placement and more.


Learn how to create an International Relations Office System for your company / organization.

Who should attend?

Support personnel, government officers in Ministries, intergovernmental / non-government agencies, diplomats, media / public relations experts, event /convention / hospitality / airport / port managers, private relationship managers, executives and entrepreneurs.

2- Day Program Launch:

The Address Hotel, Dubai U.A.E. – December 15-16, 2018





Telephone: +1 (619) 675-0001   – E-Mail:  



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Kindness begets kindness!


Kindness: The Surprising X Factor For Successful Leaders

May 3, 2015

Sheila Madden

CEO, Madden Coaching & Consulting. Executive and Private Coaching; Organization Effectiveness Consulting

 “My Religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”    The Dalai Lama

Kindness is a leadership characteristic that will deliver financial and humanitarian returns beyond imagination. It helps us create work environments that are based on trust and that allow people to express and experience meaning and purpose at work.

Kindness is the willingness to open one’s heart to another and to do so as instinct, not as calculation. Kindness is a show of respect for someone, whether you agree with their point of view or not. Kindness leads to listening, to curiosity and to the creation of environments at work, home and in the community, where there is an unspoken covenant of honor and of worthiness. It helps us internalize and cultivate an understanding that none of us can survive or achieve personal or organizational success alone.

We work in teams, live in families and grow up in communities. As people, sometimes we triumph and sometimes we fail. But if we can always be kind, we will lead and live in a manner which unlocks possibilities, opening us deeply to the world and to people and ideas beyond ourselves.

In the heat of work there is pressure to deliver products, meet revenue targets and deliver ROI and this is the precise time when many of us are susceptible to acting in ways that are less than our best. So why not experiment with a practice of kindness to avoid such pitfalls? A practice of kindness can help us avoid behavior that is triggered by our own stress, behavior such as being rude, uncontrolled anger or bullying. Instead, be kind. The return on that investment is the most scalable and sustainable characteristic of leadership because it creates trust between you and those with whom you have shown kindness.

Here are 5 Ways to Cultivate Kindness And To Be An Extraordinary Leader: 

  1. Seek to understand first before making assumptions or decisions.
  2. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
  3. Walk toward people when they fail, not away.
  4. Speak about what is in your heart, not just what is in your head.
  5. Learn to be kind to yourself first: You will find it easier to be kind to others.

2015 Copyright, Sheila Madden. All Rights Reserved.

Sheila Madden is CEO of Madden Coaching & Consulting.  She is an executive and career coach, author and organization effectiveness consultant


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Protocol helps build business relationships

Saudi Gazette


Protocol helps build business relationships

Layan Damanhouri

JEDDAH – Adopting international protocols can play a long way in building relationships between two parties, according to international protocol specialist Marie Betts-Johnson who directs the International Protocol Institute of California and carries more than 30 years of expertise in international relations.

“Protocol helps you to build relationships,” she said in an interview with Saudi Gazette. “It’s all about relationships or no business is going to happen.”

With experience in leading global companies and international organizations, Betts-Johnson advises anyone who ventures into business to do research before hand to show respect. “It’s all about trust,” she said, adding that respect between the two parties initiates fruitful relationships, which turn into good business. “One cannot do that if they don’t understand the protocol.

She added “we do business with people that we like even if the product with somebody else might be better.”

When asked what are the most essential practices that need to be adopted globally, she said identifying rank is one of the top factors. In certain societies, such as in the Middle East, she said “they have to know who’s who and will have to send people who are of the same rank or else it will be insulting.”

Often certain gestures can be easily misunderstood if one doesn’t research on the culture beforehand. Body language with certain hand gestures or showing the sole of the foot is considered offensive in Arab culture.

Another potential source of misunderstanding is giving and receiving gifts. “Gift-giving can be very challenging,” she said, referring to Asian cultures that regard anything with the number four on it as offensive as it connotes death in their language. Similarly, colors make a difference where black and white are considered funeral colors only and are not suitable for gifts.

She noted “if a gift is not wrapped or presented properly, that’s a big faux-pas in the Middle East. That brings back to rank also.”

Businessmen often have to travel long distances to meet with their counterparts. In Asia, delegations are the proper way to do business as opposed to an individual representing himself or a company. “In China or Japan, to go as an entrepreneur or on your own might be a disadvantage because they always work in a group,” she explained. “There’s power in numbers. However, the United States is very individualistic where they’re used to doing business on their own.”

When asked if protocols have become lenient over the years with the advent of globalization and increased travel, Betts-Johnson said “diplomatic procedure at the governmental levels has not become more lenient as any offense, deliberate or otherwise, may lead to an international incident. However, the other forms of diplomacy are much more lenient as they are ‘diplomacy of the people’.”

When venturing into business abroad, does one think of business opportunities with a potential partner first or is building a relationship a necessary precursor?

Today countries with diverse cultures and traditions vary in answering that question.

There’s more importance placed on protocols in GCC countries than others like the United States that is considered to have a more casual approach, according to Betts-Johnson. The latter also believe relationships will eventually follow while the former put emphasis on building a relationship first.

Since 1990, Betts-Johnson has been coaching in international protocols in leading global companies and international organizations. Her newly launched course on training certified Protocol Specialists invites government officials, the tourism industry and business organizations and will take place in Dubai on April 23-28.

Upcoming Programs – Dubai:


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International Protocol Training – Dubai U.A.E.

Impact the world of diplomacy!

Back in Dubai!


Train to be an International Protocol Specialist:


5- Day Certification Program


You are invited to join the International Protocol Institute of California’s power-packed 5-Day Certification Program: Train to be an International Protocol Specialist.  You will be trained by the President of I.P.I.C. Ms. Marie Betts-Johnson, who has over twenty years’ experience cultivating best protocol, international relations and diplomacy practices worldwide.  She has delivered hundreds of programs to multinational corporations, organizations and has trained executives, Chiefs of Protocol, diplomats and entrepreneurs across all industries.  I.P.I.C. is based in San Diego and Dubai, U.A.E.

December 8-12, 2018

Dubai, U.A.E.

The program is a unique blend of attributes, knowledge and critical skills required of the Protocol Specialist from; professional presence and influential leadership, to diplomatic event coordination.   You will gain the expertise to:

  • Deliver real-time international protocol seminars and training programs.
  • Manage complex protocol and diplomatic events.
  • Develop professional presence, competency and diplomatic leadership.
  • Navigate the world of International relations and protocol.
  • Develop polished presentation skills and powerful media image.
  • Learn strategic cross-cultural fundamentals that influence business decisions and negotiations.
  • Become the in-house protocol and cross-cultural expert within your company or build a rewarding protocol specialist career or business.
  • Stand out for fast-track promotion in your industry.


Upon completion, graduates will be certified as “International Protocol Specialists” and will be licensed to use the copyrighted, expertly designed materials (9 modules + power point presentations, assessment, quizzes and exercises) developed by the International Protocol Institute of California®.


The Address Hotel, Dubai, U.A.E.







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