Business protocol in communication

Although knowing the rules of business protocol may not seem connected to communicators and communication at first glance, we must be aware that as representatives of a particular company or organization, we make a key contribution to its reputation.

Knowing the rules of business protocol gives us necessary confidence, contributes to our credibility and empowers us to manage business situations – from distance communication (e-mail, letters, phone…) to meetings, business lunches and gala events where we meet clients or partners face to face.

Business protocol covers a wide range of various rules, such as the preparation and execution of meetings and business events, the preparation of seating arrangements, choosing suitable clothing, verbal and non-verbal communication, and even rules on the gifts and arrangement of working spaces. As a communicator, I will point out some basic guidelines of business communication.

  1. A phone, our best friend
  • The conversation objectives should always be clear, since only then can a conversation be brief, concise and understandable. You know – time is money, especially in the business world, so don’t beat around the bush and make sure to separate business conversations from private matters.
  • Answer all the calls and messages, but pay attention to the inappropriate use of the phone when in the company of others. Respect their time and attendance by turning off your phone (it is recommended to set your phone completely mute rather than vibrating) and putting it away in your pocket or purse.
  • When expecting and receiving urgent calls, apologize to the people that are present and make the call as quickly as possible.
  1. The art of e-mailing
  • When writing e-mails you should also pay attention to the separation of private and official communication.
  • Carefully choose the subject of your e-mail, as it is what most people base their decision of if and when they will read the e-mail and reply to your message.
  • Be careful about the first word (after addressing the recipient and a comma) in the first line of your email – it is a lower-case initial in Slovenian (upper-case initial in English) – since it is automatically corrected to an upper-case initial by a computer. This tells a lot about your precision and the time you took to write the message.
  • Read your message again before sending it and correct any spelling mistakes.
  • Avoid using exclamation marks, emotional symbols, and fully capitalized words (they represent shouting). If you would like to emphasize something, use bold text instead.
  • Try to respond to all e-mails within a day; our recommendation is to reply within two hours.
  • When unavailable for a longer period of time, set up an automatic reply that includes information about the date of your return and contact details of someone the addressee can turn to during your absence.
  1. When meeting face to face
  • Since being late is a sign of disrespecting the time of the person we are meeting, a key component of personal contacts is certainly being on time. After that, a handshake follows. Do you know who to offer a handshake first? Normally, the person in a higher position should offer his / her hand to those in a lower position, but if the persons are of the same position, the older person offers his / her hand to the younger, a woman to a man and the host to the guest. It goes the other way around when we introduce two people to each other: the lower positioned is introduced to the higher positioned, the younger person to an older one and a man to a woman.
  • In Europe and the rest of the Western world, bear in mind that the unwritten rule of business distance between two persons is set to the same length as the arm itself.
  • At the beginning of the acquaintance, regardless of the person’s position or age, always address him / her formally – it is using plural in Slovenian and some other languages. The higher positioned person is the one proposing informal addressing (using singular in Slovenian) to a lower positioned person; in case the persons are of the same position, the older proposes it to the younger and a woman to a man – never the other way around.
  • Avoid excessive compliments as people may feel uncomfortable, but nevertheless show (appropriate) interest in the person you are communicating with. It is advisable to mention his / her name a few times during the conversation (a precondition is, of course, to remember his / her name when introduced).
  • Avoid personal issues, politics, religion, salary, illness, complaining and gossip. More relaxed conversations about our country (or the city we are coming from) are appropriate, such as sports or exceptional individuals (athletes, writers, scientists…).

Bearing in mind the business protocol, do not forget – some rules are made to be broken or, as the former Chief of the Protocol of the Republic of Slovenia Ksenija Benedetti says: “…in every good performance, a good director allows the actors to do some improvisation. That is the charm of it.”

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