As the World Protocol Magazine Editorial Board, we take enormous pride in keeping this platform open to all experts from the numerous fields of business and protocol: Mr. Charles Crawford CMG is the former British Ambassador to Poland (2003-2007); Serbia and Montenegro (2001-2003); and Bosnia and Herzegovina (1996-1998). A barrister and mediator, he draws on 28 years’ experience in the UK diplomatic service, much of it in former communist central and eastern Europe.

In his diplomatic career he served as FCO Speechwriter to Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe. He has contributed to speeches by members of the Royal Family and successive Prime Ministers, as well as many others in public and commercial life. He has given and supported TEDx talks.

Please welcome the famous Protocol Quiz, created by Mr. Crawford: it includes11 practical diplomacy problems in the (imaginary) state of Batuma involving the Head of Mission (HoM) and colleagues at the (imaginary) UN Sustainable Development Organization (UNSDO) mission and/or local Batuma officials. The aim of the quiz is to highlight the sometimes difficult decisions an expert in the field of protocol often has to make.

Read each question carefully. Make sure that you understand your options in the role needed for that question. Choose one best answer in each case, except Q2 where you should choose the best three options. The questions win different points: the maximum score is 160. Think about what’s going on in each case – what is at stake?


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Events / Visits


1          (10 points) What is the first thing which happens during a visit to Batuma by a senior visitor from UNSDO HQ which the UNSDO mission needs to consider when organising the visit?

  1. the visiting VIP gets off the plane
  2. the press conference at the airport
  3. the local security personnel need notifying that the VIP has arrived
  4. the HoM’s office needs notifying that the VIP has arrived
  5. the drivers of the official vehicles need notifying that the VIP has arrived


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2          (15 points – 5 for each right answer) You are the UNSDO mission Protocol Officer, and you are organising a keynote presentation by the Head of Mission (HoM) to 150 Batuma officials and experts. You’ve booked a room in a smart hotel. Which are the three most important practical things to get right?

  1. good arrangements for receiving/seating guests
  2. reliable Internet link for the PowerPoint presentation (it has two embedded videos)
  3. audience have chairs with side-trays for taking notes
  4. the layout of the room where the presentation is to be delivered
  5. including in the programme enough time for Q and A
  6. having copies of the presentation/speech for distribution to the media afterwar
  7. elegant food for the refreshments breaks


3          (15 points) You are the UNSDO mission Protocol Officer,

The diplomatic corps in Batuma suffers from a notorious local gatecrasher presenting herself as Countess Wolcheek, who gets into many top events uninvited,

 The UNSDO HoM is hosting a reception for the UNSDO Director General (DG). You’ve issued strict instructions to your security team to keep Countess Wolcheek out,

At the reception you are amazed to see that she has managed to get in, and is standing in the line of people waiting to shake hands with the DG

Do you

  1. do nothing: these things happen. She never does any harm – try harder next time
  2. do nothing, but get her escorted out asap after she has met the DG
  3. choose (a) and after the reception draft a letter from HoM to alert the Batuma authorities that ‘Countess Wolcheek’ is a serious nuisance at diplomatic events
  4. choose (b) and after the reception draft a letter from HoM to alert the Batuma authorities that ‘Countess Wolcheek’ is a serious nuisance at diplomatic events
  5. ask security to escort her out immediately, even if this causes a small ‘incident’


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4          (10 points) You are in the Batuma President’s protocol team,

The UNSDO mission previously told you that the UNSDO DG will be in town next week on Wednesday and is keen to meet the President’s Sustainable Development team. You booked an expensive restaurant on Wednesday to host the visitor elegantly.

The UNSDO Mission now tell you that there’s a change of plan: the UNSDO DG will now be arriving late on Wednesday, and proposes to meet your colleagues for lunch on Thursday instead-

In Batuma it involves a lot of paperwork to rearrange payment for a VIP lunch on a different date, but that Thursday lunch is possible for the President’s team.

Do you

  1. instruct the Batuma mission in New York to press UNSDO to get the DG to be available on Wednesday in Batuma as originally planned
  2. make an official protest by Note Verbale to the UNSDO mission saying that this late change in the date is an unacceptable provocation, and that the UNSDO can no longer meet the President’s team during this visit
  3. do both (a) and (b), escalating the issue to the ‘political’ level
  4. tell the UNSDO mission that alas the President’s team are not available on Thursday – maybe they’ll get the DG available on Wednesday after all
  5. rearrange the lunch for Thursday, and cope with the extra paperwork

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5          (20 points) You are the UNSDO mission Protocol Officer,

During a visit to Batuma by the UNSDO Director General (DG) you’re asked to carry the DG’s smart suitcase to her/his hotel room while the DG has a meeting in another hotel.

As you enter the room you trip on a loose carpet and fall into a table. You knock over a large vase of flowers, spilling a lot of dirty water onto the suitcase. It looks as if some water has soaked into the suitcase.

 Do you

  1. first do your best to mop up the mess without opening the suitcase, and ask the hotel to clean the room – when everything is tidy, call the DG’s team to tell them what’s happened
  2. first open the suitcase to check for any water-damage and remove anything that looks wet/damaged, then close it and ask the hotel to clean the room while you call the DG’s team to tell them what’s happened
  3. ignore the suitcase: get the hotel urgently to clean the room while you call the DG’s team to tell them what’s happened
  4. take the wet suitcase quickly to the hotel manager’s office and ask for advice
  5. leave the wet suitcase in the room and demand that the hotel give the DG a new room – when the suitcase has been moved to that new room, call the DG’s team to tell them what’s happened

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6          (10 points) You are the UNSDO mission Protocol Officer

You have prepared 100 invitations to an official reception for the visiting UNSDO DG hosted by the Head of Mission. You need to send them out

Is your part of this work concluded when…

  1. you have put all the invitations in neatly addressed envelopes
  2. the invitations are in the box of outgoing mail for the mission drivers to pick up and post/deliver
  3. you personally have passed the invitations to the mission drivers to deliver
  4. you’ve telephoned some guests to check that the invitations have arrived
  5. the drivers tell you that all invitations have been safely posted/delivered

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7          (15 points) You are the UNSDO mission Protocol Officer.

The HoM had an important dinner arranged with the Russian Ambassador.

However, floods prevented HoM from getting back to the capital in time, and s/he asked you to call the Russian Embassy to postpone it.

You forgot to do this

You subsequently heard that the Ambassador went to the dinner venue and was very annoyed when the HoM did not appear,

Your HoM returns and asks you whether the Russian Ambassador dinner was postponed successfully?

Do you

  1. immediately confess your highly embarrassing mistake, and offer your resignation
  2. immediately confess your highly embarrassing mistake, and give the HoM a draft letter of apology to the Russian Ambassador
  3. give an evasive but positive-sounding answer, avoiding the question and hoping for the best
  4. tell lies: say that all is well – the Russian Embassy will be in touch to propose a new date for the dinner

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8          (20 points) You are the UNSDO mission’s Protocol Officer, supervising the seating of VIPs in the two front rows at the theater at a gala production sponsored by UNSDO. Those two rows have been reserved for UNSDO’s VIP guests.

The guests start to arrive.

You are told that four top Batuma VIPs who were allocated the very best centre front-row seats in the theater are now not expected to attend.

Do you

  1. do nothing – leave the centre front-row seats empty
  2. offer these seats to the four most senior VIPs about to be seated in the second row
  3. ask the other VIPs in the front row to move along so that there is no awkward ‘gap’
  4. give the seats to your four best Batuma official contacts sitting ten rows back
  5. wait until the show is about to start, then give the seats to your friends or more junior official contacts

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General Technique

9          (15 points) You are the UNSDO mission’s Operations Officer. Your first language is Spanish.

The Head of Mission (HoM) has given you complicated oral instructions in English needing rapid action on the UNSDO DG’s visit (s/he arrives in Batuma later today)

You understand most of them, but not all.

HoM is now in a meeting with a senior visitor.

Do you

  1. go back to interrupt the HoM’s meeting and ask her/him to clarify exactly what he/she meant
  2. start to carry out those instructions you did fully understand, and leave the others until the HoM is less busy
  3. ask the Deputy HoM for advice
  4. do nothing until the HoM is free to confirm exactly what she/he wants you to do

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10        (15 points) You are the UNSDO Deputy Head of Mission (HoM).

A problem has arisen with the Batuma Economy Ministry over a development contract.

You send a fax to the Ministry, explaining your position and asking for a speedy reply.

Two weeks later (after an annoying delay) you visit a senior Ministry official to discuss the issue.

To your astonishment the official denies receiving your fax

You argue that this cannot be correct – UNSDO’s printout clearly shows that it was sent.

The Ministry official’s junior colleague then intervenes in the heated discussion to tell his/her boss that the fax was received and was on his/her desk that morning(!).

 This suggests that the senior official has been lying to your face. You do not know why.

 Do you

  1. end the meeting immediately, saying that it is not possible to conduct official business on this absurd/dishonest basis
  2. say that this helpful intervention by the junior official has clarified where things stand, and that you now expect a full fast official reply to the issues you have raised
  3. ignore the junior official’s intervention, and continue to argue your case
  4. propose a time-out for five minutes so that everyone can calm down
  5. offer a quiet meeting over lunch tomorrow to try to sort things out

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11        (15 points) You are the UNSDO HoM, accompanying the UNSDO Director General (DG) and team during a meeting with the Batuma Prime Minister. Sensitive issues (possible corruption in development contracts) are being discussed.

You are fluent in Batuman: everyone else on the UNSDO side of the table is following the meeting through consecutive interpreting by the Batuma PM’s official interpreter.

The UNSDO DG gives examples of suspected corruption. The Prime Minister gets angry and loses control, promising to sack several top officials to satisfy UNSDO.

The Batuma interpreter sees what has happened and to protect his/her boss does not interpret that key passage, offering only bland assurances instead. You alone on the UNSDO side know exactly what was said.

Do you

  1. do nothing – brief the DG afterwards on what the Prime Minister said
  2. interrupt the meeting and (speaking Batuman) ask the interpreter politely but firmly to translate the Prime Minister accurately
  3. pass a handwritten note to the DG saying what the Prime Minister said
  4. interrupt the meeting to propose a five-minute break so that both sides can take stock – use the break to brief the DG quietly on what the Prime Minister said. The DG can decide how (if at all) to use that information when the meeting resumes

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