CityBiz Q&A with Pamela Eyring, President & Owner, The Protocol School of Washington

Pamela Eyring is the president and owner of The Protocol School of Washington®, an accredited school focusing on international protocol, business etiquette, and communication skills training. With more than four decades of public and private sector experience in operational protocol and educational development, Pamela has extensive knowledge of U.S. and international practices and is a global thought leader in the etiquette and protocol industry. She has been featured in major national and international print and digital outlets that include The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, and Forbes among numerous national TV appearances on The Today Show, CNN, FOX-TV, AARP-TV, and ABC Radio Network. Currently, she oversees the school’s national and international operations in Washington, D.C., Columbia, S.C., and Dubai, UAE.

As National Business Etiquette Week kicks off,  we connected with Pamela to learn about her recommendations for how business leaders can best recognize the importance of proper business etiquette to compete in the growing global marketplace. In this interview, she also shares more about her organization’s Global Education Summit – held August 7-10, 2024.

Q: What is The Protocol School of Washington® (PSOW) and how does it serve businesses and leaders in 2024?

Pamela: With an interconnected global marketplace and the expansion of digital and social media, our world needs enhanced interpersonal and business etiquette skills now more than ever. The Protocol School of Washington teaches the importance of intercultural awareness to facilitate effective communications, develop successful professional relationships, and conduct business domestically and internationally in ways that benefit all participants and their organizations.  Learning how to create authentic professional relationships helps teams work better together, improve retention and builds stronger alliances with clients and stakeholders.

QYou have a compelling career history from serving as the first civilian to hold the position of Chief of Protocol at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, to now owning and leading PSOW’s global educational programs. Could you share what has motivated you to move forward in this field over the last 40+ years?

Pamela: When I began working for the U.S. Air Force as a Clerk-Stenographer, I was 18 years old.  I wanted to “grow up” and be a professional working woman.  I was fortunate to have excellent informal mentors who educated me along the way.  And I watched and listened!  I felt power at an early age by learning appropriate dress and attire, good communication skills and behaviors.  I desired respect and knew I had to earn it through dedication and accountability.

Protocol amplified my aspirations by learning how business is conducted.  It gave me visibility into creating a distraction-free environment for stakeholders to accomplish their mission.  I was enthralled by how everything mattered when we hosted counter-part visitors from other countries and prepared for their meetings and social events.

Fast-forward into the mid 1990’s, and I heard about PSOW from a colleague.  When I attended, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, which inspired me to apply what I learned to help others prevent “scar-tissue”.  Today, nothing thrills me more than when I am in our training courses, watching others learn how to use protocol and etiquette intelligence to grow their career and their organization’s brand.

Q: As someone with experience in both military and professional work with heads of state, four-star general officers, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, leaders in academia, and entrepreneurs from around the globe — what still surprises you about leaders and their teams who may have not yet been trained in ‘protocol’?

Pamela: Their unprofessionalism can result in loss of employees, professional relationships and clients, but mainly the loss of their personal brand and character.  It’s a leadership issue that can be easily improved by being self-aware of their actions in how they treat people and when they are in difficult situations.  They must model professionalism visually and behaviorally, plus be accountable for their actions and promises.

QAs younger generations enter the workforce, studies have shown that business etiquette as an expected baseline standard has declined. Why do you think protocol as a leadership training criteria is still so important even as today’s business climate becomes a bit more relaxed and less formal?

Pamela:  The current generation is today’s talent base that will become the leaders of tomorrow. A company is made up of the employees who represent it in how they communicate, serve customers, appear at events and engage the broader community and industry. What better investment could you make into your company’s brand, and the relationships it has with customers than developing a new generation of leaders with much needed training and skills?

I would also add that while today’s incoming generations to the workforce are eager to learn and grow and, of course, very technically savvy, that there is a teachable opportunity for leaders in the workforce to encourage younger workers to collaborate more effectively by learning from others through interpersonal skills and development. While some formalities may differ between generations in the workforce, encouraging shared values within a team or organization such as standards and protocols from work attire to ensuring mutually respectful interactions make  environments in work and social situations positive for all. Following COVID and years of digital-only interaction, it’s definitely good practice for everyone as we re-engage more in person now and in the years to come.

QJune 2-8, 2024 marks the annual commemoration of National Business Etiquette Week. As part of the education you provide at PSOW, what best practices for business etiquette do you recommend leaders cultivate in their teams and have their staff members show towards one another?

Pamela: For any who may not be familiar, National Business Etiquette Week is hosted each year during the first full week in June. It was established to highlight the importance of proper etiquette and the ways in which it improves interpersonal and intercultural communications, creates a professional environment for building relationships, and allows organizations to conduct business effectively in the global marketplace.

To commemorate the week, I recommend that leaders take the time to educate staff members on what are the great characteristics of business etiquette and how to practice them.  Start with the basics of greetings, eye contact and handshakes.  Practice writing effective emails, and addressing a respectful and formal tone, such as by removing greetings to customers using an opening like “Hey”. (That’s always a huge turn off for me, especially from someone I don’t even know trying to sell me their services).  Plus, consider elevating the office attire by wearing interview clothing that week or select a day, such as “dress up day” instead of “dress down day”.

QThe PSOW team is hosting an event in August. Could you share more with us about the upcoming Global Education Summit? Who is invited to attend and what sort of takeaways do attendees receive from the Summit?

Pamela:  Held only every five years, the Global Education Summit is an immersive four-days offering a comprehensive program of educational tracks, lectures, preliminary sessions, and keynote presentations by renowned industry experts, focusing on the essential aspects of global diplomacy. Held at The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner in McLean, Virginia, the Summit will include a gathering of PSOW alumni, and attendees who are new to PSOW from both North America and internationally, including aspiring professionals and business leaders.

We are all about edu-tainment! We will showcase through keynote speakers and invited thought leaders new trends in business acumen, communication techniques and technology to help participants learn more about themselves and have key resources to help them accomplish their mission.

To learn more and register, visit https://webster.eventsair.com/global-education-summit/.