From the City of Vancouver Protocol Manual, created by the City of Vancouver and the Protocol Coordination Committee for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, to help protocol officers follow proper protocol and etiquette when dealing with dignitaries at the Games and stay within city protocol.
5.7 MAKING CONVERSATION WITH DIGNITARIES
Always take the lead from the dignitary. Try not to be ‘chatty’. If a dignitary asks questions, try your best to answer them. If they appear quiet, respect their need for silence. Conversation about the weather is acceptable, and does not have to be cliché. “Yes, our climate is generally mild year-round.” As Protocol Host you have the opportunity to promote Vancouver to the dignitary. Take this opportunity to highlight First Nations culture, museums, City history, public art, etc. Ask thoughtful questions. Be informed about current events. Avoid topics such as politics or religion, personal health issues, marital problems, rumours or gossip. You are not a spokesperson for other outside organizations. Avoid voicing personal opinions.
Performing your Protocol duties can sometimes require common sense and personal judgement. Always use tact and be respectfully considerate of all individuals in your group. Apply your active listening skills. Good listeners are more mindful of their surroundings and their responsibilities as a Protocol Host. Even if you find the discussion uninteresting, focus your attention on the conversation.
Avoid speaking loudly if you feel you are not being understood. Speak calmly and with clarity. When an interpreter is present, direct your attention to the dignitary, while speaking clearly so that the interpreter can hear you. Stop after a number of sentences to allow time for the interpreter to translate.
Informal Conversation at Receptions
When engaging in conversation with people you are unfamiliar with, take a discrete look at their name tags, look them in the eye, offer a firm handshake, and say: “Hello, my name is [first name last name]” and follow up with a comment that tells them something about your position or role. Make sure that the person with whom you are speaking receives your full attention. Whether speaking with one person or a group, it is rude to look around as if searching for someone “more important” with whom to speak.
Exiting from a Conversation at a Reception
At some point conversations come to a natural end. Look for cues for when it is time to move on, and make a graceful exit. Here are some ideas as to what to say: “Excuse me while I say hello to [name].” If there is an opportunity to bring another person into the conversation: “Let me introduce you to [first name last name].” “I’ve enjoyed speaking with you...” However, it is important not to leave the side of the dignitary, if they are otherwise unoccupied or alone.
Now check section 5.8 on "How to Recover"