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Why you need to stop saying “All protocols observed.”

Photo by Christine von Raesfeld on Unsplash

I received a speech for review the other day, with the customary acknowledgment of all the dignitaries present at the beginning of the sppech, followed by that phrase you hear so often in South African speeches: “All protocols observed.”

Here’s why you shouldn’t be using it.

It’s become customary to use this phrase in South Africa, and what it means is this: “Look, I’ve greeted all of those other people, but I might have forgotten you, so this is just in case. You’re in that group too, okay?”

This is problematic for a number of reasons:

  • It’s disrespectful to those people you’re essentially adding as an afterthought.
  • It’s a lie. You’re not sure, and you’re covering your ass.
  • It’s redundant. If you had observed all protocols, you wouldn’t have to tell us.

So, what should you say? Start with the most senior dignitary, and work your way down, grouping people together. “Your excellency, the president, honourable ministers, city councillors, ladies and gentleman …”

And then get on with saying what you need to say.


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