Full Speed or Full Stop

by Thomas Sladko* 

The summer is coming to an end and much work is waiting to be done. Autumn is the time of congresses, bilateral meetings, intergovernmental reunions and state visits. After August, which is normally a period of holidays throughout Europe, everybody is back at work with fully loaded batteries.

So it’s time for me for a new blog entry and today I would like to reflect about one perspective on Protocol work which everyone should consider before starting to work in this field. The perspective has to do with one’s personal working rhythm. That our work is very rarely a 9 to 5 job is known. That our job is fascinating, challenging, creative and highly time demanding is known as well. That nearly each day is different, and we do not spend each working day locked in the office, are some of the reasons why people envy us.

The reason for all these points is that Protocol work is project-oriented work. That means we work towards a certain date (=deadline) on which the event, the state visit, the conference etc. will take place. Before this event date – the red marked “day X” in the calendar – days couldn’t have less hours. We are so focused on the “big day” ahead that we even forget to eat, cancel private appointments, do not answer the phone when the best friend is calling, sleep very little and we are full of adrenaline.

When finally the “day X” passed, and no future urgent project is coming up, we find ourselves in the after-event process in the office: invoices have to be controlled and paid, reports have to be written, etc. In general, this “normal” work is in comparison to the pre-event work a very slow and easy-going one: we are able to go home at 5 or even earlier, we can meet friends after work, practice sports, go motor-biking, eat frequently and sleep 8 hours per night.

This quietness could last for a couple of weeks but could be over very suddenly – from one moment to another – and we are back on the speed track. It just takes a phone call or an e-mail announcing an upcoming – due to the changing political situation urgent and necessary – state visit or conference next week.

This “stop and go (or better run) atmosphere” can be found in Protocol and event management jobs. Once I discussed with a good friend of mine about this perspective and when I explained these issues he answered: “I could never ever work in this field. I need regular and predictable working loads and days!” I thought a lot about what he said and I remembered that I have been working for nearly nine years in event management and for nearly 6 years in Protocol. After reflecting suddenly, I resumed for myself “I could never again work in another working field” and I had to smile.

*About the author

Thomas Sladko is the Deputy Chief of  Protocol at the Federal Chancellery of Austria and ISPD lecturer.

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