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[A MUST READ] Why You Should Never Say “All Protocols Observed”

I would like to know the meaning, the origin and how the following phrase should be used: ‘all protocols observed’

That’s interesting. Having always lived in the UK, it was utterly unfamiliar to me, and I had to Google to find examples of its use.

Judging by the contexts I found it in (Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda) it appears to be an African way of starting a formal speech.

Now, traditionally the correct protocol for starting a formal speech is by addressing everyone in your audience in order of precedence, e.g. “Your Excellency, Minister, My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen”.

In these and other African countries it is apparently now customary to start instead with: “Ladies and Gentlemen, all protocols observed”. Thus the phrase means something like: “You know who you all are, just take it as read that I have listed you as correct protocol dictates, OK?”

Presumably the phrase originated as a way of avoiding listing your hearers in order of precedence – either because you don’t know everyone there, or don’t know the correct order, or because there is some dispute over who has precedence and you don’t want to commit yourself.

In any country where it is now accepted as the correct way of starting a speech, it should be used to start a speech. But not anywhere else!

In addition, ‘Protocols’ are a system of ‘rules’, customs and observances which can govern any sort of activity, so if ‘all protocols are observed’ it means the speaker or writer is claiming that the relevant niceties have been followed.

1. It is clearly a lie. In essence you have NOT observed all protocols. It is just a claim that the necessarily rules of
decorum have been observed but we all know protocol was overlooked altogether. Consider this, if you had been asked to pass a vote of thanks, would you thank one or two people and then state “All thanks given?”

2. There are other ways to observe protocol without having to mention each and every dignitary present. One way is clustering: You can use a general phrase to address all that fall within a certain category – honourable delegates, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, your excellencies, my Lords etc. That way due diligence is paid.

3. It is a home-grown expression, unrecognized by the rest of the world. Other than Kenyans, Nigerians, Ugandans and some South Africans who have become accustomed to hearing this, the expression remains totally alien to the rest of the world. Your audience will be at a loss as to what you mean; and as to why you have opted for that ‘short-cut.’

4. It is not necessary to use that expression when protocol has indeed been observed. At times the speaker does indeed take his or her time to mention the dignitaries in the audience in order of precedence but spoils it by concluding the list with “all protocols observed.” If protocol has indeed been observed then that will be apparent to the audience and therefore redundant to include that out-of-place phrase.

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Updated: 27th June 2017 — 1:48 pm

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