Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Ready for the World: Oklahoma City to Welcome International Visitors at Creativity Forum

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Ready for the World: Oklahoma City to Welcome International Visitors at Creativity Forum

Article excerpt

When the Creativity World Forum begins, it will mark the largest contingent of international visitors that Oklahoma has ever seen at one time.

Their arrival - from 17 countries - creates not only a tremendous learning opportunity, but also a chance to practice protocol that makes people feel welcome, said Chris Morriss, Oklahoma's chief of protocol and director of international relations.

Morriss, whose work is in the secretary of state's office, has been tending to a multitude of details leading up to the Creativity World Forum, which will be held in Oklahoma City Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Morriss is in the business of details because they stand to create a significant good impression when foreign dignitaries visit.

"There is precedence in everything - where you're sitting, how your name is listed on a program or agenda, the speaking order. It all matters," Morriss said. "People coming from foreign countries know protocol, so we really have to be on our toes. There are so many minute details that could be off-putting to foreign dignitaries. The whole reason for protocol is that it's a standard set of behavior so that everyone knows what is expected. It should set everyone at peace knowing that the event will be run according to their expectations."

Morriss' efforts for the Creativity World Forum include helping arrange proper seating at two dinners, briefing Oklahoma leaders on how to greet visitors from specific countries, and prepping volunteers on do's and don'ts while interacting with international delegates.

Like it always does, the natural friendliness of Oklahomans will play a big role in welcoming international visitors, Morriss said. But she also has provided some suggestions about behaviors and gestures that Americans consider positive, but other cultures find offensive. For example, the "thumbs up" gesture is considered obscene in Africa, the Middle East and Japan, and the "A-OK" sign is insulting to people from Italy and Denmark, and obscene in Brazil, she said.

She also suggests that people interacting with international delegates not wear perfume because strong fragrances are distasteful in some cultures. People's sense of personal space also differs depending on where they're from. Morriss said some people are accustomed to standing close to another during a conversation; others prefer a few more steps away.

The international scope of the Creativity World Forum is a chance for Oklahomans to be exposed to the richness of many cultures at once, Morriss said. That's important, she said, because society is increasingly global, and a better understanding of other cultures enhances life and business in many ways.

"I look forward to seeing how Oklahomans respond to all of this international activity," she said. "I'm excited for it to be here and to watch people's reactions. …

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