Have you had to host a global meeting and been responsible for the agenda, meals, interpreters, table tent cards, flags, security, transportation, and hundreds of other details? Have you ever been to an event and wondered who decided where people sat, what order people spoke on the program, or why a certain gift was chosen for the international visitor? Have you ever had to brief your boss on forms of address and the cultural and business practices of a client? As Houston’s chief of protocol, Sonia Garza-Monarchi handled these arrangements and more for the visits of HM Queen Elizabeth II, HH the Dalai Lama, President Putin, and many other government officials and business delegations, both here and abroad. She served four mayors in the office of protocol for the City of Houston before establishing her own company, Garza Protocol Associates, LLC in 2004.
Garza Protocol Associates works with companies, non-profits, government agencies, and individuals, creating customized plans that meet the goals of each: coordinating visits of chiefs of state and other dignitaries from abroad, planning flawless events for international guests, training executives and staff to work with foreign government and business officials, creating strategic plans for international business development, and developing in-house protocol expertise, all to help clients succeed in the global market.With over 25 years’ experience, Ms. Garza-Monarchi is also a popular speaker and trainer, known for her engaging and educational presentations on protocol, etiquette, customer service, event planning, and cross-cultural communication. She is committed to sharing her hard-won knowledge, and has conducted a continuing studies course at Rice University.
Ms. Garza-Monarchi joined the Houston office of protocol in 1988, and became executive director in 1993. She served as the city’s liaison to the nation’s fourth largest consular corps. Her office coordinated visits by hundreds of distinguished visitors each year, including numerous chiefs of state, heads of government, members of royal families, cabinet ministers, ambassadors, and trade delegations. She also oversaw Houston’s vibrant sister cities program, participated in planning major international events held in Houston, staffed the mayor on trade missions, and advised city officials and others on international issues, protocol, and etiquette. The office became a model for protocol offices of other cities, states, and entities. Ms. Garza-Monarchi encouraged and consulted with them, and worked to develop networking and professional development opportunities for protocol professionals around the world.
As the years passed, Ms. Garza-Monarchi took on senior leadership roles in the protocol office’s parent organization, the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau. She managed international marketing and tourism sales efforts, including media relations, and in 2001, was named vice president and general manager of the GHCVB, with oversight of the organization’s 80 employees and a $12 million annual budget. Later, she served several years on the GHCVB executive committee, and in 2014, was the first woman to chair its board of directors.
Today, Ms. Garza-Monarchi remains active in many of Houston’s international business and cultural organizations, and in others that bring protocol experts together for networking and training. She believes in better business through better understanding, and finds great satisfaction in helping clients apply key protocol, diplomatic, etiquette, and cross-cultural skills required for success in today’s global economy.