There ain’t no festival like a paraplanner festival

By Caroline Stuart

It’s the time of year when we start thinking about the National Paraplanners Powwow. After nervously taking up the hosting reins last year, I’m pleased to have been invited back for this September’s event and I’m already really looking forward to it.

This will be the sixth one and naturally there’s been some changes over the years, but the essence and spirit of that first Powwow has flourished and grown, making this my favourite professional event.

I love the Powwow and like many, have been to all of them. So what is it that keeps us coming back every year? The main reasons for me are it has the best learning and development content which is always different every year, it’s a chance to meet old and new paraplanning friends and it has the best grub for miles around!

But it’s not just for perennial Powwowers; every year more new people come to the Teepee. Around half of last year’s attendees had never been before so we’re delighted it’s still reaching and attracting new people.

I doubt folks new to the Powwow will have experienced anything like it before; if I was speaking to someone coming for the first time, how would I describe how good it is and what to expect? Well, I would talk about that excellent content, the fabulous food (I do love my grub!) but the most important thing I would tell them about and what separates it from other professional events, would be the ethos and atmosphere.

Going to an event, particularly on your own, can be daunting. The great thing about the Powwow though, is it’s warm, friendly and relaxed. Everyone is welcome and just mucks in together; there are no stupid questions, and comments and participation are actively encouraged, in fact the Powwow simply wouldn’t exist without them. It is an event put on by and for paraplanners and its continued success is down to their drive and passion, and the inclusive environment that allows everyone to join in.

The Powwow is great fun but it’s not just a jolly! Our time is precious so there needs to be a very good reason for taking a day out the office. Also, how do you convince your boss why you should go to the Powwow, and if you are the boss, what value could giving your paraplanners the time to go bring to your business?

Well this is back to the nuts and bolts of the Powwow. All the paraplanners I’ve met there go for the same reasons; to learn new things, share ideas and just generally make things better. To do this, there needs to be a varied agenda, with a range of different experts covering a variety of subjects, and the Powwow never fails to deliver on this front.

The Powwow folks know report writing forms a large part of a paraplanner’s role but it’s not the only thing we do; all the sessions (called campfires) are suggested by paraplanners so are always tailored to meet our needs and cover areas that we will all inevitably come across at some point.

Over the years there has been a range of campfires including hints and tips to help with the day job, influencing and effective communication skills, help with looking at defined benefit pension reviews, and even risk profiling through the medium of Disney Princesses.

You could maybe get all of that from a book or a webinar though so why bother with the Powwow? The answer to this and why it works so well is because it’s quirky and good fun with an almost festival atmosphere. People are relaxed so those who would never normally speak up or ask a question feel able to. The more people participate and join in, the more everyone learns, and the Powwow is just the best at creating that environment.

It has certainly helped give me the confidence to speak up, share ideas and get much more involved. I really don’t think I would be in the role I love today if not for the support and learning I’ve gained from the Powwow and the friends I’ve made through it.

I know I am a better a paraplanner because of going to the Powwows. Every year I’ve come away with increased technical knowledge and ideas to bring back to the office on how we could improve the way we do things. This has helped me become more effective at what I do, in turn helping the business to make sure our clients continue to get outstanding service.

After all, our clients are the reason we all do what we do, whether paraplanner, financial planner or any other member of the team and anything that helps improve skills and knowledge has got to be a justifiable use of your time.

So to anyone considering coming to the Powwow this year, whether you’ve been before or it’s your first foray, I’d say just come along, you will be very welcome. You will have a fantastic day, meet great people, learn loads and be (very) well fed; did I mention the food? Breakfast rolls, barbecue, ice cream, cakes and all your favourite sweets…… Hopefully, see you there!