Under the Canvas: the truth aboutputting the wow into Powwow

Paraplanner stories

By Claire Goodwin: So you’ve been to a powwow, you’ve read the blog posts and you think you might fancy organising a mini powwow of your own?

The interest in organising regional powwows has been so great that I thought you might like to know a few home truths about just what goes into these things. Although I’d like you to think we did a little charm dance and a powwow appeared, in reality it was quite hard work.

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After you’ve read this, if I haven’t managed to put you off then dust yourself off, make yourself a cuppa and go plan powwow brilliance. You can do it!

So, let’s start at the beginning – why did we organise a regional powwow?

In all honesty it was a bit of a fluke. Jo and I are both passionate about paraplanning – we’ve been to the conferences, the meetings, embraced the social media thing and got the t-shirt.

We know how much of a difference it can make for paraplanners to get out there and network; the great stuff we all learn from it. We also know how important it is to raise awareness of what a paraplanner does.

We’ve been talking about arranging some kind of best practice discussion for almost a year. So when a sponsor approached us and offered to support us we almost bit his hand off!

But what then? How would this event look? How would we get people to go along? We were stumped. We tried to start organising but we didn’t get very far; we just didn’t have the structure or the systems.

By chance, out of nowhere, along came this. Ahhhhhaaaaaa a Powwow! A gathering of like minded individuals who were to meet to learn things, share things and fix things.

This was exactly what we were trying to do, just on a smaller scale and without the teepees, totem pole, or campfire (we decided to keep the chocolate idea, we could manage that one).

So the concept of the first regional powwow was born.

After some suitable flattery to the organisers of the main powwow we joined forces for the good of paraplanning and chocolate. Hurrah!

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Now down to the serious business: what did it actually take to arrange Powwow Up North?

Well let’s start with a word to the wise shall we?

We are paraplanners; it’s our job, not our life.

Occasionally we might think or talk about our jobs outside of work but other than that we have families, friends, a social life, a whole other world. Organising a powwow seriously encroached into this.

Unless you are some kind of paraplanning automaton I’m guessing you have a life too. So ask yourself if you are willing to sidestep this real life for a few months. Prepare to eat sleep and drink the Powwow, because you will; you just can’t help it.

At ten o’clock one Saturday evening, Jo was overheard uttering swear words at the online ticketing system when she got a little frustrated with it. I woke up at 5.30 one Tuesday morning having had a nightmare because we all had exams coming up and we would have to spend three days away from the Powwow – what if something happened while no-one was available? – what about our powwow? It was quite traumatic!

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It was probably equally traumatic for our loved ones and let’s not forget our employers in all of this.

If you are thinking of organising a powwow you will spend the majority of time outside of office hours sorting it out. But in all honesty, there were times when we had to do things IN office hours: conference calls, replying to emails, speaking to journalists etc.

This cannot be done without the support of an understanding employer and for this we are both grateful. You need to make sure that you have their support before you decide to put yourself forward for this. It’s great for personal development and CPD; there will be things that you learn that you can put into practice in your normal working environment but this will impact on you at work. There’s no getting around this fact.

Speaking to journalists can be fun too. One of my personal highlights was when Jo was misquoted in an article – ‘Clive Goodwin and I are organising a best practice meeting.’ – oh it was a sheer joy explaining to everyone that I was in fact ‘Clive’!

The logistical bit was actually quite easy once we had the support of the main Powwow; it was the emotional attachment that we hadn’t bargained for.

So Powwow Up North was not like speaking at a conference or writing a blog. Yes, we had to muster up the courage to stand in front of twenty-odd people and rouse them into a lively debate, to tap into what they wanted to talk about. We had to be prepared to improvise. More than that though, Powwow Up North was our baby.

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For this reason, on Tuesday the 15th of October, I transformed into some kind of weird character that no-one recognised; a kind of cross between Christoph Waltz and Miranda Hart (yes, that weird).

When Jo saw me at the venue for the first time she said “Claire, are you ok? You seem a little…wired!”

Of course, she was spot on. I was a little ‘wired.’ But I didn’t need to be – thanks to the commitment of the people that turned up to powwow.

Everyone was happy to participate, share ideas, be open and honest in their discussions. Some people even brought their own chocolate! They were an awesome bunch.

The emails that we have had since, and the thanks on the day from our fellow Powwowers, have made it all worthwhile.

And that’s it.

That’s the spirit of the Powwow.

That’s why we did it; why we dreamt about it and why we lived Powwow Up North for a few months.

It was bloody well worth it.

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