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2022 Connect x BizBash 40 Under 40: Shawn Shapiro

Shawn Shapiro, 39, is an event planner at Redstone Agency.

Shawn Shapiro

Shawn Shapiro, 39, is an event planner at Redstone Agency. He's based in Maple, Ontario.

What I do:
As an event planner, I wear dozens of “proverbial hats” simultaneously—and I love it! Though my day-to-day role has many specific tasks, the main goal I try to ensure with every project, event or campaign is to truly create ease and peace of mind for all the clients I work with, while finding creative ways to exceed expectations. 

Why I love my job:
I love both my role and the company where I work, as there are truly so many opportunities daily to grow, learn and have my voice heard, which is so special and rare. After a successful virtual, hybrid or in-person event, I love reflecting to see how we were able to exceed client expectations—there is no better feeling in the world!

My career journey: 
Two years ago, I was living the stereotypical event life and supporting an event in NYC just weeks before the pandemic hit, with no clue what would come next—and then unfortunately the inevitable happened. Time is precious, so I used this as an opportunity to further bond with my toddler while staying on top of learning about platforms and the virtual world of events, and ensured I found ways to keep sharp and focus on my event skills.

Sometimes in the darkest moments, you can find the most amazing things you never knew you needed or wanted, and that was how I felt when I joined the #REDSQUAD (Redstone Agency). It was somewhere I could grow and could learn more about this amazing new world of virtual and hybrid events. 

My greatest career accomplishment:
If several years ago you told me that “risk management” would rise the list of importance for every event professional, I would never have believed you. I never thought it was such an accomplishment, but I was picked as one of two event management post-graduate students to be part of a research study on “Risk in Toronto Mass Events,” and the paper was submitted to the 2015 Pan Am Committee. Looking back, I have a deeper respect and understanding of how risk affects everything we do daily in the industry, especially during a pandemic. I feel blessed that I was given the opportunity to have had my project shared with such a prestigious mass event committee. 

How I helped my organization during COVID:
One of the core values the organization strives to achieve is success with “people,” which is not only the clients who work with us, but also those who are part of the internal team. There are amazing internal committees to help us grow and feel connected even when we cannot be together, and as co-lead of the Wellness Committee, I feel like I can “pay it forward” and help others find balance and positivity in hard times. I feel that is something that has positively defined how I am seen by colleagues, and funny enough it makes me feel a little stronger and happier each day. If something I posted or have done on this initiative makes one person feel a bit better, I have then made a difference. 

The time I averted a complete event disaster:
It was at a large-scale multiday mass event activation at the street festival for the 106th Grey Cup, and one day the temperature was 3 degrees Celsius and by the next, it dropped to -7 Celsius. The team was freezing cold, assets were frozen and it was just getting colder. I was able to jump into action and make a rotation schedule to ensure everyone had “warm-up time” at a space at a nearby hotel, and I took a drive to a local store and picked up extra gloves and toques. We successfully finished the event, and these actions ensured the team was warm and safe. Without a strong and happy event team, you have nothing!

My most memorable event experience in the past year:
One of my proudest achievements was working on a small-but-mighty hybrid event last year. With Ontario reopening rules and numbers for attendance strict and ever-changing, it was a balancing act, but it felt amazing afterward seeing how everything came together to perfection. Being back on-site with the smells, sounds, sights and experiences, it just felt like going home after a long time being away and knowing nothing had really changed! 

Best advice I’ve ever received:
A teacher in my program said, “Treat your events and the planning process like a game of chess.” It sounded bizarre at the time, but it is so true. When planning or executing an event, you must always think four steps ahead to ensure you are proactive versus reactive, and know every scenario that can possibly happen. 

Impressive stats I’m responsible for: 
In one of my earlier roles, the company I was with wanted to put on a function for 300 people but had very little they could financially put towards the event. I was able to negotiate an industry speaker to speak as an in-kind sponsorship and create a small trade show with seven booths to ensure we literally paid not a cent more than desired. 

What’s next? 
Numbers and restrictions have been different in Canada, so I am excited to continue learning and applying innovative ways to create a hybrid event experience that is safe and fun for those in person and engaging for those at home. I cannot wait to test new apps, use new vendors and journey into “The Event Industry 2.0”!

What I do outside of work: 
2022 is the year I want to get back to volunteering and use my passion and expertise in events to give back. After work, you will find me spending time with my wife and daughter exploring local events or strengthening my social media and cooking skills. I love posting about my latest creations on my Instagram “foodie” account.

Dream vacation:
I have always wanted to explore Australia and have a backpacking adventure. Though I have been to Hollywood before, I dream of one day going back and getting to volunteer at the Academy Awards—I do not care the task. I want to say I got to it once in my lifetime!

Favorite icebreaker line:
If you could volunteer at any event, which would it be and why?

Connect with Shapiro on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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“Connect x BizBash 40 Under 40” is sponsored by VDA, an experiential marketing and event design agency based in Massachusetts that specializes in custom live, virtual and hybrid experiences.