Karen Rocha, 26
Events Specialist, Paragon Events Inc., Delray Beach, Fla.
How I got here:
My passion for the events industry was invigorated while attending Florida International University (FIU) Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, seven years ago. Encouraged by the mentorship of my professors and the multiple event opportunities offered early in my career, I quickly built a diverse portfolio of planning experiences. Early in my career, I served as an event coordinator for the largest South Florida culinary arts event, the South Beach Food and Wine Festival. I also supported the event logistics and on-site execution for Art Basel Miami, serving as a logistics coordinator, before finding my way to Paragon Events through a mentor’s recommendation.
My greatest career accomplishment:
Recently, planning and executing one of our largest client's first virtual gala. The event was professionally recorded with a production team at a green screen studio and broadcast live to over 500 attendees. From planning the transition to a virtual setting, coordinating recording logistics, creating production timelines and a show script, and taking proper precautions to protect attendees during the in-person portion, this event had endless moving parts.
In March 2020, I successfully led the execution of a client's first virtual education event. My quick decision to pivot resulted in record-breaking registration numbers with a 17% increase over  and a 12% reduction in expenses. It exceeded our client's projected profit and surpassed historic profitability by 15%.
A specific improvement I’ve made:
I explored virtual event opportunities early, which allowed me to become a company leader in virtual platforms and solutions, including Award Force for award nominations management, BracketPal to automate bracket and tournament tracking for a client’s sporting event, and RunSignup for our upcoming virtual fundraising race.
What I'm working on right now:
This year, I am most excited about planning a virtual fund-raiser in the form of a competitive fitness challenge participants can complete at home, anytime within the fundraising time period. I’m currently building the event platform, where the entire race will be hosted, which will also track participants' achievements, collect monetary donations, create fundraising teams and generate individual communication plans to help participants share their fund-raising goal.
What I do outside of work:
Volunteering is a big part of my free time and a long-held passion. I enjoy serving local community projects focused on children’s organizations and feeding the less fortunate. I also actively participate in my church community service group and different outreach projects monthly, such as painting at local schools and pouring time and love into local communities in need. Finally, my family truly is everything to me. Spending time with them, whether on trips together exploring or staying at home watching movies, brings so much joy to my life.
Favorite vacation destination:
By far, my favorite vacation destination would be the Maldives. This beautiful tropical island captured my heart with breathtaking views of its turquoise ocean, fresh air, sunny weather and pure white sandy beaches. The locals and staff from the Adaaran Prestige Ocean Villas at Lhohifushi Island offered such a warm welcome, along with a delicious taste of their culture and cuisine. Not only did I have the privilege of exploring this beautiful island, but I also hold the memories of this trip especially close to my heart since my now-husband proposed there in our water villa overlooking the Indian Ocean.
Favorite icebreaker line:
Often, one of my go-to lines at an event or any group gathering is, "What a beautiful venue. Have you been here before?" This question opens up organic conversation about interesting places they have been and places they would like to visit, which naturally leads the conversation to other topics. It's not too forced, and allows for friendly discussions.