Mary Kate McBurney

Meeting Expectations

This year, PCMA’s 20 in Their Twenties program honors its 10th class of exceptional young leaders in the business events industry. Class member Mary Kate McBurney, conference manager at Meeting Expectations, recalls the best advice she’s ever received and shares her own advice for students seeking a career in the industry.


What’s the best advice you’ve gotten from someone in the industry?

It is okay to say no. This was some advice that took awhile to truly sink in. Being a young professional, I am so eager to take on as many projects and opportunities as possible. I am so thankful that one of my project leads, who has been an invaluable mentor to me, took the time to provide me feedback and stressed that it was okay for me to say if I have too much on my plate and can’t take on anymore. You have to be an advocate for yourself. What I appreciate the most is that she didn’t just mention this once. She continues to remind me when she thinks I may be a little too quick to take on another part of an event. Although it can be hard to say no to an opportunity, I am so grateful that I have learned how to recognize when I need help or have too much going on. This has allowed me to focus on the quality and thoughtfulness of my work as an event planner.

What do you like most about your job?

There is so much that I love about being in the events industry. I am never bored — every day I get to work on events for a variety of clients who are all in different parts of the planning process. I am passionate about learning new skills, and I get that opportunity every day in the work that I do. I am able to stretch myself and my skills on each project. I have been able to fully immerse myself in so many parts of the meeting planning process without having to switch jobs. Although my events schedule keeps me busy, I always have the support of the incredible team at Meeting Expectations.

Where do you look for new ideas and inspiration?

I love chatting with other event professionals to get inspiration. Often when I feel stuck on a project, I’ll turn to one of my teammates to chat through some ideas. Since we all work with a variety of clients, I always come out with a new perspective and some inspiration. Additionally, I subscribe to a few daily industry newsletters that share articles and resources. I find it so valuable to look through them every day to see what advice and inspiration is just a click away. I recently just read this fantastic article about creative ways to save on F&B and have put used a lot of their suggestions.

What book or podcast do you recommend as essential for event professionals?

One of the first books I read after deciding to become an event planner was The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. I am so thankful I read this book early in my career. It dives into the intention that should drive meetings and encourages you to think beyond just event specs. This book often comes to mind when I am thinking through a big decision that will impact a client’s event strategy.

What advice would you give students who are interested in pursuing careers in the events industry?

You can do it! It is often challenging to find the right program when you have a passion for hospitality. There doesn’t seem to be one pathway to jump into the events industry. Don’t be discouraged. My bachelor’s degree is in accounting because I didn’t see a way to follow my childhood dream of being an event planner. Take every opportunity you can to learn outside the classroom. Getting involved in leading campus events helped me learn that I could pursue a career in event planning and gave me the confidence to do so. There are so many different career opportunities in our industry, so I always suggest that students connect with as many professionals in the industry as possible to get familiar with the variety of jobs and future opportunities.

Members of PCMA’s 20 in Their Twenties class of 2023, supported by PCMA Foundation and Experience Columbus, were recognized at PCMA Convening Leaders 2023, Jan. 8-11 in Columbus, Ohio.

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