June 1, 2021

Kevin Kirby | The Business of Meetings Podcast

Today, we have the pleasure of speaking to another amazing person! We are delighted to have Kevin Kirby, the Executive Director of the MPI Foundation, joining us as our guest!

Kevin started his career with companies like Universal and Disney and went on to work for Hard Rock International. He has a lot of knowledge and some great points to share today that will benefit everyone in our industry!

In this episode, Kevin talks about his challenging transition from Universal to Disney, volunteering, building relationships, rebranding, and believing in yourself.

Enjoy our conversation!

Kevin Kirby’s bio:

Kevin Kirby is a senior global sales and marketing executive with more than 30 years of experience advancing entertainment-centered hospitality brands. He has served in leadership roles for Universal Orlando, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, and Hard Rock International. He led the marketing efforts of regional theme parks in Ohio and Western New York earlier in his career. While at Hard Rock International, he championed locally designed, multi-platform sales, promotions, and advertising campaigns in over 55 countries, including China, Russia, and India. He directed both B2C and B2B segments initiatives while collaborating with operations leaders and franchise owners. He has led teams with multiple discipline representation (creative, IT, finance, operations, and C-level roles). Kevin has been a member of Meeting Professionals International since 1998. MPI is the world’s largest meeting and event professional association spanning 70+ countries and over 15,000 members. Throughout his 23+ years as an MPI member, he has served on numerous international committees (awards, marketing, and brand development), as an international board member in 2008-2010, and as an executive committee member from 2011-2013. Throughout 2014 and 2015, he traveled extensively as the appointed chairman of the International Board of Directors due to an extended-term. His journey with MPI has come full circle with his appointment as Executive Director of The MPI Foundation (MPIF). In his new role, he collaborates with countless industry partners to develop scholarships, grants, and fund research to complement the growing demand for experiential marketers and event organizers. The foundation has been critical to assisting financially distressed individuals and ensuring that chapters continue to offer value to their community.

Kevin Kirby’s story

Kevin describes himself as an accidental meeting professional. Early in his career, he was involved in theme parks in Ohio and Western New York. His love of hospitality eventually got him to Universal in Orlando, where he got introduced to the meeting and events business.


Making the transition from Universal to Disney was not a voluntary choice on Kevin’s part. He lost his job with Universal because they went through a corporate reorganization. It was a humbling experience for him after all the good work he had done and the success he had achieved.


Kevin received a call from someone at Disney, inviting him to join their events team.

A challenge

It was a challenge for Kevin to move from Universal to Disney, which has one of the strongest cultures and brands in the world.


Volunteering has always been important for Kevin. He was a member of the non-profit MPI for more than twenty-four years, and now, he works there and feels passionate about it.

A once-in-a-lifetime experience

Kevin was fortunate to deal with some great people at Hard Rock. He loved giving people a once-in-a-lifetime experience during his time there because he feels that is what the meeting and events business is all about.

Kevin Kirby’s philosophy on building relationships

Creating an emotional experience for people involves building relationships, being a good thought-partner, and helping people out. That has been a common theme throughout Kevin’s career, and it is what he enjoys about the meetings and events industry.

Repositioning after 2020

Business owners have to find new ways to keep their businesses open.


Recovery appears to be on the horizon. Have faith and take some time to self-reflect. Then take the opportunity to reintroduce your brand as something compelling. Be aware of your environment. Let people know that you care about them, and you will do your best to adapt to their changing needs.

Building trust

Always remember to take care of your team. That is a critical aspect of marketing. Building trust is as much about your team as it is about building external relationships.


Attending conferences is about cultivating relationships and finding business opportunities. Conferences are also there to provide professional education.

The best business relationships

The best business relationships come out of mutual respect, understanding, and genuinely caring.


Nothing equals the impact of a face-to-face meeting. The body language, handshakes, and hugs let people know that they appreciate one another and what they do.


MPI betters people’s lives by upskilling their abilities and providing career opportunities. Last year, they distributed just less than $700,000 to more than 2,230 distressed members and non-members globally. They are rolling out some initiatives towards planned giving for people in the late stages of their careers, and they will soon introduce some new partners.

They are currently motivated to bring in money to help people.


Last year, the leaders of the IMEX group decided to support the efforts of MPI by donating $250,000 to the organization.

The key

Relationships have been the key to what MPI has managed to achieve. They have a board of trustees that believes in what they are doing and continues to support them.


Kevin has always enjoyed being able to laugh at himself and at any situation he finds himself in.

Kevin Kirby’s thoughts on faith

There will always be moments of self-doubt. Have faith, trust in a greater calling, believe that there is a path for you, and don’t take anything personally, according to Kevin. Know that there is a better opportunity waiting in every circumstance,

Believe in yourself

Trust yourself. Trust your gut, and surround yourself with people who support you. If you believe in something, push it. You will be surprised at the outcome.

Connect with Kevin Kirby

Email kevinkirby@mpi.org

On LinkedIn

On his Website

Connect with Eric: On LinkedIn | On Facebook | On Instagram | Website

If you’d rather watch the video of this interview, subscribe on YouTube

About the author 

Eric Rozenberg

For two decades, Eric Rozenberg has consulted with Fortune 500 companies and produced conferences in more than 50 countries across diverse industries. His focus is creating meetings that are not only breathtakingly memorable but which bring corporate strategies to life and amplify team motivation/performance.

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