Everyone on our team is a
rock star.

Our sharp, dedicated, innovative staff members have an attitude. A can-do attitude. Our background in leadership positions with the hotel and catering industries means our team is well-equipped for the many facets of large-scale event management. Plus, we’re fun to work with — and we think that’s important too.  

We believe that important aspects of an event such as banquets and catering, transportation, trade show planning, communications and other details are best run by those who specialize in these areas – and we have staff members to fill all of these roles. Yet flexibility is a critical characteristic of our event model, so we can work with our clients’ established teams, or we run it all – whichever is best to achieve the desired result.

Mary O’Connor

Executive Management

As president and founder of Mary O’Connor and Co., Mary leads her team to work with clients on strategic planning, event budgets and forecasting, negotiating contracts, procuring event sponsors, developing public conferences and managing a team to deliver comprehensive events. She is able to accomplish this with the creativity and innovative thinking it takes to plan spectacular events, along with the business sense and experience to reach goals for budgets, ROI and employee and customer engagement.

Mary has 30 years’ experience in the hospitality industry, including 16 years in management with Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, and has established her reputation as a sought-after expert in her field. Prior to establishing her firm, she was the assistant vice president of catering and conventions for Hyatt. Her vibrant, fun-loving personality, combined with her outstanding industry knowledge and professionalism, motivate clients to work with her year after year. Mary is a Certified Meeting Planner (CMP), Learning Environment Specialist (LES) and Professional Catering Executive (PCE).

Rich Benninger

Vice President of Sales

Rich has been the team’s Las Vegas-based sales manager since 2008 and was recently promoted to vice president of sales, now leading our sales team. He is an accomplished manager with 25 years of planning and executing events, conventions, tradeshows and festivals including expertise in strategic planning, team development, financial management and operations. For six years, Rich was executive director of catering and conference services at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, during which time he handled operations for the annual HBO Las Vegas Comedy Festivals. He also was director of catering for MGM Grand and held leadership positions in catering and convention services for Hyatt and Levy Restaurants at McCormick Place Convention Center, Chicago. Rich’s community service includes involvement in industry professional organizations and serving as president of the board for The Southern Nevada Arthritis Foundation, 2005–2007. He holds an Associate of Applied Science degree as a Professional Chef, a bachelor’s degree in Hotel Administration and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA). Committed to continuous learning, he is currently pursuing his doctorate.

Jeanette Jones

Director of Operations

Jeanette joined the MOC and Co. team in early 2009 as the project director for the our Fortune 100 client’s restaurant development meeting. She has more than 15 years experience in project management and communications, developing her expertise in internal communications and event management logistics from the client side. During her recent 10-year tenure with Starbucks Coffee Company, she rose to the position of communications program manager and then event manager, managing the Starbucks $32 million budget for the 2008 conference, coming in $2.5K under budget and managing multiple vendors and venues. Additionally, she has project management and internal communications experience in HR and IT. Jeanette earned her degree in International Business and Economics from the University of Washington.

Kristin Huben

Project Manager

Kristin brings international experience to our team, which was instrumental in one of her early assignments as on-site project coordinator for a major restaurant company’s 2005 global legal conference in Dublin, Ireland. Kristin had initially gotten her feet wet (pun intended) as an O’Connor team key player in an unusual emergency project securing hurricane Katrina relief housing for the same restaurant company’s employees, right after she moved to the Chicago area when her own home was destroyed by the hurricane. She has since progressed to project leadership responsibilities for several major clients with special expertise in VIP management, on-site event management and award-winning customer service, including being named Employee of the Year in 2007. Kristin first demonstrated her meeting planning abilities in her role as Regatta Director for the Marathon Rowing Championships in Natchitoches, Louisiana, while earning her bachelor’s degree from Northwestern State University. Upon graduation, she moved to the United Kingdom where she worked in administration for a private medical practice.

Judy Schlipp

Communications Manager

Judy joined MOC and Co. in 2007. She has more than 25 years experience managing and creating corporate, marketing and employee communications for domestic and international Fortune 100 companies as well as small entrepreneurial firms and nonprofit projects. She has extensive experience in writing and editing for all formats -- print, video, web/social media and executive presentations -- and manages production of collateral materials that resonate with both client objectives and audience relevance. On the Mary O’Connor team, she was project lead for the annual recognition event for a major restaurant company, handling all meeting communications as well. Judy has many years to her credit on the client side in managing meetings, conventions and incentive trips in the U.S., Caribbean and Europe, ranging in size from 100 to more than 1,000 delegates, most frequently involving Hyatt and Marriott/Renaissance resorts and hotels. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Illinois and a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) from DePaul University, Chicago.

Ann Keefer

Accounting Manager

With several years of experience in various aspects of administrative work, including bookkeeping and accounting, Ann joined the Mary O’Connor team in 2010. She is experienced in QuickBooks and other major business and database programs. As a member of the Mary O’Connor team, Ann handles budget and expense planning for projects and all invoicing and financial administration.

Jeffrey Rago

On-Site Event Manager

Jeff’s professional experience includes more than 13 years in the hospitality/meetings industry. He has worked with the Mary O’Connor team since 2005 and has been a key player in such events as a major coffee company’s “world’s largest tasting” in New Orleans. Jeff also created incentive client programs around such signature events as the Grammys, the Emmys and the AFI Film Festival. As part of the client services team, he contributed to winning the Meetings and Conventions Gold Service Awards as well as the Successful Meetings Pinnacle Awards each year while sustaining a personal JD Power score or 4.5 out of 5. As hotel information desk manager for Event Transportation Associates, Jeff oversaw 80 hotels and coordinated transportation for 14,000 delegates during the 2000 Democratic National Convention in LA.

Rob Sanderson

Rob holds the undisputed title of “most versatile” team member, which he’s been earning since joining Mary O’Connor and Co. in 2005. Known for making guests feel valued and cared for, he is the team’s on-site customer service expert. Rob has an admirable pitch-in attitude and regularly produces positive comments from clients. His experience has included food service, transportation, shipping/receiving management and VIP relations. A few of the many Mary O’Connor client projects in which Rob has been involved are the 2,000+ attendee convention for a major bakery-café franchise, annual recognition and functional meetings for a Fortune 100 restaurant company and a franchisee convention for a health-targeted restaurant chain.

Erin Deist

Erin graduated from Southern Illinois University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and Tourism. Despite her young career, she already has three years hotel experience with Marriott and an internship with Nationwide Hospitality, Inc. Additionally, her experience with Fosse computer systems, concierge service, air and ground travel, and hotel marketing and promotion make her a valuable asset to the team. Erin’s most recent Mary O’Connor client event was a Fortune 100 restaurant company’s 2009 annual recognition event in Chicago, and she was part of the on-site team for the a recent religious organization’s annual conference. She is certified with the State of Illinois Department of Public Health in food service sanitation.