Meet Timot McGonagle, Director, ILEA Greater Chicago

For over 15 years Timot McGonagle produced exquisite events that both embrace and amplify his clients’ ethos and signature style. A former resident of New York City and Nashville, Timot moved to Chicago in 2011 to join the Kehoe Designs team as a Senior Event Producer where his creative talents are exercised through every facet of event design.

Timot has applied his creative and business might in the varied fields of Marketing, Advertising, Retailing, Cosmetics, Fashion Design, Decorative Arts, and Interior Design. He first joined ILEA in 2002, and his first experience was the incredible CPD in Sydney Australia.

Timot began his event career as a volunteer Event Producer helping to raise millions of dollars for Nashville charities. The support of ILEA and other industry organizations allowed Timot to transition from volunteer to full-time Event Producer.  His experience has allowed him to excel in his corporate, association, social, gala and other large-scale events at Kehoe Designs.

Timot is an Esprit and Gala Award Winning Producer/Designer. He was on the steering committee at Eventworld LA producing the Esprit Awards and was a featured speaker at TSE in Los Angeles.  As the PR Chairman of the SEARCH Foundation Board, he has delivered numerous event presentations across the country to various industry organizations.

Timot has just celebrated his sixth year in Chicago and looks forward to combining his regional and national experience to maximize the success of ILEA Chicago.


Q & A's:

Getting to Know You Q & A ...

What made you interested in participating in ILEA Leadership? I just celebrated my 6th anniversary in Chicago with Kehoe.  Although I have been producing and designing events for over 15 years, I now felt that I possessed the knowledge of Chicago and the surrounding region to be an effective and productive board member.

What would you say are the benefits for participating in our ILEA committees? No matter what your level of experience, you will have the opportunity to work with the board members and committee chairs.  We are here to help and to provide the nurturing and guidance to maximize the benefits of your membership.

What's your advice for those unsure where to start in becoming active in ILEA? You will meet and work with seasoned professionals who will welcome your assistance as they are happy to provide advice and guidance.  You will gain a more personal connection to the board and the membership in general.  That sense of gratification of helping to create memorable experiences for others.

How has ILEA made a difference in your career? My first ILEA experience was the CPD in Sydney Australia in 2002. The only person that I knew in the industry  was Bill Pry from BBJ.   I was living Nashville at the time working as a charity volunteer producer and designer where he had sponsored several charities. 

It was the recognition from ILEA and Special Event Magazine that transformed my volunteer work into a full time event business.  My relocation to Chicago in 2011 was made much easier because of the people that I had met through ILEA.

Tell us one thing we might not know about you.  I have a couture degree from FIT in New York and lived in the city for ten years as a fashion designer.

What do you love the most about what you do?  Exceeding expectations.  Pushing boundaries.  Creating a sense anticipation, wonder and surprise.  Invigorating the “inner  child” within the guests.

Where did you grow up?   Ohio

Thanks Timot!

For more information about Timot McGonagle or Kehoe Designs, you can reach Timot at: Timot@kehoedesigns or 615.500.1349

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Meet Jodi Whitlock, Director, ILEA Greater Chicago

While new to ILEA, Jodi has been in the events industry since the early 90's. She started working as a freelance staff person for Corporate Event Interactive in 1994, and became a full time staff member in 2004. CEI is Chicago's boutique interactive/teambuilding company, and we offer 150+ customizable events.
As the Senior Event Producer at CEI, Jodi is responsible for staffing events, developing new programs and working with clients to create memorable and fun experiences. CEI has been involved with ILEA for 15+ years, with Linda Whitlock (CEI President) serving as President of the ILEA Chicago Chapter in 1999/2000, and Jodi is thrilled to be taking the reigns as the ILEA rep for CEI in 2017.


Q & A's:

Getting to Know You Q & A ...

What made you interested in participating in ILEA Leadership? I felt that it was the best way to get involved in ILEA and make the most of my membership. I thrive on collaborating and being involved with the Board is definitely that! 

What would you say are the benefits for participating in our ILEA committees?  Developing more meaningful relationships with awesome industry people! And being really in the know as far as what is coming up.

What's your advice for those unsure where to start in becoming active in ILEA?  Just ask! Any board member or committee chair will be thrilled to answer questions on how to be more involved. Express a bit of interest and you will be recruited!

How has ILEA made a difference in your career?  The depth of relationships with industry peeps. My network has grown exponentially is a very short amount of time.

Tell us one thing we might not know about you. I’ve been a Reiki Master for 3 years, and make Reiki-infused baked goods.

What do you love the most about what you do? It’s never the same.

Where did you grow up? Michigan

What's your event gone wrong horror story? Haha! Let’s have a glass of wine and I’ll tell you…

Thanks Jodi!

For more information about Jodi or CEI, you can reach Jodi at: or 312.540.1000

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Summer's a Wrap After ILEA Chicago's August 30 Street Fest

We ended summer with a bang at the first ILEA Summer Fest hosted by Hard Rock Café.  What a perfect night on their lovely patio!  Hard Rock provided passed hors d’oeuvres, a stationary buffet with some great summer comfort food and beverages perfect for our ILEA Chicago koozies.

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Our long-time member, Dave Calzaretta with Magnificent Events, kicked off the presentation.  He gave such a great overview of the world of summer fests.  Everything from musical entertainment, staging, permitting, parking, food, and more!  Everyone was impressed with all the little and complicated details that go into such a large event. 

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 Following Dave, Hayden Moldenhauer with Arena Americas, was able to dive a little deeper into the tenting structures and parameters for permitting.  We all learned that tents might as well be buildings with all the architectural details and plans required.

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Spoon Photo & Design snapped photos for us all evening, including a great group shot with our ILEA International President, Ingrid Nagy. It is always great to have members from other chapters in town for our events and we couldn’t think of a better send off for summer!

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 Finally, many thanks to Erica Roskoskey with Food For Thought Catering Group for planning this fabulous event


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Meet Jeff Durocher, VP of Membership ILEA Greater Chicago

Jeff Durocher has been in and out of the hospitality industry his whole life. Starting as a child in the carnival business, moving into food and food services operations at his entrepreneur fathers various store fronts to selling and delivering product to venues – all before heading off to college. After college he transitioned into the professional services world where he eventually became the Chief Marketing Officer of an international consulting firm. During his tenure he helped build and grow the companies brand thorough events—sponsoring, presenting, hosting and promoting events of all sizes. Under his leadership, the firm was regularly quoted in publications such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fortune and the Financial Times and has a presence at several C-level conferences. The company eventually became well known throughout the world as THE gold standard in CEO Succession.

Jeff was also a founding member of the CMO Roundtable which is an exclusive group of CMOs at Professional Services firms. He is also active in the Association of Management Consultants (AMCF) as a panelist, speaker and lead for their Chicago Committee.

In 2011, Jeff purchased US Poker & Casino Parties to satisfy his interest in becoming an entrepreneur in an industry (hospitality) that he knew well. Over time, the company’s reputation has grown and Jeff has become very active in the industry. He is currently the Co-Chair of the MARCOMM Committee at Meeting Planners International-Chicago Chapter (MPI-CAC), Vice President of Membership for International Live Events Association (ILEA), an Ambassador for Choose Chicago and an active member in several other organizations.

Jeff has a B.S. degree in Marketing from DePaul University. Away from the office, he enjoys watching sports and taking in the recent political theater.

Q & A's:

What made you interested in participating in ILEA Leadership? 
I had been looking for a relevant networking group for about 2 years when I ran into Nicole Zenner at IX Exchange in 2014.  She was very nice, explained the benefits of ILEA and invited me to attend one of their upcoming events.  After attending the bus trip to Milwaukee I was hooked.  It was just a matter of time before I decided that I wanted to be around people like this.  All of them were event pros and super helpful!

What would you say are the benefits for participating in our ILEA committees? 
The quality of people and their willingness to learn and help me learn.  They are flexible, curious and smart professionals that all want the same outcome.

What's your advice for those unsure where to start in becoming active in ILEA? 
Attend one of our meetings.  Find me and I’ll introduce you to 5 people you need to know.  The power of this group is the strong network and ability to meet everyone in a short period of time.

How has ILEA made a difference in your career? 
I have grown personally and professionally from being a part of ILEA.  Now, as a board member, I enjoy getting to know everyone and their business but also reaching out to others in the hospitality community and letting them know about this amazing group.

Tell us one thing we might not know about you.
Work is my hobby.  I don’t do vacations very well.

What do you love the most about what you do?
The networking, learning and growing.  There are amazing venues in Chicago, wonderful foods and spectacular entertainment. I love to be a part of that.  I can’t believe it’s actually my ‘job’ to do this.  What a great time.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up on Northern Michigan.  I love the seasons and wish we had more snow in the winters.  Cold winters, without snow make for bad winters in my opinion.

What's your event gone wrong horror story?
I occasionally regret my willingness to accommodate clients at the last minute.  While it is one of our differentiators, I need to know when to say no.  We had 8 events in one evening all across the Chicagoland and NW Indiana area.  I shoud have said no to the 8th one.  We did not deliver a great experience to the last event.  Set up was late.  Everyone was stressed and the guests were confused.  In the end, we made it right and everyone had a great time but I do not want that to happen again.

Thanks Jeff!

For more information about Jeff or US Poker & Casino Parties, you can reach Jeff at: or 312.662.0182

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A Message from Lisa Ware, President ILEA Chicago


Happy Monday! It is hard for me to believe that it is already August – I feel like I blinked and my first year as ILEA Chicago President is behind me! If you don’t already know me – my name is Lisa Ware – and I am your ILEA Chicago Chapter President.  I won’t lie – I had mixed emotions about taking on a second year as President.  I got married this year, my job is busier than ever, I have bigger goals both personal and professional – where will I find the time to commit to being your leader again? All thoughts that went through my head.  But then I thought about how I got here and how ILEA has impacted not only my career but my life.  Looking back on the last 8 years of my event career, ILEA is woven through so much of it – ILEA jump started my career in Indy, introduced me to the right people, helped me build my network and grow in Indianapolis to land me with an amazing job in Indy – that company is where I learned all the ropes of the business (and also met my husband).  ILEA led me to Barb Harris – which led me to John Rudy – which led me to Food For Thought and my dream of living in Chicago!  I can think of all of these momentous things in my life and remember key conversations with ILEA people that led me to the next step.  So here I am – starting my second year as your ILEA Chicago Chapter President.  I could certainly coast through the year and go through the motions and keep our Chapter on track until I pass the torch next year.  That would be easy.  I don’t want to remember my last year as ILEA Chicago President as easy – I want a year of action!

                We (ILEA Chicago) had our board retreat earlier this month.  It is the best five hours your ILEA Chicago Board will spend all year as it is the day we lay the foundation for our year.  I could not be more excited about the 10 people who surround me this year and the amazing ideas they have for the year.  Fair warning – my first shameless plug of why you should be an ILEA Chicago member – if you have ever contemplated joining – NOW is the time! The calendar of events we have in the works for the year is the best in my 8 years with ILEA – education programs, pure networking programs, behind the scenes you can’t do anywhere besides ILEA programs and all of our usual faves! We did a survey in the Spring of last year and my major takeaway from that is we need to do a better job of showing value in being a member.  We are rolling out all kinds of new member benefits for the year – a top 10 reasons why of sorts – stay tuned for a blog just about that! My favorite new member benefit is our early bird rate…for the first 7 days our registration is live for a program, members can register at an early bird rate and get $10.00 off…FOR EVERY PROGRAM!  And so so many more! Stay tuned…

                We have two major initiatives as a Chapter this year – ILEA Chicago is the newest SEARCH 100 member – meaning we have pledged $100 a month to the SEARCH Foundation from our Chapter.  The SEARCH foundation provides financial assistance to special event professionals in crisis.  Seriously – what better way can we give back as a Chapter on a national level than to help other special event professionals?  We are also partnering with The Birthday Party Project in Chicago to help provide birthday parties for children in homeless shelters.  Come on – who would not want to be a part of that?  We hope to be actively involved with 2 birthday parties a year. More details coming soon! We are event people and we can’t think of two better organizations to team up with to give back.   

                You, our members, are the reason that ILEA Chicago exists.  We want to hear your thoughts, we want your honest feedback, we want your ideas for a program or speaker you are dying to get to Chicago.  We want to give back to YOU and help you use your ILEA membership to its fullest potential.  I personally want to go for Chapter of the Year – it is a lofty goal and I need everyone to hold me accountable – the best way you can help us get there is letting us know what YOU want out of your membership.  I know what ILEA has given me – I want to help ILEA Chicago give you the same experience.  We are your association, your partner, and your friend.  We are ILEA!!  

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