Trapped in the Tropics Event Recap


Trapped in the Tropics  is a program developed by Corporate Event Interactive and is a portable room escape concept. Staff guided the teams through a series of puzzles, so they were able to escape from their islands and make it to the mainland before the storms came.

After some refreshing cocktails by Spritzology and delectable appetizers from Jordan's Food of Distinction, the program portion of the meeting kicked off with Lisa Ware, ILEA Chicago Chapter President, giving a big welcome to all, thanks to all our generous sponsors and a reminder that has just undergone an update of its own.  Kim Jean with Catalyst Ranch gave shared her perspective about the about the creatively decorated and colorful venue.  An idea that was born in 2002, The Catalyst Ranch has been providing a creative meeting space to Chicago and earning kudos and awards since.  

Linda Whitlock with Corporate Event Interactive shared a bit of history of CEI, (and apparently promoted Jodi to part-owner!) then she handed the mic off to Dan Gately who described the night’s activity and set the tone for the journey on which we were about to embark. 

For the CEI program Trapped in the Tropics, the group was split into 3 teams of 9, and began working on the puzzles to solve the combination of the treasure chests on their table.  The chests on their ‘island’ contained a treasure map with a secret riddle to solve for the chest on the second island. This continued until one team had the solution for the final lock on the mainland. The puzzles got people thinking, looking at things differently and working together to find the solutions. Not to mention it all involving rubber ducky life rings, nautical flags and let's not forget fishing on a "floating island".  What fun!

After "Team Awesome" opened the chest to reveal their valuable prizes, the other two teams took a crack at it.  Fortunately all were successful in escaping before the storm came in.  

Once the activity was over, Jordan’s Food of Distinction had a delicious pasta station set up so everyone could enjoy some food and beverage and continue networking. M&M Special Events provided the beautiful linens, plus all of the dish and glassware for the event. Ben Gonzales of GoPho Collective was the photographer sponsor and snapped the photos that can be seen here.


Thank you to everyone who came out and put their brains to work on the challenging puzzles.  We are glad you all made it off the island safely – great teamwork!  Thank you to the sponsors and members who worked hard organizing and promoting this meeting.  Looking forward to seeing everyone in June.


Once again, Thank you to our sponsors:










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A Message from Lisa Ware, President ILEA Chicago

Click on the link below and view the new video by Lisa Ware.

Thank you!

Lisa Ware, President ILEA Chicago - May

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ILEA Chicago has a new look!

ILEA Chicago has a new look!

Less than a year after our name change to ILEA, we've taken some time this last year to focus on learning more about and promoting our members, finding new venue gems around the city as hosts for our monthly programs and taking a pulse on what was most important to you while we work together to grow our chapter and find new ways to showcase our members and their businesses.

Today, ILEA Chicago is proud to unveil our new website!  More than just a fresh, updated look, offers more features and an easy to follow layout.  Here's a few things you might find truly special in our new site:

  • Updated and simple layout with easy to find sections
  • Follow ILEA's Twitter feed right on our front page - Instagram to be featured soon
  • Sponsor partners of our monthly programs will enjoy more visibility with a feature on the front page where viewers can see and click on your logos for more information
  • Expanded Chapter News section
  • Direct links to leadership, committees and now Industry Opportunities on front page


We're just getting started in bringing a fresh voice, more member benefits and more high touch opportunities to promote your business and gain experience.

Join us today.  As a new member, you still have until May 31 to join and save with the following:

Join by May 31 as a NEW member and be entered in a drawing for one of two great prizes:

  • Prize #1 - Complimentary Registration to any 6 regular ILEA monthly programs!
  • Prize #2 - Complimentary registration for both the 2018 Day of Education and The Masters Dinner!

Drawing to be held at the June 21 event at Guesthouse Hotel. (Be sure to register so you can watch the raffle yourself!).
Regardless, you still save $50 off new memberships just by joining by May 31.
Join us today.  As an existing renewing member, there are new ways to join:

  • Individual or Corporate Primary Memberships - You can still renew at $449 for the year - sign up anytime from now until June 30.  Membership is for the period of July 1, 2017 - June 30, 2018.
  • Corporate Additional - Meant for a 2nd contact at your corporation, added at a discount of $249
  • Nonprofit Professional - For those employed by nonprofit organizations - $399 for the year, and all member benefits are the same
  • Student Membership - For full time students at a two or four year college.  $50 for the full year - and no application fee.
  • Emerging Event Professional - For recent graduates of a two or four year college or those with less than five years  of experience $300* for the year.
  • Multi Year Membership - For those who have corporate primary, corporate additional, non-profit or individual full memberships.  You can renew for 3 years and save $50 per year .
    Note those marked with " * " above include the $50 one time application fee of $50

    Still have questions?  ILEA Hub has great overviews for you at: or call anyone in the current leadership of ILEA Chicago   

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Why ILEA and CSEP Made a Difference - With Gwen McNutt, CSEP

ILEA Chicago's leadership latest Member Spotlight highlights our talk with Gwendolyn Y. McNutt, CSEP, Regional External Affairs Manager with Comcast, and ILEA Chicago member since 2001.  Taking her ILEA membership a step further, Gwen earned her CSEP (Certified Special Events Professional) in October 2003.

Gwen shared her #MYILEA story and why she made the decision to earn this special designation:

How has your ILEA Membership & CSEP enhanced their business or career since joining? 

I decided to earn my CSEP for a number of reasons including, increasing my marketability, professional creditability, and expanding my industry skills and knowledge. Since earning my CSEP, I’ve been able to continually exhibit to my employer and colleagues that I have a broad understanding of the event industry. In addition, it has also provided me with access to new professional colleagues and more tools, resources and educational opportunities.

What’s your advice to prepping and taking the test? 

One of the things that really helped me prepare to take the CSEP, was finding others that were also preparing to take the exam. Once you find others to share in the process, prepare, prepare, prepare. Although you know your craft, when you are faced with putting your thoughts on paper against a timeclock, it puts additional pressure on you. Make sure that you thoroughly review the content outline before test day. As long as you approach your test taking with the same organization as you approach your events; you’ll be able to follow the content outline on exam day, and you won’t run out of time.

How has your CSEP enhanced your business or career since earning it. 

Earning my CSEP has helped me to demonstrate to others that I have a commitment to the industry that I love. By taking the exam, it has allowed me to become a more competent and skilled event professional, with a wider understanding of the industry as a whole. It also requires you to stay abreast of industry trends and therefore, maintain your professional development through continuous review and education.

Why CSEP- how did you hear about it and or what gave you the incentive to sit for the test?

When I decided to join a professional association, I looked for one that could not only offer networking; but also, provide professional development opportunities. Since I knew at some point I wanted to obtain a certification, I also researched which exam would be the most appropriate for me to take. My motivation to sit for the exam was a combination of professional development, credibility and continuing education. I have continued to maintain my certification because it not only adds legitimacy to our field, but it also encourages me to stay abreast of industry trends.

What is your advice to others regarding earning this designation?

Simply put, “Get it!” Sitting for the CSEP exam was one of the most difficult, but also one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. It also gave me the opportunity to expand my professional network and meet some wonderful event professionals, with whom I have been able to build and maintain lasting relationships.

To follow Gwen, use the following links:

LinkedIn:  Gwendolyn Y. McNutt, CSEP

Twitter: @gmcnuttplans 


Gwen is another great story showing the experience and professionalism of our member base.  If you or someone you know is interested in joining ILEA, our May Membership Drive is the time!  Only in May, you can get 14 months of membership AND save $50 off your annual membership fee.   Just click here and sign up between May 1 - 31 using the promo code:  MAY50.

If you have any questions about membership, please contact Sandy Sobczak, CERP at, or to any of the ILEA Leadership.   We hope to see you at the next meeting!

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Why ILEA Made a Difference - With Valerie Braun

Our May membership drive is in full swing. ILEA Chicago's leadership is sharing this talk with one of our long time members - Valerie Braun, Past President of ILEA Chicago (1998-1999) and Industry Relations Manager, Arena Americas, winner of many N.I.C.E. and an ILEA LIVE Esprit award.

Alysia shared her #MYILEA story and why she made the decision to join ILEA Chicago:

How has your ILEA Membership has enhanced their business or career since joining? 

ILEA has been a great vehicle to meet and work with so many talented event professionals from some of the most well respected companies in the Chicago special events industry. ILEA has also provided me with opportunities to stay abreast of the new venues, trends, events, educational components and people that shape the Chicago events landscape.  As our industry evolves so does the need to interact with our colleagues and continue to work with and support each other. We are so fortunate to have such a wonderful group of seasoned professionals in our chapter from which we can grow and learn from and to watch the enthusiasm of the newer group of younger talent as they get involved with ILEA.

Why ILEA - who introduced you to our organization originally?

Deborah Borsum from SBR Events (formerly The Meetinghouse Companies) recruited me when the Chapter was just forming.

What is your advice to others in the chapter in getting the most of their membership?

I feel it is very important to not only belong to an organization, but to be involved, offer support and refer fellow members whenever possible.     

Can you think of any #MYILEA moments that were particularly satisfying?

I was VP of Programs when the Chicago Chapter was celebrating their ten year anniversary and we celebrated it at the United Center right after the Bulls won their first championship.  We had a great attendance and the Chapter was able to raise $5,000.  

Thanks Valerie for sharing your #MYILEA experience - we're proud to have you in the organization and think both new and experienced members can learn quite a bit from your journey with ILEA!

If you or someone you know is interested in joining ILEA, our May Membership Drive is the time!  Only in May, you can get 14 months of membership AND save $50 off your annual membership fee.   Just click here and sign up between May 1 - 31 using the promo code:  MAY50.

If you have any questions at all, please contact Sandy Sobczak, CERP at, or to any of the ILEA Leadership.   We hope to see you at the next meeting!

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May Membership Drive is here and there never was a better time to join ILEA!

It’s time for the May Membership Drive and it’s so easy to become a member of ILEA Greater Chicago!  Go online and save on your Membership today!  You’re just 5 clicks away from becoming a part of a phenomenal worldwide network of event professionals, and amazing event educational opportunities!  As an ILEA member, you will be linked with the best in the event industry!

Join before June 1 and save the $50 registration fee by using the promo code "MAY50"

Five Clicks to Join ILEA: 

  1. Go to
  2. Click on “Join ILEA” within the homepage. You can also click on “Join ILEA” in the upper right hand corner of the website.
  3. Click on “ILEA USA” [or corresponding country/student] in the Membership Application box on the right side of the page. Please note, this online drive only applies to USA full (non-student) members.
  4. Proceed through the application to enter your contact information and become a member of ILEA.
  5. Submit your membership dues online or to ILEA Headquarters.

 That’s it!  That’s how easy it is to become a member.   

 If you have questions about the process or would like to learn more about membership, contact Sandy Sobczak at 630-473-7274 or  We look forward to seeing you at our next meeting!

Join Now!

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