ILEA Chicago Member Spotlight: Jennifer Seidler

Especially now, during our May Membership Drive, we're so very proud of the amazing event professionals in our chapter. Meet ILEA Hospitality & Tourism Management professional - Jennifer Seidler.

Jennifer Seidler believes she has always had a passion for the hospitality industry, for as long as she can remember. At first she didn’t know how to break out into the industry. After taking some time off to travel and really discover what she believed her passion was she decided to go back to school and enrolled in the Hospitality & Tourism Management Program at Roosevelt University. It was through that program that she discovered that my passion lies in the events world. It was during her time at Roosevelt that she discovered ILEA and she is grateful that she had that opportunity. Now that she has graduated and gained a few years of experience working within the industry she is thankful for the many opportunities that she has had and is ready to continue to grow her career in the hospitality industry alongside some of the many professionals that she has come to admire!

Getting to Know You Q & A ...

Who/What inspired you to go into event planning?

I believe it was a combination of my love of traveling, growing up in a city that offers so much for the hospitality industry and being a people person that inspired me to be in the events world. It is a career that allows me to meet different people every day as well as allow my creativity to shine through. It’s also an inspiring career that requires hard work and dedication and ILEA members have made me even more inspired to continue to network and grow for years to come!

Tell us one thing we might not learn about you right away?

I have a passion for traveling and learning about different cultures. There are an endless number of experiences and possibilities that can come from traveling and stepping outside of you’re comfort zone. When I travel to somewhere new I’m in awe of how one small experience can change my perspective and open my world to new and exciting things. 

What do you love the most about what you do?

I love the people, the learning experiences and the ability to be creative. I love working with people and creating moments for them. Working with clients brings me happiness and I love all the wonderful people I get to meet. I love the learning experiences and opportunities that come with working in the hospitality industry. The ability to be creative and showcase you’re talents makes the possibilities seem endless in the industry. It’s a great feeling and makes me excited for what’s to come in my career!

Where did you grow up?

I grew up on the south side of Chicago, about 10 miles away from the city.

What made you interested in participating in ILEA?

A couple years ago one of my professors spoke of the importance of networking and becoming involved in the hospitality industry. He encouraged my classmates and I to join at least one of the many organizations that the industry has to offer. That same week two members from ILEA, Nicole Zenner & Barb Harris, were guest speakers for that same class. Not only did their professional stories inspire me, but they also spoke of the organization ILEA. After learning about the organization I reached out to them and decided to attend an event. My first ILEA events were the Day of Education & Master’s Dinner and I felt fortunate to have been able to experience those two events. After those two events I was overwhelmed with how nice everyone was and I knew that I wanted to be a part of this organization. I joined that same week and I’m glad that I did. I’m excited to continue my journey of learning and growing within the industry and with ILEA!

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Enjoy this Vlog post by VP Membership, Jeff Durocher


VP Membership Jeff V. Durocher shared the following message today.

Jeff's May Membership Video

For information on ILEA membership types and pricing, go to ILEA - International Live Events Association.


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Member Spotlight: Claire Bracco

Claire Bracco's career in hospitality began the summer of 2012 when she joined the team at The Plaza Park Grill restaurant. It was such a fun job and she loved interacting with all of the guests and being able to answer questions about Chicago. She was lucky enough to return the following summer. It was then that she realized her love for the city, and that working in the hospitality and events world was something she needed to pursue. So she transferred from a school in Ohio to DePaul University and started to take business and hospitality classes. She choose to major in Hospitality leadership with a concentration in event management at first because of how everyone kept talking about the super fun and exciting classes. But, it also helped that the program is a very unique one and provided her with the incredible opportunity to visit different venues around the city almost every week and to meet so many people in the Chicago event and hospitality world, but she never imaged wanting to make a career out of it. That is until she got my first internship as a part of an event team.

DePaul requires all business students to have at least one internship before graduating and she was fortunate enough to be connected to the development team at After School Matters and get the position of Events Intern. From day one she was hooked and hasn't looked back since. It has been two and half years and she is still with After School Matters but now as the Events and Special Projects Coordinator. Their team is quite small, in fact there are only two of them. That being said, Claire very fortunate and thankful to have this opportunity as it has allowed her to flourish as a young events professional and the opportunities that she has been given in her time here has done nothing but help validate that working in events and all of the long hours and hard work that comes with this career path is truly her passion.

Getting to Know You Q & A ...

Who/ what inspired you to go into event planning?

My mom played a huge role in my decision to go into event planning. I originally went to school with the goal of becoming an elementary school teacher but changed paths after about a year and came back to the city to explore other career paths. I grew up going to events with my mom and always had a blast and loved watching her plan and execute such incredible experiences and when I discovered that DePaul has a Hospitality Program it just seemed like a natural fit and path for me to take!

Tell us one thing we might not learn about you right away?

I am a city girl through and through, but I would absolutely love to own a small farm one day. When I am much older and ready to retire, I would love to be able to move to the country and have a small little farm with all kinds of animals, especially goats and chickens. 

What do you love the most about what you do?

As an event planner in general, I love to create experiences and memories for people. In my current position as a part of the events team for After School Matters, a Chicago based non-profit that provides out of school time programming for Chicago Teens, I love being able to work collaboratively with many different groups of people. From our staff, to our board of directors, and the teens that we provide opportunities for, planning and executing events for After School Matters allows me the chance to advocate for the future of Chicago, our teens. The teens that we work with everyday are a huge inspiration to me as well. They are all so incredibly talented and I love being able to create opportunities for our guests and supporters to see what they are working on and to learn more about After School Matters.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Oak Park, one of the western suburbs.

What made you interested in participating in ILEA? 

My supervisor at After School Matters encouraged me to join a professional organization because it is a great way to network with other people in the industry and develop my skills as a young event professional. She used to be a member of ILEA and after hearing her stories of the connections that she made and still keeps to this day, it really encouraged me to get more involved in the Chicago Event world. As a young professional, especially in Events and Hospitality I think it is so important to do things that push you to get outside of your comfort zone and build a network of people with similar interests and goals, and ILEA is one of the ways that I can do that.

Welcome Claire!

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Straight from a CSEP: Gwendolyn McNutt, CSEP


Originally posted on Experience ILEA on Thursday, May 10, 2018

A CSEP (Certified Special Events Professional) designation reflects the caliber and skills of industry experts worldwide. The program was developed to not only elevate industry standards, but also to advance the careers of practitioners in a competitive events landscape. As part of our Straight from a CSEP series, we started asking current CSEPs about the long-term career benefits of their designations. Keep reading to find out how ILEA member Gwendolyn McNutt has taken advantage of her CSEP as an events professional.

ILEA: What are your specific roles and responsibilities as regional external affairs manager at Comcast?

Gwendolyn McNutt (GM): As regional external affairs manager, I help to lead community impact programs and events for the greater Chicago region, which includes Illinois, Northwest Indiana and Southwest Michigan. I manage a number of events each year; however, two key events include our annual volunteer day of service (Comcast Cares Day) featuring more than 6,500 volunteers and 75 project locations, and our annual Leaders and Achievers Scholarship Luncheon, honoring graduating high school seniors for their academic, community service and leadership achievements with a one-time $1,000 scholarship. The 2018 luncheon will be held in June and honor 175 scholarship recipients. In addition, I also participate in sponsorship planning and negotiation, program marketing, partnership and relationship management, and budget management.

ILEA: How do you use your CSEP designation in your current role at Comcast?

GM: I’m very confident that I use my CSEP designation in some way each day in my current role. Because the designation requires me to stay abreast of industry trends and maintain my professional development through continuous education, I am constantly learning new skills and knowledge to take back to my job and demonstrate what I’ve learned to my employer. In addition, I am able to create new protocol or processes and implement them into my events. It is also demonstrated by the professional network I have developed through my CSEP contacts and vendors that support my current event schedule.

ILEA: Can you give a specific example of how your CSEP designation has advanced your career?

GM: I absolutely believe that the CSEP designation makes you more marketable as an event professional. It helps to increase and validate your skills and competency, as well as brings you into a broader network of like-minded professionals.

Earning my CSEP has helped me demonstrate to others that I have a commitment to the events industry. The CSEP helped me to significantly boost my industry knowledge, and I was able to put those skills to use immediately. After taking the CSEP exam, I was able to continually demonstrate to my employer and colleagues that I have a broad understanding of the events industry. In addition, it has also provided me with access to new professional colleagues and more tools, resources and educational opportunities.

ILEA: What factors motivated you to apply for your CSEP?

GM: 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 one for me to pursue. My motivation to sit for the exam was a combination of professional development, advancing my industry knowledge 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.

ILEA: For those professionals who are considering applying, please talk about the doors that this designation can open/opportunities it can create.

GM: By taking the CSEP exam, you are joining a select group of individuals who have demonstrated that they are competent and skilled event professionals, with a broad understanding of the industry as a whole. It has provided me with an additional professional edge, connected me with industry resources and opened doors to better employment opportunities. Earning my CSEP has also helped me to stay on top of industry trends and maintain my professional development through constant review and education.

ILEA: What is the one piece of advice you would suggest to someone who is pursuing this designation?

GM: The best piece of advice that I could offer to someone pursuing the CSEP is to stop stalling and take the exam! And don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from getting your CSEP designation. Sitting for the CSEP exam was one of the most challenging, but also one of the most rewarding and gratifying things I’ve ever done. It also gave me the opportunity to expand my professional network and meet some wonderful event industry professionals, with whom I have been able to build and maintain lasting relationships. Certification not only advances the industry, but it also encourages and recognizes your professional achievement.

Gwendolyn McNutt, is a Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP) with over 25 years of experience. She holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication, and her experience includes successful meeting and event planning of events for up to 7,000 attendees in both corporate and nonprofit sectors. In addition, she has served in several capacities for the ILEA, including the Greater Chicago Board of Directors, international board committees and as ILEA International Conference Education Committee Chair in 2007. She is currently serving as a director on the ILEA International Board of Governors.

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