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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