Meet Barb Siska, VP Programs and Education ILEA Greater Chicago

Barb Siska's career aspirations in the event industry began while in her senior year of high school. While considering what to major in at the University of Illinois, she read a magazine article featuring George Jewell Catering.  The moment she finished reading, she knew that she wanted to be a part of this exciting industry!

After graduating with a degree in Food Service Management, Barb worked as a catering assistant for a venue until being hired by Sodexo to manage their restaurant at the John G. Shedd Aquarium.  Her interest in catering and events also led her to work part time in the Shedd’s events office.  Soon, a position with Sodexo opened at the Museum of Science and Industry in the event sales office and she made the move down Lake Shore Drive.  For seven years, Barb worked with hundreds of clients to sell and produce a variety of corporate, non-profit and social events.

From there, Barb was recruited to join the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum to start up the Museum’s new event program.  There, Barb built a sales team and a strong revenue program for the Museum.  She was able to expand her network of industry contacts by working with many of Chicago’s leading caterers, joining Meeting Professionals International, working with Choose Chicago to increase exposure for the Museum and attending as many industry events as possible to network!

After four and a half years at the Nature Museum, Barb took an opportunity to work at the Berkshire Hathaway owned company, Pampered Chef as their US Meetings Manager.  At Pampered Chef, Barb planned and executed over a dozen meetings a year including a National Conference for 8,000-10,000 attendees and a Leadership Conference for 3,000.  She traveled the US extensively executing meetings and scouting future meeting locations.

In 2007, Barb was offered the Director of Corporate Events position at the Chicago History Museum.  Here, she oversaw facility rental sales and execution of over 150 corporate, non-profit and social events annually, along with developing and managing the museum’s café and beverage program operations.  In addition, she worked with various internal departments to plan and execute numerous museum sponsored events and galas.  Under Barb's direction, the Museum received the Knot Best Of Award for five years and was honored in the Knot Hall of Fame, won the Illinois Meetings and Events Best Historic Venue for two years and was nominated for the Catering Executives Club Industry Excellence Award for best Off Premise Venue in 2013.  Barb herself was nominated for the Bizbash Award for Best Venue Manager in 2011 and has been asked to be a guest presenter for students in the Hospitality and Tourism Management program at Roosevelt University for the last three years.

While at the Chicago History Museum, Barb was able to get involved with ILEA.  She joined the Programs Committee and was the event chair for the February 2014 and 2015 Day of Education Events, and was the event chair for the June 2014 ILEA  Luncheon, Same Sex Marriage is Legal, featuring five wedding industry professionals speaking about the new opportunities and challenges when planning same sex weddings.

In January of 2015, Barb began her current position as the Director of University Events and Ceremonies at the University of Chicago.  In this role, she serves at the lead event planner for all President's and Provost's events at the University.  She manages a team of seven that work to plan and execute over 150 university events, conferences and a Convocation Ceremony for 15,000 guests annually. 

Getting to Know You Q & A ...

What made you interested in participating in ILEA Leadership?  I really enjoyed working on the Programs Committee over the years and felt that taking a leadership role was the next step for me both professionally and personally.  I am excited to come up with exciting new educational events for our members to help them grow in their careers.

What would you say are the benefits for participating in our ILEA committees? For me, it is a creative outlet that my current position does not always afford me.  I like working with a variety of industry colleagues to bring our members new and exciting event and education opportunities to help them grow and develop in their careers.

What's your advice for those unsure where to start in becoming active in ILEA? Email a board member to set up a time to talk to get an idea of which area is best for you to volunteer.   Join a committee and get involved immediately.  It is the best way to get the most out of your membership.  You will meet the leaders of the organization and have an impact right away.

What's the biggest benefit to attending the ILEA Greater Chicago Chapter programs?  Getting to see exciting new venues first and meeting industry colleagues.

How has ILEA made a difference in your career?  Joining ILEA has expanded my industry network greatly.  There are a few decisions I have made in my career that have done that and when I joined ILEA and volunteered to chair an event, it was definitely one of them!

What's one thing most people don't know about you?  It may not be a secret anymore, but I LOVE country music and might move to Nashville one day if the right opportunity came along!

To reach Barb or find out more about ILEA Chicago's Programs & Education Committee or the University of Chicago as a venue contact Barb or 773-702-5252.


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Top 5 Corporate Event Trends

We have seen anything and everything in corporate event decor and trends so far in 2016, from vibrant video projection walls to dramatically long tables (think 100+ people) to lounge areas at every type and size of event. Here are five trends we love for corporate events.

A great way to add drama to any event, videos projected onto event space walls are gaining popularity in 2016. This high-tech use of movement, light and color can truly transform a space into an amazing atmosphere.  We love how Sound Investment transformed our Chicago launch party at Moonlight Studios with wall to wall projection.

Video Wall 
For credits on this amazing look click here

Sitting at a traditional round table pretty much allows guests to chat up their companion to the left and right. Long, elegant tables, called King’s Tables, up conversation ability, encouraging guests to interact. Raising the intimacy quotient, the overall look of long tables comes across as more clean and modern. 

Long table 

For credits on this amazing look click here 

Long Tables

For credits on this amazing look click here

While this isn’t a brand new concept, curated lounge areas within corporate events have certainly become bigger and better in 2016. Strategically positioned couches, branded pillows and cocktail tables immediately invite guests to let loose. 

Lounge 1

For credits on this amazing look click here

Lounge area

For credits on this amazing look click here

Parked either inside or out, everyone’s favorite mobile form of sustenance has made its way into the corporate event scene. This party favor seems to roll up toward the evening’s end, marking the time when the real fun begins. This is a nice final touch for any VIP event, as well. 

Food trucks

For credits on this amazing look click here

Stark light bulbs, wrought iron, exposed pipes and brick backdrops have presented themselves as a veritable design choice in 2016. Chicago city spaces like Bridgeport Art Center, Gallery 1028, Revel Fulton Market and Prairie Productions have the industrial blank space ready for any type of manufacturing-chic you can dream up. 

Industrial chic

For credits on this amazing look click here

Industrial Chic 2

For credits on this amazing look click here

What ever your event, have fun with it and your guests will enjoy it too.

Author: Julie Roth Novack, CEO & Founder, PartySlate

To reach Julie or find out more about ILEA Chicago or PartySlate contact Julie at or 312.543.3028.

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