When:  Mar 3, 2020 from 12:30 PM to 5:30 PM (CT)
Associated with  Chicago Chapter

Your client wants a live event. Perhaps it’s a romantic, culturally inclusive wedding, a corporate national sales meeting or an American literature-themed surprise birthday party. Of course, what the client really wants is something less tangible: an experience. They want that milestone moment that occurs during an event when the music and lights are just right and everyone in the room feels connected. The moment where guests are so wowed by what they’ve experienced that they’ll go home and tell their friends what they missed.

You can’t go to a store and pull that moment from a shelf, but that’s often how we charge clients. The client wants an event, so we charge for the delivery of that event. But the delivery isn’t where the majority of our magic lies. You can’t just buy a white tablecloth and flowers, set it up and automatically create an impactful experience. Creating a transformational moment involves intentional strategy and behavioral science informed design — concepts our clients don’t understand because they aren’t live event professionals.

“Demonstrating Value Through Process Transparency,” lays out the 10 principles of the strategy, design and execution phases of the event creation journey. The goal is to get clients to value the principals we value as part of our intentional process. Whether you’re a caterer or creative director, your process involves these three phases in one way or another. This isn’t a checklist; it’s a lens through which to view the process and a way to talk about it.

Jodi Collen,
Senior Event Manager, Corporate Marketing, Be the Match

Jodi is the Senior Event Manager for Be The Match, The National Marrow Donor Program in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  In her role at Be The Match, Jodi leads the corporate event marketing strategy and works to further engage the donor and transplant network in the organization’s mission to save more lives each year by providing more equitable access to needed marrow and/or cell therapy through a series of educational and inspirational conferences and events.

Jodi has her Master of Tourism Administration (MTA) with a dual degree in event & meeting management & sport management from the George Washington University School of Business, and earned her Certified Special Event Professional (CSEP) certification in 2005.  Additionally, Jodi is a past-president of the ILEA Minneapolis-St. Paul chapter, served as the ILEA Regional Vice President for the Midwest Region (USA) from 2006-2008, member of the International Board of Governors from 2008-2016 and ILEA International President from 2015-2016. 

Prior to Be The Match, Jodi was the Senior Director of University Events at Augsburg University where she and her team planned over 400 events annually including Homecoming, Commencement, fundraising galas, student events and speaking engagements/performances by visiting dignitaries and celebrities such as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, United States President Jimmy Carter, Senator Hillary Clinton, Their Majesties the King & Queen of Norway, Bill Nye “The Science Guy”, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and hip-hop artist Macklemore. 

Connect with Jodi on LinkedIn or Twitter


Lisa Marks

A proud Canadian and a ‘creative in a suit,’ Lisa Marks BComm CSEP is an award-winning global event industry leader and champion. She is a well-trained corporate professional with an imaginative mind.  Lisa’s background includes well over a decade of experience in the special events business, the latter half of which was spent as head of events for Shaw Communications, one of Canada’s leading connectivity companies. Responsible for strengthening Shaw’s employer brand through events, and leveraging experiential tactics to elevate marketing and sponsorship activities, Marks quickly became one of the leading corporate event producers in Canada’s big-brand landscape. Now an entrepreneur, her business, Brand Alive, was created from many years witnessing first-hand the powerful opportunities that events and experiences can unlock for corporations. Through the design, planning and production of strategic events, Brand Alive empowers organizations to connect to their customers, employees and fans in a way that brings their culture to life. Marks has held leadership roles with the International Live Events Association for over a decade. She was named the J. Robert Graves Pioneer Award recipient in August 2018 and is on the BizBash’s Top 250 Event Professionals in Canada list. Lisa has been a Global Event Forum invitee since its inception.

Connect with Lisa on LinkedIn or Instagram, learn more about Brand Alive, Inc on Linkedin


Lisa Ware

Lisa Ware is the Director of Business Development & Special Projects at Catering by Michaels. She came to Chicago via Indianapolis and has never looked back. She has spent the last seven years building her personal brand and developing lifelong relationships in the Chicago events world. While juggling an impressive portfolio of corporate, social and headliner events, she has also held a position on an International Live Events Association (ILEA) Chapter Board for 8 years, including two terms as the President of the Chicago chapter. Lisa was recognized in 2018 as a member of Connect Association magazine's "40 Under 40." The honor highlights the top young professionals in the events industry. In Lisa's "off time", she can often be found masterminding a personal home dinner party for family and friends or traveling the globe gathering inspiration for upcoming events.

Connect with Lisa on LinkedIn or Instagram


Nicole Zenner 

Nicole Zenner, CSEP, is an ordained officiant and award-winning event planner. Her professional career in weddings began 16 years ago and Nicole prides herself on creating a thoughtful and precise planning process for her clients. Many of her clients have remained friends with her long after they have walked down the aisle. Her calm demeanor, integrity, and witty banter make her a favorite with other event colleagues, especially on event day. She cherishes relationships and respects the talents of her peers. She empowers those around her to be better, to strive for more, and settle for nothing. Nicole has an undying need to learn and to teach and is passionate about continuing education for event professionals. She is a Past President of the ILEA Chicago Chapter and in her tenure, she focused on processes and streamlined efficiencies, pushed membership goals, and helped to recruit the next chapter leaders – all while leading the chapter through a renaming of the association. Nicole is one of 11 local event professionals who hold the CSEP designation and is currently the CSEP Certification Committee Chair for ILEA.

Connect with Nicole on LinkedIn or Instagram


Cory Fowkes 

Cory obtained a BFA in Musical Theater from Drake University and quickly transitioned his education in design, production, directing, stage management and performance into producing ‘corporate theater.’ Over the past decade, and with the mentorship of top industry professionals, Cory has built a resume of award-winning events and unparalleled experiences on five continents and in thirteen different countries around the world. These events have included occasions of Olympic proportion in world renowned stadiums, and executive level International travel incorporating business and culture in countries as diverse as China, India, Israel and Brazil. Other career highlights include managing Dignitaries, sitting Presidents and Presidential hopefuls for live television broadcasts, and successfully managing a large group of travelers to Australia while they were introduced to the celebrity spotlight for the first time.

As the Director of Production at Next Level Event Design, Cory Fowkes enables, supports and directs the NLED team with the chief priority of ensuring that each and every attendee has a positive and memorable event experience. Like a maestro conducting to his orchestra, Cory indicates the beat and overall flow for multi-faceted teams of planners whose individual roles, when interwoven and in sync, flawlessly contribute to our client’s success. Given that Cory is tasked to partake in virtually every role that goes into the event planning process, his unrelenting creative energy and problem-solving skills are the lifeblood to our team’s success. With keen foresight to counteract the unexpected coupled with his visionary eye for event design, Cory’s production and management capabilities are what propel our team forward.

Connect with Cory on LinkedIn. Learn more about Next Level Event Design on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter 

Leah Wong 

As vice president of external relations for the MPLS downtown council, Leah Wong drives results by creating innovative solutions. Her responsibilities include partnership development, communications/pr, marketing, and management of downtown events that include the Minneapolis Aquatennial and Holidazzle.

She’s a champion for the MPLS downtown council brand, engagement, and overall downtown experience. Wong led the re‐branding effort for the MPLS downtown council and was a part of launching the MPLS downtown council’s current work plan, Intersections: The Downtown 2025 Plan. Wong was a past recipient of the prestigious 40 under 40 honor, given by the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal and is a current member of the MSPBJ’s Women to Know. Wong’s previous experience includes event management and sales, public relations, marketing, and partnership development for clients including Microsoft, National Football League (NFL), Comcast, Lifetouch, and the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships.

She has also managed dignitary visits for notables including President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, First Lady Michelle Obama, General Colin Powell, Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Tony Blair, Ehud Barak, King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia.

Leah is an active member of the community, with previous board service and participation in IDA, ILEA , and IFEA. Wong also served on the diversity and inclusion sub‐committee for the Minneapolis Tourism Master Plan, numerous Super Bowl XII committees, and the 2019 NCAA Men’s Final Four committees. She received her degree in communication studies from Gustavus Adolphus College. She has been a long‐time volunteer mentor, tutor, and coach to inner‐city youth.


12:30pm – 1:00pm: Registration Opens
1:00pm – 2:30pm: Introductions, Presentation and Speakers
2:30pm – 2:45pm: Break
2:45pm – 3:45: Roundtable Sessions
3:45pm – 4:30pm: Wrap Up, Thanks Yous
4:30pm – 5:30pm: Cocktails, Appetizers and Networking

Thank you to our Sponsors: 

Venue, Food & Beverage Sponsor: The Ivy Room at Tree Studios

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Photography: Colin Lyons Photography 

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AV: Luxe Productions

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The Ivy Room At Tree Studios
12 E Ohio St # 100
Chicago, IL 60611
Event Image