Chicago is a city like no other, offering visitors and residents alike an array of attractions and activities to enjoy. It's a city that's rich in history, culture, and entertainment. And with its vibrant downtown area, bustling neighborhoods, and beautiful lakeside views, there's no shortage of ways to experience all the Windy City has to offer.
As the third-largest metropolitan area in the United States, Chicago has an admirable event-hosting infrastructure—from first-class venues and hotels to world-leading airport transit. It's no surprise that Chicago is one of the top cities for hosting conventions, corporate events, trade shows, and more.
Not only does the city have plenty of space for large gatherings, but it also provides an unmatched level of support services and amenities that make life easy for attendees and organizers alike. This includes everything from local cuisine and transportation options to cultural attractions right at your fingertips.
Large Conference Options in Chicago
- Event Planning
Event planning is a comprehensive process that involves the coordination and organization of a variety of tasks that go into the successful execution of a large conference. This includes setting a budget, locating an ideal venue, selecting speakers, securing vendors such as catering, photography, and staffing services, developing a marketing strategy to attract attendees, arranging transportation and accommodations for guests, designing promotional materials and websites, and much more.
Professional photography services can be invaluable for such occasions as it captures key moments from the event to create lasting memories. From candid shots of attendees interacting to posed group photographs in front of backdrops or logo walls, professional photography adds an extra layer to any conference experience. Photographers usually have the technical expertise needed to capture high-quality images in challenging lighting conditions while also having the creative eye required to capture unique angles and perspectives.
Delicious food is an essential element at any conference or event as it provides fuel for thought during presentations while also giving patrons a chance to socialize during breaks. Professional catering companies can provide tasty treats that range from breakfast items like muffins and bagels to multi-course meals with options for vegetarian or vegan diets. Many caterers also provide party rentals such as linens, chairs, tables, and other decorations if desired by clients.
Extra personnel can help manage operations before, during, and after events. For instance, skilled staff members can assist with parking lot traffic control, ticket collection at entry points, crowd management within venues, or helping direct participants toward breakout sessions. By working closely with organizers, these people help to keep things running smoothly.
Large Conference Vendors in Chicago
- An Event Less Ordinary
An Event Less Ordinary was established by Carolyn Johnson and Amy Nolan in 2009. They are devoted to making any event run perfectly and to the highest standard. Whether it's a special birthday celebration, an important corporate gathering, or a once-in-a-lifetime wedding day, they can provide full event design and planning services or just offer help with the setup and cleanup on the day.
- Amy Boyle Photography
Chicago-based photographer Amy is an absolute master at capturing life’s special moments. From theatrical performances to family gatherings and corporate events, she snaps away with an unrivaled enthusiasm that radiates through every photograph. Her vibrant and creative eye lends a unique perspective to her work; her images beautifully capture the people within them and offer an intriguing glimpse into the story behind each moment. Clients describe her as efficient, organized, collaborative, and creative.
- Boka Catering Group
Led by award-winning Michelin-starred chef Giuseppe Tentori, Boka Catering has been a staple in the Chicago dining scene since 2011. They offer a tailored approach to catering, ensuring that each client receives the highest level of service and cuisine. No matter the scope or size of your event, the group possesses the experience and skill to turn your vision into a reality. Boka’s staff underwent thorough training to provide onsite management for events.
Pros and Cons of Large Conferences in Chicago
There are several factors to consider when deciding whether or not to choose Chicago as a prime location for a large conference. Here are some of them:
- Rich culture and experiences: Chicago is a bustling city with plenty to do for conference-goers, such as museums, restaurants, parks, and shopping. With so many attractions nearby, visitors can easily explore the town throughout their stay.
- Accessibility: Windy City is centrally located and highly accessible by plane or car. This makes it easy for travelers from different parts of the country (and the world) to gather in one location.
- Professional atmosphere: Conference venues in Chicago are conducive to networking and building relationships with colleagues from around the world.
- Expertise: The town boasts an abundance of expert speakers who can provide valuable insights into the conference’s topic of discussion.
- Accommodation options: There are numerous accommodation options available for conference attendees, ranging from luxury hotels to budget-friendly Airbnbs.
- Cost: The average rent in Chicago is higher than the national average in the United States, which can make organizing a large conference expensive due to the venue alone.
- Limited transport options: Due to its large size and its limited public transportation network, getting around Chicago can be strenuous during peak travel times or when visitors have limited mobility.
- Seasonal weather patterns: Depending on when the conference is held, inclement weather may make it difficult or uncomfortable for people to attend certain events outside of covered venues or air conditioning units.
Tips on How to Organize Large Conferences in Chicago
Meetings and conferences are a necessary part of doing business. They provide opportunities for networking, exchanging information, and brainstorming new ideas. However, organizing a successful meeting or conference can be a daunting task. To help you in the process, here are a few tips to remember:
- Reserve your venue in advance: If you find a good deal, book it as quickly as possible to avoid losing it to someone else. Popular venues get booked up quickly especially since Chicago is a major tourist and metropolitan destination. Try to negotiate with the venue for deals or discounts especially if you reach a specific number of guests.
- Plan activities in advance: Create a schedule of ventures leading up to the main occasion so that there is something engaging planned during your free time. Examples include walking tours of the area, day trips to nearby attractions, team-building activities, or even just casual dinners at some of Chicago’s top restaurants.
- Give ample time for networking: Networking is one of the main reasons people attend large conferences, so give plenty of time during the event for it. Try to plan gatherings that encourage people to meet one another like social mixers or speed networking sessions. Also, consider setting up discussion groups around particular topics relevant to your industry or breaking down larger groups into smaller ones that are more conducive to conversation.
- Hire quality speakers: Choose experts in their fields who can deliver impactful presentations on your conference topic. Research top speakers in your area and book them well ahead so you know what kind of material they're preparing beforehand.
Famous Locations in Chicago
- Gompers Park
The 42-acre park, located in Illinois, features a wide variety of lush greenery and activities that will suit anyone's needs. Whether you are seeking a stroll or an adventurous fishing excursion, you can discover it all right here. In addition to its natural beauty, the location offers several athletic fields, an outdoor pool, playground equipment, basketball and tennis courts, and much more. For those who are feeling extra adventurous, you can take a 16-mile journey north on the North Branch Trail which leads up to the picturesque Skokie Lagoons.
- Welles Park
The grand, wrought-iron gazebo at Welles Park is a delightfully picturesque sight to behold, a slice of Europe right in the heart of the city. In the warmer months, visitors can enjoy outdoor concerts and events; tennis courts, athletic fields, an indoor pool, and even a beautiful nature play area for kids are open all year round. This park is the perfect setting for sports lovers to hone their skills or for families looking to relax in a tranquil environment. There's something for everyone here, from art classes and programs in the summertime to cozy evenings around the gazebo watching the sunset.
- Grant Park
The city’s centerpiece, Grant Park is an incredible green space well-known for its historical significance. It was here that former President Barack Obama chose to celebrate his 2008 election victory, and since then, it's become a beloved destination for locals and tourists alike. The park boasts lots of gardens and art installations, making it ideal for a stroll while admiring public artwork. It's also a great location to appreciate some fresh air or bask in nature with winding paths through lush gardens and plenty of places to relax.