E•Connections

For exhibit and event professionals  

Getting FastTrak up and running:
Chicago, August, 2008

September 11, 2008 By Editor
Chicago FastTrak included a dinner cruise on the lake

Chicago FastTrak included a dinner cruise on the lake

Hi, everyone and welcome to my blog. The purpose of this space is to share my experiences and information I develop as we continue to sponsor the FastTrak program for Exhibitor Magazine. I hope you find this information useful for your events. Please contact me with any questions you may have.


Hotel/Meeting Planning:
This was our first year in the James Hotel in Chicago. The two previous years were held at the Hard Rock Hotel. A nice hotel but not the best environment for our conference. We did however want to remain in a smaller boutique type hotel for our meeting. I started out by submitting an RFP on ChooseChicago.com.

Despite your best efforts this can be an overwhelming task of sorting through responses of availability vs. capabilities. Luckily Dee Silfies from Exhibitor Magazine was also looking for a boutique and hip hotel for housing Gravity Free, so we scheduled a site visit. Not only is the property gorgeous, it offers the amenities of todays travelers from free wireless internet throughout the hotel to a free 24-hr business center off of the lobby, to a hotel room that has a cozy home feel. The meeting rooms were the perfect size as well. When you are managing a group of 75-125 people its nice to find a hotel where you are their only onsite group.

The hotel was great, the staff was extremely helpful and attentive at all times and the catering was excellent.

MC² Hosted Evening Event:
Every Tuesday night of our FastTrak conference we host an evening event for our attendees.  This year I wanted to do something where we could enjoy the sites of the city. We had previously taken an architectural bus tour, but I wanted to incorporate the water in some way. So I started my search on the website for Navy Pier http://www.navypier.com, tossing around the idea of a restaurant reception or dinner cruise on the lake. But neither of these sounded intimate enough. We want everyone to get to know each other. So I went back to the Navy Pier site and found a charter company that offered the private rental of their charter boat called Shoreline Charters. We reserved the Star of Chicago and used their preferred caterer Harry Caray’s Catering & Events, a division of Harry Caray’s legendary Italian Steakhouse for the food.

Shoreline cruises was so easy to work with, our contact Kathe was great! She provided me with a excel sheet where I plugged in the number of attendees and my package options that calculated tax and gratuity, so I knew exactly what we were paying for. She even took the extra step to find a caterer to supply a kosher meal for an attendee at no additional charge.  Kathe met us at the dock and introduced us to our sailing/catering staff and off we went. Everything was perfect! The Captain, boat crew, our bartender Barbara and catering crew were so pleasant and fit right in with our group. We sailed up the river and out along the lake and got an awesome view of the city.

We docked after a two-hour cruise and I handed everyone a map so if they wanted to take the walk back to the hotel they could… otherwise they could stay at Navy Pier. Most everyone decided to walk and enjoy the evening.

Our bus service, Chicagoland Transportation Solutions, Inc. provided our transportation at a great price as well!

I hope you found all of this helpful. Below please find all of the contact information for each of our venues. They were all excellent to work with and we hope to work with them again soon!

Kari Skulstad
Senior Sales Manager
The James
55 East Ontario Street
Chicago, IL 60611
P: 312.660.7146
F: 312.660.7187
http://www.jameshotels.com

Kathe Elwell
Sales Manager
Shoreline Charters & Events
P: 312.373.7255
F: 312.321.0632
http://www.shorelinechartersandevents.com

Jennifer Ropski
Chicagoland Transportation Solutions, Inc.
2500 W. Higgins Road
Suite 935
Hoffman Estates, IL 60169-2089
P: 847.781.8811
F: 847.781.8813
http://www.chicagotransportsolutions.com

Thoughts, suggestions, comments? Drop me a line!

jbodenmann@mc-2.com








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