• Meet Jim Guttau, Four Seasons Hotel Chicago

     
    POSTED October 19, 2018
     

    A PR professional shares intel he’s gained from launching a top-secret events series that applies to meetings, too.

After starting his career in elementary education, Jim Guttau has worked in marketing and PR roles for 17 years. Now director of public relations and communications for Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, he’s launched a popular secret event series, dubbed Allium Society (@alliumchicago on Instagram), that draws on his playful nature. “It’s funny, [my teaching experience] has given me the skills to deal with many ‘big kids,’ or adults,” says Guttau. Here’s what planners can learn from his success.

Why did you launch Allium Society? When I started this job [in May 2017] … I thought, how can we get young professionals here? My solution was to launch a secret society series, borrowing from the concept of Chicago speakeasies and other secret event series I’d seen around town. 

How do you market secret events? Social media is our main promotional tool for Allium Society events. For the first one, we posted cryptic messages each week leading up to the event, such as “Shhh. #AlliumSociety is hosting its super secret launch party next week.” Then, the following week, we would post, “Secret Soiree: Message us for more information on #AlliumSociety.” You couldn’t believe the number of people who shared this post and messaged us. 

What about the Four Seasons brand inspires your loyalty? Looking back on six years with the company and five properties (Vail, Denver, St. Louis, Sante Fe and Chicago), I feel extremely valued and respected for my ideas. I am passionate about implementing innovative offers, treatments, menu items, etc., and it’s exciting to share these.

What’s a “hidden gem” venue in Chicago? My favorite is Band of Bohemia, the first brewpub to be awarded a Michelin star. 

Any sure-fire party tricks to liven up an event? Two things I always invest in are lighting and a photo booth. Lighting can make all the difference and really sets the mood, such as at our second Allium Society event, which was lit in vivid purple. Photo booths keep advancing; we had a GIF photo booth at an event, which allows for instant sharing on Instagram with your branding. 

Originally from Ontario, Heather Odendaal got her start in event planning early, serving as her high school’s head of social events. She ended up on the West Coast, courtesy of her studies at the University of British Columbia, and launched her career in Whistler, working for the resort in marketing and events. Today, she’s CEO of Bluebird Strategy, a boutique event planning firm, and CEO and founder of WNORTH, a global community of women who have their sights set on the C-suite.

 

You may not have seen her name among Chicago’s James Beard award nominees or caught in the buzz of another trendy eatery opening, but the ripples of Rita Dever’s culinary creations have made an impact far and wide. After cooking around the world, the Pacific Northwest native put down roots as Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’ (LEYE) associate partner and corporate chef where she collaborates in the company’s test kitchen to innovate new dishes for all LEYE restaurants.

 

Denver native Keisha Makonese’s passion for planning events dates way back. Her latest gig as director of sales and corporate events at Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum began nine years ago. In this role, Makonese helps oversee an average of 150 private events at Wings Over the Rockies each year, from making meetings for 20 people to annual dinners for 2,000 fun and interactive experiences.