Chicago Event Planning History with Jim Grillo

Jim Grillo has been operating Chicago event planning site since 2004. It was the first Chicago event planning resource website. That means Jim knows a ton about events spaces, corporate parties, and private groups. He’s also a go-to resource for Chicago event planning history. So we took some time to ask Jim a few questions about his website, the industry, and how Chicago event planning, especially for custom events like tours, has changed these past 15 years.

Chicago event planning history Jim Grillo
Jim Grillo, left, founded in 2004. Photo courtesy of Jim Grillo. 

CD: First of all, how is Chicago event planning in 2018 different from 2004? In other words, how has the event planning industry in Chicago changed?

Jim: Technology “disrupted” the event planning industry. You as an individual can plan your whole event and pay online without even speaking to a venue. It is amazing that millennials are now putting the total cost on their credit card.  They want to do everything easy and quick.  It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a lot different than 2004 when I started which was the first “disrupter” and pioneer.  There were no other resource directories in Chicago other than the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau (CCTB).  Yes, people thought I was crazy to start and they couldn’t understand why I would.

Here's Chicago event planning

“Experiences” is the buzz word. How have experiences for private events changed now that we are in the era of social media and smart phones?

Jim: Events have to have an element of social media.  It extends the reach of your event.  In addition to,, I also own a social media platform for events called Branded Cam. One can license the app and place on their iPad and/or iPhone and take photos of attendees with a custom branded border (great to sell to a sponsor!) and share with a custom text thanking them for coming with hashtag and link to photo.  What’s cool is that our platform creates a Facebook album in your company’s (or sponsor’s) Facebook page and attendees share the photo from your company’s or sponsor’s Facebook page. The result you ask?  Let’s say you have 200 people at your event and take 95 photos and share them with attendees.  You will extend your reach of your event and your brand to about 3000-4000 more people on Facebook.

Jim Grillo Wrigley Field Chicago event planning
The Friendly Confines make for good times when it comes to Chicago event planning. Photo courtesy of Jim Grillo

Please tell us three of your favorite historic venues for corporate events in Chicago.

Jim:  I love venues that are historic. The Drake, The Murphy, any auditorium, Buddy Guy’s (cause I love the blues!).

What trends in Chicago event planning do you wish would make a comeback?

Jim: Ya gotta love old school, right?  I don’t have any trends from the past in for a comeback.  I take everything new with open arms.

How, if at all, has the function or form of “team building” evolved since you started the site?

Jim: Team building is going with the technology trend.  Scavenger hunts with an iPad are popular.  Our planner visitors to LOVE interactive team building experiences.  Escape rooms are popular among groups.  Culinary team building is huge right now as well.

Here's Chicago event planning

What kind of events/experiences do you think more people should look for?

Jim: Unique interactive events.  You can be as creative as you would like. Go for it! I remember when I threw my first event 14 years ago.  I was nervous no one would show up.  I felt like “It’s my party and I can cry if I want to.  Turns out we had 500 show up 😀

Thanks for your time, Jim!

Chicago Detours’ private tours have been featured with Here’s Chicago as a great option for interactive, memorable team-building experiences. For more information on Chicago event planning, check out Here’s Chicago or contact us to learn more about how a private tour can be a fun addition to a family reunion, wedding, or corporate team building event.


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Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

“Our guide Ellen was exceptional and gifted with a great personal touch.”


Tour Guide

Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.

“Jen was a perfect storyteller and kept us spellbound for hours.”


Tour Guide

With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.


Tour Guide

Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.

“Marie was a bubbling fountain of information and contagious enthusiasm.”


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
“Sonny was extremely knowledgeable about all things Chi-town.”
Wade K


Content Manager and Tour Guide

Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

“Alex was fascinating to listen to. He clearly knows his history and it shows.”
Katie K

Amanda Scotese

Executive Director and Tour Guide

I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
“You can TELL Amanda is hyper-passionate about doing the research and getting the story that nobody’s heard before.”
Shelby F

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