Originally home to an industrial 1920s hat factory, the team behind boutique production company ESP Presents has breathed new life into its new event venue, Exchange312. Better yet, the elegant yet approachable space located in the heart of Wicker Park was built by seasoned industry experts for planners. 

Skilled in planning and logistics, partners Matt Woodburn and Sarah Neukom drew from years of event production experience to create the ultimate customizable space. “We had the luxury of taking a raw space and making plenty of conscious choices while we built out an ideal interior design, including key details like extra wide doors, a beautiful built-in bar and bathrooms, and an amazing sound system,” says Woodburn. “We also kept the industrial-chic vibe with the original Chicago common brick, polished concrete floors and midcentury modern furniture and fixtures.”

With a color palette of deep blues and soothing grays, paired with plenty of wood and metallic accents, luxe lounge vignettes and lush greenery, Exchange312 creates a comfortable space for intimate dinners and corporate off-site meetings as well as large creative or social gatherings. A 2,550-square-foot open floor plan offers a variety of flexible layouts for gatherings of up to 100 guests seated or 150 standing and an elegant private boardroom can accommodate 12-14 guests. 

Planners will appreciate the venue’s on-site event liaison, back-of-house catering space with alley-accessible load-in, HiFi Sonos sound system, high-speed Wi-Fi and top-of-the-line appliances (including an espresso machine and draft beer dispenser), while guests will enjoy the venue’s creative atmosphere. Exchange312, which also houses The Collective at Exchange—a carefully curated network of creatives—was also designed to foster new ideas and inspire conversation. 

“We set out to create a space where guests could feel comfortable and excited to innovate,” says Neukom. “We’re so glad it’s become a place where new ideas and unique experiences and memories come naturally.”

Over the years, any corporate event planner can admit to spending countless hours researching the perfect venue or vendors for their gatherings. After attending or hosting hundreds of events, New York-based Daphne Hoppenot was no stranger to this research and was frustrated by its repetitive nature. However, it was planning her wedding in 2018 that pushed her to realize the lack of resources in the corporate events market compared to the wedding industry, and set out to see if other meetings and events professionals were struggling with the same problem.  


Freelancing has become a new ball game since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, as many companies cannot afford to keep full-time positions, but still need those tasks completed. Although many more professionals have had to join the freelancing community since March, Tracy Judge had the passion for the freelancing community two years ago–long before the pandemic hit–and founded her company Soundings Connect in order to directly connect meetings and events industry freelancers with customers. 


Whether dabbling with an augmented reality app, getting up to speed on the complexities of 5G service or employing cocktail-mixing robots, planners are no strangers to emerging technology. As meetings and events become increasingly tech-driven affairs, we’ve checked in with top event production pros for their takes on the latest event tech trends and what’s to come in the year ahead.