More than merely a networking event, The BIG Banter with JD Gershbein is a happening. The goal of our collective is to deliver an enriching, authentic and unforgettable experience. We want to give all those involved with the show, as well as everyone in attendance, the opportunity to expand as professionals and the feeling that they are part of something special.

A project this ambitious does not produce itself. There are many moving parts. And those moving parts have names, personalities, and skills.

MEET THE TEAM:

GREG DeKALB 
Executive Producer | Director of Sponsorship | Show Sidekick

Greg is responsible for all business operations of the show, including sales and marketing. And when the cameras roll, he is the "Man with the Microphone," JD's comrade in arms, contributing real-time commentary and tapping the vibe of the event with in-the-moment audience reaction before, during, and after the show. A seasoned entrepreneur, sales leader, and business developer, Greg pioneered the contemporary notion of an On-Demand Sales Team™. He is founder and partner of AppointmentsIQ, a preeminent sales coaching, sales recruiting, and lead generation firm, and proud media partner of The Big Banter with JD Gershbein.

HOWARD "TOP DAWG" WALLACH
Musical Director | Master of Ceremonies

From his humble beginnings as a Chicago nightclub DJ, to performing at some of the biggest and brightest parties in the country, the TOP DAWG has become one of the most polished and versatile entertainers in the special events arena. He is known for his unrelenting energy, encyclopediac knowledge of music, and ability to engage an entire audience. As president of A-Z Entertainment, Ltd., he provides the full array of artistic, technical, and logistical services, and adds a distinctive, indelible stamp to each event he works. In setting trends that have become industry standards, the Dawg has become a noteworthy speaker at conferences and trade shows. As the King of the Console at The Big Banter, Top Dawg will pull out all the stops to help JD create an experience that will forever live in the hearts and minds of every attendee.

BOB LOCKWOOD
Director

Bob believes that "when words aren't enough, image is everything." He brings his wealth of experience behind the camera to The Big Banter, heading a production team of cameramen and technicians to capture the show as it happens. His Aurora, Illinois-based company, Full Armour Studios, handles video and photography projects of all sizes. He is also executive director of the Fox Valley FIlm Commission. Bob's passion project is the Indie Studio Space, a collaborative environment in which creatives can come together, nurture their artistic pursuits, explore new technologies, and bring their ideas to life.

MEET THE PANELISTS FOR THE OCTOBER 26, 2017 SHOW

JIM GRILLO, CMP
Founder and President, Hereschicago.com

Jim is an award-winning association executive who has garnered numerous accolades for his leadership in the meetings and events industry. He oversees Chicago's Online Resource, Hereschicago.com, and is instrumental in facilitating connections between meeting and event planners with the city's top venues and service providers. A 2009 inductee into the Meeting Professionals International-Chicago Area Chapter's (MPI-CAC) Hall of Fame, Jim continues to advance the mission of MPI through his commitment to mentoring, promoting partners, and growing membership. A past president of the the Hospitality Sales and Marketing International Chicago Chapter, Jim has earned the moniker "Mr. Hospitality."

VINCE WILLIAMS
Membership Director, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce

Vince is an Investment Manager, Member Engagement & Growth with Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. He ensures that the valued members of the CCOC maximize their engagement experience and obtain the highest return on investment. He is also the VP of Business Development-Midwest for Alexander Noel Custom Shoes. Additionally, he serves on the Board of Trustees for Associated Colleges of Illinois, an association of 23 Liberal Art Colleges in Illinois, and as Chair of Corporate Business Development of the Alumni Advisory Board for Robert Morris University’s Morris Graduate School of Management, where he received his MBA in Management and Finance. A natural mentor, Vince is involved in numerous non-profit organizations, civic leadership initiatives, and philanthropic ventures.

BETH PETERSON
Founder, The Yummie Network

A rising star in the food media world, Beth is a Fox's Master Chef alum, food enthusiast, broadcaster, and an award-winning competitive cook. She was named the 2013-2014 World Food Recipe Champion and competed on Food Network’s Cut Throat Kitchen. She was also the host of ESPN's Cook-Off Before Kock-Off and Coke Zero Tailgate Tour. A former restauratur and food journalist, Beth has been featured on WGN Radio as a guest show host, and on A & E’s Food Champs. Through her web-based Yummie Network she is growing a vibrant community of consumers, brands, and influencers who come together to celebrate the joy of dining and good food. 

TONY PAOLELLA
Founder, Tony P's Networking Events

TONY P, as he is affectionately known, is a passionate event producer and promoter, and a fixture on the Chicago business networking scene. He is the creative force behind an events calendar that keeps local professionals in the know on the hippest gatherings, growing Tony P’s Networking Events into one of the city's most popular meetup outlets. An accomplished IT sales executive and consultant, he has come to realize the power of the pay-it-forward philosophy in building trusted relationships. A dedicated connector, Tony P is genuinely interested in hearing people's stories and helping them expand their networks. He is known for staging some of the most eagerly anticipated and well-attended business networking events in Chicago.

WENDY LEE
Chicago Chapter Director, The Co-Opvertising Network

Wendy was born to network. As director of the Chicago Chapter of the Co-Opvertising Network, she is part of a movement that unifies buisness owners around the notion of giving to get. She leads a dedicated and expanding group of relationship-focused business professionals who are redefining success by helping others first. When she is not facilitating breakthrough events for Co-Opvertising members, she provides trusted guidance to buyers and sellers of residential and commercial real estate properties. As principal of WendyLee365, she has leveraged the social networks to educate clients on both sides of the real estate transaction, positioning herself as an expert realtor in the Chicago marketplace.

MEET THE PERFORMERS FOR THE OCTOBER 26, 2017 SHOW

JONATHAN PRITCHARD
Mentalist | Mind Reader

Jonathan has entertained the troops stationed overseas, appeared on national television, performed on the hottest stages in Vegas, and has consulted with the top performers in his field. As a keynote speaker and corporate trainer, he dazzles audiences and helps companies engage and develop their employees. He combines his talent as a mind reader with the latest trends in cognitive psychology research to deliver fun, unforgettable experiences for audiences all over the world. Jonathan  is also the author of "[Think] Like A Mind Reader," a book that takes you behind the mental curtain and shares tips, tricks, and strategies for success that he have enabled him to become the go-to expert in his field.

STEVIE SHALE
Improvisational Comedian | Actress | Workshop Facilitator

Stevie is an accomplished improv performer who is part of the Harold Team Shade comedy troupe and The Armando Diaz Experience at Chicago's Improv Olympics (iO), as well as various independent teams. She is also a featured performer and voice-over artist for XVP Comedy Shorts. Her studies at Second City have led to in-house performances, including a team appearance at the NYC Sketch Festival. She also delivers improv training to companies for Chicago-based improve it! Stevie has collaborated previously with JD, as the corporate-climbing Sharon in The Training Session, in which she introduced the term "innervinnersynovation" into the business lexicon.

HARRIS KAL
Actor | Celebrity Impersonator | Corporate Entertainer

Harris is a versatile and charismatic corporate entertainer, celebrity impersonator, actor, comedian, and the founder and president of Harris Kal Productions. Harris has appeared on television and in motion pictures. He is best known for his role as Fonzie’s wacky friend, Bobby Melner, in the ABC-TV series Happy Days, one of the most beloved comedy shows of all-time. Drawing upon his training in classical acting, improvisational skills, and extraordinary range, Harris has created a diverse array of dynamic, attention-grabbing characters and engaging event concepts that resonate with audiences of all ages. He appeared with JD in the 2010 comedy video, The Elevator Pitch.

STOLIE
Singer | Songwriter | Recording Artist

Nightingale-voiced Stolie is a seasoned veteran of the Chicago music scene. At six, she started piano lessons and at 16, she taught herself guitar and wrote her first original song. The Coffee Mug was self-released on cassette in 1996 and over 15 albums have since followed. Stolie has performed at Navy Pier and the Pritzker Pavilion as well as dozens of local rock clubs and dining establishments. She has toured the United States in support of her original music and played hundreds of cover songs at weddings, corporate functions, and private events. As Stolie Stolie, she plays children's shows at parks and libraries, and spends her winters singing for the tourists in Puerto Vallarta, México. The BIG Banter is proud to welcome Stolie as the show's first-ever musical guest.