FREE Webinar: 'Immersive Experiences Unveiled'
Join us for a FREE webinar, 'Immersive Experiences Unveiled,' on July 25.

40 Under 40: Ryan Rockenbaugh, Cars.com

Ryan Rockenbaugh, CMP, 31, works in Chicago as event planner at Cars.com. As a 2017 40 Under 40 honoree, Rockenbaugh discusses his passion for the events industry

*Connect with Rockenbaugh on Instagram. What I do: I currently manage and plan over 60 B2B events annually, ranging from private intimate events to Cars.com’s prestigious awards gala in conjunction with the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. For these events, my role starts at conception all the way to the final bill, with many short nights in between. But fear not: Being that my markets range from Chicago to California, I have plenty of time to sleep on the plane. Between managing budgets, registration, creative design, hotels, ground transportation and once even booking Chewbacca, my day to day is never the same, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. How I got here: After living in six states and planning hundreds of events, I finally landed in Chicago with Cars.com. My journey started in Washington, D.C., managing leadership conferences for international students. My time in D.C. was split between conferences and working in the hotel realm. Eventually, I felt the need to be closer to home and returned to Indiana, where for a brief stint I planned board meetings. In 2014, I packed my bags and headed north to the Windy City to take on a new role as an event marketer with an established dot-com and haven’t looked back. My greatest career accomplishment: I was able to restart a client summit that hadn’t taken place for four years that was a much-needed event during the long summer months. By bringing the who’s who of our client base into Chicago, our teams had an opportunity to strengthen those relationships. The two-day event culminated with lunch on (yes, physically on) Wrigley Field. Of course, as a lifelong South Sider, I made a few enemies at home that day—but happy client, happy life. Impressive stats: As part of an initiative from our team, we have moved to a digital registration platform. This transition has not only improved our marketing ability to our clients, but is essential for tracking and reporting ROI. This has also allowed us to target key players in the industry attending our events, including a 20 percent increase at our Cars.com 2017 Best of Awards during the North American International Auto Show. A specific improvement I’ve made: Part of my role was to take over the planning of our annual Best of Awards. This year marked our seventh year, and wanting to create a new twist on an annual event, we included the addition of a celebrity emcee. We had some doubters, but all fears went away the moment the show began. What I do outside of work: I like to volunteer for local events, especially with PAWS Chicago. The rest of the time I try to enjoy the weather in Chicago while we have it. Once that turns cold, I’ll head south to enjoy the retired life with my parents in Florida and pretend I’m good at golf. Five phrases that identify me: Event planner; fisherman; explorer; Boilermaker; cat dad