I AM NOT A LAWYER However, I would STRONGLY ENCOURAGE the OP (based on personal observation of IL small claims cases including in Cook County) NOT to "just appear" and argue their case sotospeak. Based upon Illinois Supreme Court Rule 286(b) that I previousely posted, you IMHO will open yourself up to all sorts of problems not the least of which is that, many, if not most, judges are sympathetic to the plaintiff in these cause of actions, and therefore may help do their job(plaintiff's counsel) for them by direct examination of YOU. If you do not know what you are doing and even if you do, the odds are stacked against you prevailing I think.
In one instance, I watched as a judge "shredded" a defendant's attorney, denied his (what I thought was a reasonable) motion and THEN, when queried by said counsel as to if the judge would be "explaining" his ruling, the judge just replied "No" - as they can do in IL SC. If it were me, and arbitration was a possibility (no small claims exemption in account agreement), I would probably go the arbitration route and yes, you will need leave of the court to file your motion I believe, another potential pitfall .
Bubbles did post some good papers by a really good law firm in the state MIGHT WANT TO READ UP ON THEM