Hybrid Format Success: 29th Annual ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference

United by the theme of “Blaze: Forge Ahead … Rise Stronger,” the 29th Annual ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference on May 18 drew 2,578 attendees to CHI Health Center Omaha and its virtual platform. Leaders in attendance represented 323 organizations and hailed from 37 states (and the District of Columbia) and three countries.

The ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference drew in over 2,500 attendees both in person and virtually. (photo by Debra S. Kaplan)
The ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference drew in over 2,500 attendees both in person and virtually. (photo by Debra S. Kaplan)

“Over 600 tuned in on conference day to participate virtually and connect with each other on ICAN’s virtual platform,” said Aileen Warren, of the first conference she oversaw as ICAN president and CEO. “Attendees continued to find value in having a virtual attendance option, whether by personal preference or being remote.”

Keynote speaker Cynt Marshall. (photo by Debra S. Kaplan)
Keynote speaker Cynt Marshall. (photo by Debra S. Kaplan)

Warren said companies even invited leaders from other geographies and offices to participate virtually in the likes of live chat, topical discussion channels and online profiles.

“We even [had] a moment in the morning saying ‘hello’ to some of our virtual attendees who were participating via organization watch parties, and had them join us live on screen to wave,” she said. “It was a fun moment to connect the two audiences together.”

The event featured an Exhibit Hall and book signings. (photo by Debra S. Kaplan)
The event featured an Exhibit Hall and book signings. (photo by Debra S. Kaplan)
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Attendees, Warren said, have remarked on this year’s strong keynote lineup.

“They really loved the speakers and thematic topics,” she said.

Opening keynote, Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall, was described as a “favorite,” starting the day off with high energy around the message of being “all in” and leading with inclusion and heart.

 Immanuel Chief Operations Officer Julie Kaminski accepting the ICAN Leadership Award. (photo by Mike Buckley)
Immanuel Chief Operations Officer Julie Kaminski accepting
the ICAN Leadership Award. (photo by Mike Buckley)

“The theme was timely to what businesses and managers are experiencing right now as a result of the new systems of work brought about by the digitalization [plus] automation, hybrid flexibility and changing employee expectations,” Warren continued.

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Warren also remarked on how they brought back their larger exhibitor show area, which partly featured book signings by The Bookworm.

 ICAN President and CEO Aileen Warren. (photo by Mike Buckley)
ICAN President and CEO Aileen Warren. (photo by Mike Buckley)

“We also reintroduced breakout sessions and featured two locally focused conversations on diversity, equity and inclusion and Omaha’s digital landscape,” she added.

Warren, who succeeded Susan Henricks earlier this year, said she was most surprised by the “amount of detail” invested into a “world-class event.”

ICAN staff and board. (photo by Mike Buckley)
ICAN staff and board. (photo by Mike Buckley)

“The ICAN team has done this successfully many times before,” she said. “But it

certainly gave me an appreciation for everything that needs to be in place to ensure a great experience for our attendees.”

Keynote speaker Eve Rodsky. (photo by Mike Buckley)
Keynote speaker Eve Rodsky. (photo by Mike Buckley)

Forging forward, next year’s conference on May 17, 2023, will also mark its 30th anniversary.

“We certainly are planning to celebrate in a big way,” Warren said.

She also noted they are exploring how to build on the hybrid model and: “Deliver an experience that tops itself year over year.”

Attendees entering the CHI Health Center. (photo by Debra S. Kaplan)
Attendees entering the CHI Health Center. (photo by Debra S. Kaplan)