For past decade, Emspace + Lovgren has had the honor of working with ICAN to develop a distinctive, innovative brand and execute a robust, integrated communications strategy for its annual Women’s Leadership Conference. We partner with a team of impressive women to create the whole experience — from start to finish — over the course of about 10 months.
The 2020 pandemic revealed the true strength of our partnership when the team had to pivot quickly from planning an in-person conference to ICAN’s first-ever virtual conference. The virtual conference was so well received, the ICAN team decided to continue offering a hybrid conference in 2021 and beyond.
ICAN leadership drew inspiration for the 2021 theme from their research suggesting how women are over-mentored and under-sponsored, which is partly reflected in the stagnated statistics of women in the C-Suite. The client brief noted that the conference would intend to show a link between the promotion of women leaders to the C-Suite with volunteer- and community-focused action.
We leaned on our deep experience in executing the virtual conference in 2020 and in-person conferences the years prior to determine which elements of each would be most beneficial for the hybrid event. For example, the online platform’s chat feature was highly engaging for the virtual audience, while a live Twitter feed was key for the in-person audience. Our communications strategy would need to include a mix of both.
Inspired by ICAN’s suggested theme, our chosen identity concept for the conference was IN SIGHT. The conference would identify what leadership strategies women could employ to step up to increase their visibility and supplement their ongoing leadership development to stand out, so we created a secondary message to highlight the idea of advocacy: “Step Up. Stand Out. Stand Together.” Once we developed this brand and identity, we finalized the comprehensive communications strategy and supplemental materials.
This included securing media partnerships and developing a robust social media strategy. We made every effort to plan communications with both in-person and virtual audiences in mind, so everyone would have a clear understanding of what to expect out of the hybrid experience.
A few weeks before the conference date in August, concerns about the delta variant of the coronavirus caused a few of the keynote speakers to back out of in-person attendance. We acted quickly to pre-record presentations from some of the speakers’ hometown offices, and a few still traveled to Omaha to present from the conference center. Alerts were sent to the media as needed to keep the public informed every step of the way.
The brand developed by Emspace + Lovgren was the cohesive element that tied the conference experience together, and animating the graphics and using the dynamic color palette on the virtual platform helped replicate the excitement of the in-person event.
Overall, the 2021 ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference was highly successful, drawing 2,100+ business leaders from 210 companies across 40 states and three countries.
Other notable highlights included:
In 2021, ICAN expanded its partnership with Emspace + Lovgren, engaging our team to rebrand ICANleaders.org, along with taking ownership of ICAN’s day-to-day social media implementation.
The new site launched in September 2021 with a refreshed design and updated copy to better position the organization as it continues to grow its footprint throughout the region.