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A speaker series is a go-to tactic for organizations trying to bring people together based on shared interests, experiences and goals. But the "rubber chicken circuit" – as it's referred to by regulars for the stereotypically bad catering –is in desperate need of a refresh.

In recognition of the opportunity to engage a new female demographic, the Women's Executive Network (WXN) is launching a WXN Cocktail Series this month in Toronto. "We saw the need to create a more provocative speaker series targeted toward a younger female professional audience," COO Kiersten Anas Byrick says.

Knowing it would have to deliver a quality experience to attract busy young professionals, the focus for the speakers became "women who are changing the world."

"We wanted to find people who had a point of view, who would be provocative and say something to stimulate discussion, rather than just talk about their past accomplishments," Ms. Byrick says.

The first event, May 8 in the Royal Ontario Museum's C5 lounge, features Yael Cohen, the founder of F*** Cancer, a non-profit organization dedicated to spreading the word about the value of early detection.

"Yael Cohen is changing the world with F*** Cancer," Ms. Byrick says. "We believe she epitomizes the type of speaker young professionals want to hear from."

Determined to take a different approach to the world of charitable organizations after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, Ms. Cohen decided to start by introducing new language into the discussion. It's paid off. Since it was founded in 2009, F*** Cancer has been able to attract Gen Y support in a way few other groups have managed to do.

Its clearly defined scope focuses on making a difference as soon as possible, in a time frame that makes sense to the "right-now" mindset of the target audience. While providing good shock value and iconic T-shirts, F*** Cancer's choice to use the f-word stems from Ms. Cohen's belief that the fight against cancer is the perfect arena for strong emotions.

Gen Y and their parents will be affected by cancer more than any other group, and the organization is encouraging them to share how they feel.

Ms. Cohen has spoken at the White House, the United Nations and the Clinton Global Initiative, and she has been recognized as a top non-profit sector influencer around the world.

The WXN Cocktail Series includes six events in Calgary and Toronto over the next six months, with plans to expand in the future. Other speakers include marketing and business thought leader Jacquelyn Cyr; Amanda Lindhout, founder of the Global Enrichment Foundation; and bestselling author of Rich By Thirty: A Young Adult's Guide to Financial Success, Lesley Scorgie.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic . She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

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