Describing BlackBerry Live/Jam 2013 in one word; Phenomenal. This event was like none other I have been involved with. Not only was this my first time ever going to such an event involving BlackBerry, but I was also going to this event as a BlackBerry Elite member. With permission from the Elite program team leaders on-site at BBLive, I am going to highlight the event through my eyes.
The experience of being a BBElite included some of the coolest and most amazing things I have been able to be a part of in my life. This post is going to be a little more subjective and editorialized because it is going to detail MY experience at BBLive and BBJam while being a BBElite member on top of it. I have done a StoryMaker video just to highlight a few things, and will post some other pictures throughout just, again, to give my perspective.
So, what is BBElite? How did I, of all people, get chosen? The short answer is that BlackBerry reached out to a select number of users around the world active in supporting and promoting the BlackBerry brand in a variety of areas to include developers, social media and business social. Specifically for me, after posting on a LinkedIn PlayBook/Blackberry for Business forum I was emailed and asked to be a part of the BBElite program. I reviewed the details and immediately knew I wanted to be a part of this! For quite a while I have supported and loved the BlackBerry brand and have used the Storm, Storm 2, Tour, Bold 9650, Bold 9930, and now the awesome Z10 along my continuing journey with BlackBerry!
So, BBLive/Jam 2013 wasn’t even on my radar when invited to be a part of the Elite program. Initially the incentive was to just be part of it. A goal of mine since purchasing my first device has been to work closer with BlackBerry and even to obtain a position within the company itself. I felt this program at least was an amazing step in that direction. The way it all happened seemed to be the work of something bigger. The timing was quite eerie in so much as I was just starting to become more socially involved in the business side of my life. Looking to expand my networks and to possibly land an executive level job got me searching out groups and contacts on LinkedIn.
Let’s fast forward to the beginning of the year, January 2013. I started seeing the Elite program being spotlighted with the impending release of the BB10 platform. Through launch events around the world, to include the U.K., Canada and the U.S. specifically, the Elite program began to show me the true incentive and drive behind its establishment. BlackBerry had found a way to reach out to users and incorporate them into the very fiber of what was happening within the company. The worldwide launch was January 30th, and as an Elite member I was invited to attend the event. Having scheduled a facial surgery just two days prior I was unable to attend. I also had missed an Elite program function in Waterloo and I began to wonder how to get more involved.
I work full-time as a law enforcement officer and combining that with my passion of BlackBerry is at times difficult. However, with the U.S. launch of the Z10, I was made aware of the chance of a lifetime; that I would be invited to BBLive/Jam as an Elite member! Again, I found the timing eerie as I had already blocked the specific dates off of work for another function and simply had to change the leave type. I was going to go to the premier BlackBerry event, as an integral catalyst in promoting the BlackBerry brand and the new operating system to the world. I also was going to have the opportunity to meet all the twitter handles, and BBM contacts that I only knew in the virtual world. How excited really could a person be, and I think I easily surpassed it.
The process of registering, booking flights and my hotel room were amazingly smooth. I was kept up to speed with everything happening and when I flew out of Baltimore the morning of the 13th, I was as prepared as I could be for the trip, or so I thought. I had no idea what was planned for the Elite members, and I was about to be blown away, and in turn understand much more about the intent of the program, and even my place in it.
BBLive in and of itself, from what I was told, is an amazing event used for help in knowledge of the brand, as well as hands on sessions and most importantly for me, networking. This year BBLive and BBJam were at the same time in the same place and it was a full day everyday of sessions, events, eating and meeting. Having an opportunity to get online and look at the session catalog ahead of time, I planned on attending about 7 sessions. I am definitely not on the technical side of what BBJam represents. I have done a few themes and loaded some operating systems, saved a few bricked devices…but my technical knowledge was limited. So I stayed more with the informational sessions targeting the future of BlackBerry and some specific sessions about the new devices already out and planning to be released throughout the year.
The first event that I attended was the BBElite social just before the BBLive/Jam showcase opened on Monday evening. The Elite team had a lounge tucked away within a BBJam session room with couches, charging areas throughout and food and drinks. This area quickly became a focal point for a lot of us throughout BBLive/Jam as it gave us a central area to rest and catch up with other Elites. This is where the networking that was going to end up being the most prevalent theme throughout the event began. We as a group from all over the world quickly reached out to each other and learned how we had gotten to where we have within the Elite program. While talking and enjoying some amazing food and beverages, we were given an audience with the CEO of BlackBerry, Thorsten Heins. He immediately thanked us for our work with BlackBerry, and then brought out the executive team for introduction. We were then given the opportunity for a quick word and photograph and the BBLive/Jam conference for us was officially on its way! The on-site Elite team then advised us all of a breakfast in the morning with Alec Saunders and not to miss the Keynote, as we would have seating up front!
After the amazing initial meet-up with the other Elite members I went with a few others to the showcase. This is where vendors run wild…well, they are stationary; but we as attendees run wild and try to see who is selling what and more importantly, what are they giving away!? I took a picture with the Stanley Cup and had a blast on the Keep Moving van. After speaking to only about a tenth, at best, of the vendors, it was time to close it down. I knew that I would have to be back for sure. Looking ahead at my schedule I wasn’t 100% when, just that I would have to check it out!
The next morning was a get up early and head down to enjoy a BBElite exclusive breakfast with Alec Saunders kind of day. Everyone headed in, grabbed some food and sat down at a table while Alec made it a point to go around the room and talk with as many people as possible. He made a brief statement and then we all began heading out to attend the BBLive Keynote. As a group, the Elite team made their way down to the entrance. On the right was the BlackBerry store. I wasn’t sure what I needed, but I was sure I needed something! But it would have to wait until I could find some free time. We were moving into the room and being shown to the second row off the right of the stage (as you look at it.) I couldn’t believe the size of the room to begin with, and I definitely couldn’t believe the treatment we were being given as Elite members.
The keynote was amazing. So many announcements made to include the Q5 device, BBM going cross-platform and BBM Channels! Also, a special demonstration of the QNX system in a Bentley to include video chat, Formula-1 champion Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes partnerships, and Alicia Keys came out to reveal some great information. There was a contest where anyone with a checkered flag under their seat would be able to stay and get their picture taken with Lewis. As Elite members, we were able to stay behind and get our photos taken with Lewis and the F-1 brought out onto the stage as well. After the keynote we had some free time and were asked to come down to the Elite lounge for a special guest visit after lunch.
As we all piled in and started to talk about the amazing events already that we have experienced, we looked out of the lounge and saw Alicia walking in! Alicia spent about 15-20 minutes speaking about her announcements at the keynote as well as how important being in the Elite program was in promoting the BlackBerry brand. She then took a group photo with us and said she couldn’t wait to see us later that night at Universal Studios Keep Moving Project. Before we all left the lounge we were asked to meet back before the Universal Studios event in order to get on our own Elite bus. This gave us the opportunity to be the first to arrive at Universal for the Keep Moving Project!
Officially day one (two if you count Monday) was in the books. The Elite team had given us some amazing experiences and incentives already that I, at least, could never have imagined. It is an honor to have been first identified, and then valued through the experiences we were being given. And it had only just begun! The next morning we were treated with two sessions back to back exclusively for the Elite team. The first was with BlackBerry CMO Frank Boulben and he talked with us about the Keep Moving Project and F-1 partnership and how that has helped BlackBerry in their focus on marketing the new BB10 platform. Frank was very candid with us and answered a lot of great questions the Elite members had. At the end we were able to chat individually with Frank for a few minutes and get a picture. The morning hopped right into the next session with Todd Wood and Don Lindsay giving us a presentation on the Q10 product design and user experience. They took the time to really dig into how the new BB10 devices came about in design and performance through real world actions and a true common sense approach. There was another amazing question and answer session and the information again was very candid and helped a lot of us gain some clarity on some issues.
The rest of the day was open, giving all of us a chance to hit up some of our own identified sessions to attend, or just hang out in the lounge and talk about all that we have experienced so far. The next major event for the Elite team was a night out at King’s Orlando for bowling and billiards. This event, bar none, was one of the most amazing and fun times had throughout BBLive/Jam! The ability to let loose and really interact with the on-site Elite team and other members was wide open. Everyone seemed to really move around and interact, and I know I met some members I didn’t previously. We were treated to an impromptu performance of “No Sleep Till BlackBerry 10” by Lil E and also had fun creating our own “Harlem Shake” video! This night was crazy fun, and even though Universal Studios was UH-Mazing as well, I personally enjoyed the smaller group atmosphere a bit more. This was an exceptional last night to BBLive/Jam.
There wasn’t anything planned for the last day as far as specific to the Elite team. Too many people were leaving or changing hotels or just trying to get last minute things taken care of such as shopping at the BlackBerry store and taking advantage of the crazy low prices, or heading into the showcase to take a look at the vendors missed or get a closer look at the QNX Bentley or F-1 racecar. There was a ton of BBM sharing and “we must keep in touch” type of talk. As we began saying goodbye and realizing this amazing event was coming to a close, I definitely already knew I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Like I said initially, this experience was Phenomenal! Going to it as an Elite member made it even better than I could have imagined.
Ultimately, my experience is one I will never forget, and the friendships made have continued and I truly feel will not fade. We as BlackBerry users are serious about the brand and keep each other accountable to it. I hope to continue my journey with BlackBerry, and definitely as an Elite member also. The incentives; exclusive sessions, events, swag…just show me that BlackBerry is strong, and willing to give its customers a chance to be a major part of that. I am proud to be #teamblackberry and hope that many more people will come on board as we all strive to promote the brand that IS the future of mobile computing, BlackBerry.