Tuesday morning, my colleague Michelle and I flew out of Bloomington to Orlando, Florida for the Blackboard World 2010 (BbWorld) annual conference. Blackboard is the company that owns the Angel, the learning management system (LMS) that we use at Richland. In the past we haven’t been huge fans of Blackboard, but Michelle and I were still pretty excited about going to the conference. Michelle had been choosen as a client reporter, which meant her job during the conference was to go around and interview random people at the conference. I on the other hand was presenting a conference session about the student orientation we developed at Richland. In addition, Michelle and I were both really interested in connecting with our fellow Angel users and hearing what Blackboard had to say about their support of Angel.
The conference was being held at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee, FL, and to say we were impressed was an understatement!
Blackboard World 2010 Conference
The Gaylord was absolutely amazing! In fact so amazing I’m dedicating an entire post just to the conference center, which you can find on this page about the hotel (and trust me it’s worth looking at!).
From the very first night, Michelle and I got involved with the various activities. One of our favorite involved a contest to collect at least 20 different vendor and Blackboard pins, which you were then to wear on your conference lanyard as flair. We had a blast talking to the vendors and Blackboard employees while trying to get them to give us their different pins (some weren’t nearly as generous as others!). Being the overachievers that we were, we quickly decided to go for it and get every single pin at the conference and ended up with @34 different pins, including the coveted and highly elusive Blackboard Executive Pin (worn only by the higher ups in Bb!).
Wednesday was a jammed packed day starting at 7am with breakfast, the keynote, back to back conference sessions, lunch, Michelle interviewing people, and in the evening an Angel appreciation dinner.
Thursday was just as busy if not busier, with breakfast again at 7am, a Bb 9.1 usability study, more great presentations, lunch (which the desserts, all four of them, were to DIE for!), an executive session with Ray Henderson (the President of Bb Learn), more interviewing for Michelle, and then in the evening the Bb customer appreciation party.
The appreciation party was amazing… imagine over 1800 people in a ballroom with the lights down, club music blaring, a jammed packed dance floor, gourmet food of all types, and a completely open bar. This atmosphere was only enhanced by the coolest conversations ever! Michelle and I actually got to meet the men who created rubrics for Angel (which might not sound like a huge deal, but really was for us), in addition to a variety of equally amazing people. The other highlights of the night include dancing with the president of Bb and then getting invited to the after party by Ray (from the executive session earlier in the day)… can you say surreal? The after party was held at The Grove on Universals City Walk and Bb rented four charter buses to take people there and then shuttle them back (they had buses leaving every 30 minutes). Michelle and I tagged along to the after party just to check things out, but with James arriving late that night and my conference presentation the next morning at 8:30AM, we decided to head back to the hotel shortly after midnight.
When we got to the hotel I expected James to already be in our room (I had paid for an individual room for us out of my pocket), but he wasn’t there. I was slightly worried because I had expected him to get in around 11-11:30PM, but his plane had been delayed (which he couldn’t let me know because he refused to get a cell phone!) and he ended up not arriving until shortly after I got back (@1AM).
After such a late and crazy night, Friday morning was a little hectic, but I was still able to make it to my presentation with plenty of time to spare. My presentation was at 8:30AM, the last day of the conference and the morning after the big party, yet I still had a full audience in attendance!
The presentation went quite well and I had a number of people with additional questions, wanted my business card for follow-up, and even a few people who told me it was the best session they had attended at the conference!! Wow did that make me feel great! Even James surprised me by not only giving me a big hug and telling me amazing job, but also giving me a full kiss on the mouth in front of people! Yes, I guess my presentation was *that* good! 😉
After my presentation, we finished packing and then wandered around the hotel for a bit before declaring the conference officially over! James and I were staying in Orlando for the rest of the weekend, but Michelle was taking the train to Miami to meet up with some friends before meeting back up with us in the airport at Atlanta (Michelle coming from Miami and us from Orlando, all on our way to Bloomington).
James had rented a car when he got in the night before, so we offered to drive Michelle to the train station. This ended up being a good idea because the train station in Orlando was in a slightly seedy location, yet it did have a little old school charm to it!
Michelle’s train was right on time and after seeing her boarded, James and I headed off for our next adventure.
Overall for the conference, Michelle and I had a great time, met a lot of amazing people, learned a lot, and are looking forward to next year’s conference…. Bb World 2011 in Vegas!!