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What a blast at the 2011 Awards Gala in New York City!

A capacity crowd of over 200 people came together on September 13, 2011 at the beautiful NYIT Auditorium on Broadway. It was an evening of networking and celebrating the 2011 Small Business Influencer Champions. Champions, supporters and friends came from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tampa, Atlanta, Toronto, Seattle, Minneapolis, Nashville, Cleveland, Phoenix, Miami, Chicago, Providence, Boston, Washington DC and Denver -- and many places in between!

Each of the Top 100 Influencer Champions and the Honorable Mentions was invited to attend the Awards ceremony, with more than half of the Top 100 Champions able to make it. The event was also open to their staff, media, friends, supporters and anyone in the industry who wished to celebrate with them.

Networking, Networking, Networking!

The event kicked off at around 5:30 pm. Over refreshments, guests perused the sponsor displays and connected up with old friends, industry colleagues and social media contacts many of whom they met for the first time in person that night.

Energy, Emotion and Excitement

During the Awards ceremony, each Influencer Champion was called to the stage by co-founders Ramon Ray and Anita Campbell to receive a crystal trophy from Alan Panezic, VP of Enterprise Product Management & Marketing of Research in Motion (sponsor), and say a few words to the crowd. Adding to the excitement was upbeat music written specifically for the Small Business Influencer Awards by Smith & Keats of New Zealand! You could "feel" the energy -- and who wouldn't be excited at being recognized for their dedication and accomplishments?

Consider the comments of Champion John Lawson (@ColderIce), who in a few powerful words noted how he grew up in the projects in New York and dropped out of high school, but through entrepreneurship found success as a top eBay seller and eCommerce expert.

Others on hand to be recognized included author Donna Fenn, Constant Contact CEO Gail Goodman, head of Belmont University's Entrepreneurship Center Dr. Jeff Cornwall, MSNBC's JJ Ramberg, SMBNation Founder Harry Brelsford, representatives of Babson College, Erika Kerekes of Deluxe, and Affiliate Summit Co-Founder Missy Ward -- just to name a few.

Sponsor Fireside Chats and Products Giveaways

Highlighting the evening were the 5-minute "fireside chats" with our 3 sponsor representatives. Each described their companies' philosophies for supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs.

In between granting the trophies, there were fun random giveaways, too, including BlackBerry PlayBooks, BlackBerry Presenters and the latest smartphones. This was in addition to the goodie bags each attendee got.

More Networking!

After the Awards ceremony, title sponsor BlackBerry sponsored the BlackBerry Lounge until closing, so that honorees and guests could continue networking.

Adding even more excitement, there was even a book launch! "Visual Marketing" was launched at the Gala with complimentary autographed copies as a "thank you" for all.

Throughout the event, professional photographer Jason Gardner captured some of the best moments (see photo gallery above), including a group shot of all Champions and Honorable Mentions in attendance. A professional videographer also got the celebration on film (see video below). See the BlackBerry recap here.

Is it any surprise we can't wait for the 2012 Awards Gala? We hope to see you there!

2011 Gala Awards video

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