Did BETT start 2020 off well?
Last week was the BETT show at London’s Excel Exhibition Centre. Always a highlight of the year for anyone working in educational technology, or those working in schools and in charge of purchasing any new tech. Also this year BETT absorbed the Education Show into the halls of Excel. It was a really interesting year as they opened both the North and South Halls (but now going as far down each hall so it didn’t feel so neverending) and they added different zoned areas. This means that competitor products were closer to each other (which they might have found a bit awks!) but this made for a much better visitor experience. For example, a school leader wanting an assessment platform could go and find them all in one place. Or if you are after furniture, that’s all together too, and so on.
One major other difference was that Hyve Group (the organisor of BETT) made a real effort on the CPD side and included really good talks, plus lots of panel discussions. These felt more genuinely borne out of a need to put edtech on a platform, rather than previous years where every talk was sponsored by a certain brand so was just one very long, often very brash, sales pitch. The advisory panel was made up of experts in their fields and a good mix of actual current teachers, and it showed in the final product. BETT certainly had more of a “buzz” this year which made it a pleasure to be at. Last year was pretty soulless and it was good to see the heart back in the show. For me the networking is really key and there was the International TeachMeet on the Thursday, and the usual TeachMeet on the Friday, as part of “BETT Lates” and both included free drinks for teachers attending provided by Hyve.
This commitment from the organisers to support the teacher visitors and the grassroots events made such a big difference to the feel of the show and the execution of the sales elements. Stand staff seemed more in tune generally. Yes there were lots of people trying to sell things that no school has budget for (how many massive robots and VR headsets do we need?!) but overall the zoning of the Excel, coupled with great talks and the evening events, made for a better show overall for schools.
Previously BETT have seemed to only care about sell sell sell and worked to keep vendors happy with maximum selling exposure! Now they seemed to have realised that unless they made BETT an attractive and worthwhile day out for teachers and headteachers, then no amount of selling makes any difference as the audience for the sales just isn’t there.
I hope more school staff are given an opportunity to attend BETT. One person per school at least should be let out for a day to visit, in my opinion. It may be half full of shiny expensive tech, but there is also a huge network of UK wide, and international, visitors all sharing their ideas either on the stages or over coffee. Loads of opportunity to learn new things, try out tech hands-on, and just to look above the parapet and see what else is out there in Education generally. Once a year it is great to be back in the mix and see what everyone else is doing.
Our sincere thanks to Hyve for reinvigorating BETT this year. We look forward to 2021!