Firstly, what is BETT? – http://www.bettshow.com
Well it’s a huge event where there are hundreds of educational suppliers ranging from huge companies like Google and Microsoft down to tiny companies you won’t have heard of via others like Busy Things, Rising Stars and BrainPOP. BETT has been held at Olympia for years and this year moves to Excel in London Docks. It usually attracts 30,000 people a year and was held at the start of January, but has now moved to 30th Jan-2nd Feb. It is free to attend but you do need to register.
I first went (twice) as a trainee teacher and it was part of our course to go and see the hardware and software that was available to schools. This is still the case, although don’t expect to see Popplet, Prezi or any other web 2.0 product demonstrating their wares, this is about the paid-for stuff you have in school. Back in my trainee days (9 years ago…) there were also loads of freebies such as pens, sweets and memory sticks to be had. If you were lucky you won a set of voting pads or a Microsoft fleece. These days there are still some free gifts handed out but for me, it is about much more than getting free pens. During my time as a consultant for the Hampshire VLE, BETT became a chance to talk to suppliers about working with our VLE to provide content for schools, this never happened for one reason or another but still, it was a good chance to make connections with companies and see new products. Now, BETT has become a chance to meet people from Twitter, have discussions and see presentations as well as look at what is there on display.
So, what do you need to know before you go? Well, firstly, Wednesday tends to be the quietest day and Friday the busiest. It still seems like schools will let teachers out of class on a Friday as if it is a less-important day than Wednesday or Thursday.
Before the show:
- Book a ticket. It helps to have one as your line will move quicker. The Bett website is here so go on, go and sign up.
- Plan your day/s. Why are you there? What do you want to see? Who do you need to go and speak to? Especially in these ‘financially uncertain times’, what will you be taking back to school? Your school might have spent £150-200 covering your class, so you need to go back with something to show for it. Make sure your day is well planned and you’ll be fine.
- Also plan in rest stops. But why not plan these to coincide with a Teachmeet Takeover? Three years ago I sat and had lunch while watching @tombarrett share Maths Maps and two years ago I did the same while listening to the wonderful Bill Lord (@joga5)
- Do some research! There are some great show-only deals available, but there’s no point negotiating if you don’t know the normal price. Think of it like the DFS sale. There might be a great sale price available, but is it always that price? Have they only knocked £5 off for Bett? Knowing your stuff before you go will help. When you’re at Bett your mind will be in a bit of a daze from the sights/sounds so trial some software, look at some prices etc.
- Ask your staff what they would like to find out. Does the literacy coordinator need to look at e-books? Does the SEN coordinator need some software to help writing? Ask the staff before you attend and that may help your plan.
- Look at the seminar list. There seem to be loads more talks and seminars this year than in previous years.
- Make business cards. Now this is where opinion will get divided. Some will mock me for suggesting such an old-fashioned approach, some will say ‘I’m not important enough for a card’. I say neither am I. My cards have my name, position, school, blog and twitter name on. That’s it. If you meet someone and want to follow them/swap ideas, why not just pass them a card? The cards are also useful should you want to enter a competition as some stands have jars for you to put your name/card in to enter their prize draw. I’d also take a small stapler as suggested by Terry Freedman so you can staple your card to a prize entry from. You could also make your cards a little different, why not add your Twitter avatar, especially if it isn’t a photo and why not add a QR code that links to your blog? Google will help you to find a QR code generator here.
- Get a spare battery/charger. Your phone will run out. You’ll be trying to tweet all day so it will probably run out. The memory from Bett2010 was @lisibo asking anyone and everyone if they had a plug so she could charge her iphone (and being told to move for being a fire hazard). Buy a spare battery (and charge it). You’ll need it come 3/4pm. Especially if you attend an evening event! There are sometimes stands that have spare plugs, so carry your charger just in case.
- Check tube trains, there shouldn’t be any problems, but it’s always worth checking the day before!
On the day:
- Buy some water and a snack. The food and drink inside Olympia was quite pricey and I would imagine Excel being the same so grab yourself some water beforehand. Often there are some companies (such as Espresso and 2Simple) who have free water or a water fountain, this will save money on expensive bottles!
- Display your name/twitter name so people can see who you are. I can’t remember how many times I’ve met someone whose name and twitter name don’t match and I’ve spent ages trying to marry the two together. There are loads of people, so grab a marker pen and write your Twitter name on your badge. (Or copy @dughall with this snazzy jumper)
- On that last point, @digitalmaverick suggests that when you register for the show, instead of putting your name as Ian Addison, put it as @ianaddison and then it will display your Twitter name large and bold on your badge.
- If you need a friend, come and visit someone from Twitter. Quite often people attend Bett on their own. This could be because of cost so why not pair up with someone else when you get there? To find people head to a Teachmeet takeover or head to Brainpop’s stand or Rising Stars or 2Simple. There always tend to be lots of Twitter users around those stands. You can then say hello to people and feel less alone. Check here to see where/when people are around.
- Get your bearings. Bett is big and can be scary. There are lights, colours, sounds everywhere. Spend a while getting used to it. Walk from one room to another, find the stairs, the toilets. Look for a key stand e.g. Microsoft, Google, 2Simple that will help you get your bearings as you walk around. Then you can start to follow your plan.
- It’s like a theme park, at lunchtimes the cafes are busy. Don’t go there at lunchtime. Sounds obvious, but it’s true. It’s also expensive so, as above, take a snack/picnic.
- Wear sensible clothes. You don’t need a suit. You’re not presenting/selling anything so get comfortable. Wear shoes you can walk in for 8hours. Take a jacket you can carry when you get hot (which you will). You can put stuff in the cloakroom, but again, you’ll be queueing and paying. A rucksack is probably a good idea.
- Don’t get offended by Twitter. I’ve had a few occasions when I’ve met someone who was following me but I didn’t know who they were and vice versa. It’ll happen. Say hello, apologise to them or ask them what they do. Then remedy the situation by following them. If they aren’t very interesting, unfollow later. Twitter is a huge place and I’m sure you’ve missed someone or other, don’t worry about it.
- Don’t worry if you miss people or don’t get much chance to speak to them. It’s a busy place, you can’t meet everyone. There’s always next year right?
- Don’t worry if people seem pushy. Politely take their leaflet or tell them you’re not interested and move on. Sometimes people are rude and noone wants to see that. I tend to sit down for 5mins and empty my bag of everything and then put the interesting stuff back in and the rubbish in the bin. There’s a lot of rubbish, but some great hidden treats too. It is well worth doing a quick check of rubbish before hauling it all home with you!!
- Do make time to speak to people on the stands though, there are some great products to see at BETT.
- Oh, if you ignore your plan (as I have done
a few timesevery year), don’t worry. Of course something caught your eye. Don’t worry that you sat and watched a 3D presentation or joined in a competition to win a whiteboard or whatever. It’ll happen.
- Don’t worry that you forgot to tweet about what you saw or who you met. Do it later.
- Enjoy yourself! Yes it’s big, yes it’s overwhelming, but I enjoy it. Mainly because of the underground events and meeting people, but still. It’s good fun.
- Attend at least one Teachmeet Takeover if you can.
- Oh and yes, there will be free stuff. Yes you can get pens and badges and sweets, but please, please DON’T be the idiot that goes crazy. Last year the saddest moment was watching two of my children waiting politely for 5 minutes for someone to stop talking so they could ask for a chocolate from their stand only to be pushed out of the way by a teacher (I saw her badge) who promptly took a handful and walked away. My children asked me why they had to have manners when it was clear so many people attending had none at all! So take a pen, a sweet, look at the products if you feel you have to, but don’t take the Michael. Plus, you are a teacher! There are always pens at school. It’s more fun trying to find weird and wonderful freebies instead, such as Squidgy Pig.
- Take stock of what you’ve seen. What did you learn? Blog about it. Don’t have a blog? Start one.
- Tweet people to say hello. You’ll have got new followers and you’ll be following new people. Say hi to them.
- Follow up the free trials and contacts you’ve made. Have a play with new software and share it with colleagues. If a company says you have 2 weeks from the BETT show to try it and buy it, tell them you need more time. You’re a busy person after all. Don’t be swayed too much by the ‘sales’ and stuff, the software isn’t going anywhere.
- Look up the materials from Teachmeet. I’ll post those on here so don’t worry!
This all sounds like a lot, but it is mostly common sense and stuff that I’ve picked up along the way. Do you have any other tips for Bett newbies? Is there something I’ve missed?
David Rogers has written a great post on how to enjoy BETT by causing some trouble…that post is here.
Pete Yeomans has written a post here explaining that there is no such thing as free. There are some very good points here, definitely be polite when talking (or avoiding) vendors!
Terry Freedman’s very comprehensive guide to BETT is available on his blog.
I have always asked for other tips and here are some from previous years:
Dave Colman – More tips for BETT can be found at http://www.sharepointedutech.com/2010/12/29/tips-for-the-bett-show-2011/
Richard Anderson – I’ve always found that the main problem with BETT actually occurs post-BETT; you need to plan in time to actually look through the contacts and materials you’ve collected. It’s easy to let a few weeks pass by. If you’re staying down in London, take some time before dinner (or on the train home) to sort through the materials and condense them down into the stuff you’re genuinely interested in / genuinely able to afford.