This is the second of three posts about Bett 2011. The first was about Teachmeet and the third is about the other underground events that you can find.

This post is a beginner’s guide to Bett. I’m sure there are others out there, but here are mine. Before I start, I have been to Bett as a trainee teacher twice, as a VLE consultant twice and this will be my first year there as a teacher. I never attended while in my previous teaching post due to a lack of money and a lack of awareness of Teachmeet events and the like. This time, we are still in the ‘no money’ situation, but I am keen to attend to meet up with my fellow Twitter educators and to get involved in as many events to share ideas as I can. So here goes…

Before the show:

  1. 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.
  2. 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? They’ve spent £xx covering your class, so you need to go back with something to show for it. Make sure your day is well planed and you’ll be fine.
  3. Also plan in rest stops. But why not plan these to coincide with a Teachmeet Takeover? Last year I sat and had lunch while watching @tombarrett share Maths Maps. Two birds. One Stone.
  4. 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 DFS. 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.
  5. 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 and that may help your plan.
  6. Look at the seminar list. Yes, you may need to pay for some of these, but some will be great. My personal highlight would be listening to @deputymitchell talk about the fantastic use of blogging in the primary school. I have openly said I am trying to emulate his success, so go and listen while he shares some ideas.
  7. 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.
  8. Get a spare battery/charger. Your phone will run out. You’ll be trying to tweet all day so it will probably run out. Last year’s lasting memory 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! Update – Chris Ratcliffe (@chrisrat) says you can charge your Android or iPhone at the Scholastic stand. This is perfect as they are hosting lots of Teachmeet Takeovers too.

On the day:

  1. Buy some water and a snack. The food and drink inside Olympia is quite pricey so grab yourself some water beforehand. – There will be FREE water on the Espresso stand (as well as yummy chocolate)
  2. 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)
  3. If you need a friend, come and visit us. 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. There are lots of Twitter users there, not to mention the always friendly @eylanezekiel. You can then say hello to people and feel less alone. I’m on the Brainpop stand on Friday afternoon, come and say hi!
  4. 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, Scholastic, 2Simple that will help you get your bearings as you walk around. Then you can start to follow your plan.
  5. It’s like a theme park, at lunchtimes the cafes are busy. Don’t go there at lunchtime. Silly but it’s true. It’s also expensive so, as above, take a snack/picnic.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Oh, if you ignore your plan (as I have done a few times), 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.
  10. Don’t worry that you forgot to tweet about what you saw or who you met. Do it later.
  11. 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.

After Bett:

  1. Take stock of what you’ve seen. What did you learn? Blog about t. Don’t have a blog? Start one.
  2. Tweet people to say hello. You’ll have got new followers and you’ll be following new people. Say hi to them.
  3. Follow up the free trials and contacts you’ve made. Have a play with new software and share it with colleagues.
  4. 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?

More tips for beginners here