BETT 2014: big, international, B2B – but not thought leadership

BETT 2014 was massive. You only needed to squeeze into the packed carriages on the Docklands Light Railway and hear the array of dialects to get a very immediate sense of BETT’s size and reach.

But was BETT a success?

In terms of numbers and if you listen to the puffery of the organisers, things have never been bigger or better. My experience over 12 years is that BETT is always too big and the only way you can get any ROI from attending is to plan your visit like a military campaign. This is exactly what successful exhibitors do, but I think it’s very different for buyers, especially educators who tend to arrive, become overwhelmed and end up wandering around like kids in a sweet shop.

The exhibitors I spoke to were fairly happy. Most felt that Wednesday wasn’t great but that Thursday and Friday were excellent As usual no one thinks Saturday is worthwhile (‘a necessary evil’).

I lurked around the OCR stands talking about ed-invent as well as chatting to people in seminars, on stands and in the long foos queues (BETT can be like that). I even managed to see one of our finalists Stephen Lockyer from The Mead School, giving an interesting talk about ChromeBooks.

So BETT was fun but it had several all too familiar pains:

Good

Bad

It’s a better space than Earls Court and the trains, particularly the DLR are great Exploitative food and drink prices with long queues at lunchtime, e.g. £26 for 3 small pies and bottles of water!
A few interesting things like:

  • Kano – Kickstarter-funded Raspberry Pi kit
  • Primo – another Kickstarter-funded programming tool for very young children
It’s a B2B trade show, and doesn’t fill the gap in though-leadership left by the demise of Learning Without Frontiers (why I’m going to SXSWedu)
Seeing the on-going success of companies like:

  • TWIG
  • Night Zookeeper
  • Odizzi
  • Busuu
  • Zondle
  • edapt
Pointless keynotes:

  • Secretary of State’s speech is released on govternment websites before he stepped on stage
  • Hostility of education media to the current Secretary of State makes impartial and informed coverage pretty challenging
Growing number of ChromeBook suppliers -schools are really looking hard at TCO and what really drives great educational outcomes (the solution isn’t just loads of iPads) Pointless celebrity talks by Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Bob Geldof. What did they deliver that’s relevant to BETT/edtech/education?
The laser cutter exhibitor who loaned a soldering iron to PRIMO to fix their robot which for a demonstration on the OCT srtand BESA still don’t understand the most influential people in the edtech sector aren’t The Guardian, BBC and mainstream outlets (except the TES). It’s all about bloggers, Twitter and people you won’t meet in the pressroom!
TeachMeet The attandees who are  more interested in collecting promotional giveaways than in finding inspiration to improve education
Meeting old friends and making new ones
  • Apple not exhibiting (predictable). Their resellers not even knowing the iTunes app of 2013 was built by a London company.
  • Running an Education Leadership Summit in Kings Cross on the Wed. of  BETT

 

Report card – B+ (8/10) for exhibitors and C+ (7/10) for attendees