BETT 2011 Review

After my pre-BETT post I knew I had to write a review that was sound and well balanced.  Unlike my pre-BETT post I’m not going to give EMAP a chance to respond “in article” as I don’t want to wait 3 months to post this (yes that is a dig in the ribs, keep on reading Joe..  You may be mildly pleased..).  My post mostly quotes other people, by doing that I hope to have a balanced review.

What did people like?

Meeting other people. I think Ian Addison couldn’t of put it more elegantly:

“Bett is about networking” — Ian Addison

Seeing new products. Most blog posts touched loosely on a new thing they had seen.  Most of these posts just mentioned existing companies/brands they already knew.

The social events such as Teachmeet and Collaborate for change aren’t part of BETT but are often staged at BETT and supported by BESA/EMAP and a range of other sponsors.  Bev has done a great post that mentions her enjoyment of the social/less formal events.  Bev also tasks about how great it was to meet the people from companies that she has met on social networks such as Twitter.  Ian Sheffield also discusses how much he enjoyed the Teachmeet, he summarizes it beautifully in a tweet:

“@ianinsheffield: Train fare £56, Hotel £46, Tube £8, Car parking £14 to get to #bett2011 , but #tmbett2011 and#tmtakeover … *priceless!*”

Stephen Heppell compliments it with this tweet:

“@stephenheppell: relaxed day after wonderful BETT Week #LWF #BETT2011 Thought the coolest stuff came from visitors this year. Bottom up change?”

Simon Widdowson also found the social aspect of BETT the most significant, he makes a point of saying how previous years have been about how to spend money but this year he doesn’t have the money to spend.

Personally I liked the new pod areas, I thought they were well designed.  I tried to spend as much time in the POD + SW areas.  I didn’t find innovation alley or whatever it’s called and no one has mentioned it in any posts..  I know this is crazy but why not put innovation alley the first thing you see when you walk in?

What did people dislike?

Microsoft’s new licensing structure went down like a nail to the eye ball.  Jeez, this will get a separate blog post once I have spoken to MS.  Stuart has done a great early blog post with a great summary I really enjoyed.

It is a big event, there is absolutely no way you can get around it and see everything in one day.  I’m usually there for the entire event and I often miss things.  This year I was there for 2, both days I dedicated to meeting people.

The lack of programmes was an issue for Ian Addison however this didn’t dampen his day.  I’m surprised they ran out.  I can only assumed this was a logistical failure?

The lack of decision around which twitter hashtag to use has been a problem for a while now.  EMap can’t be blamed or expect to be responsible for this however it would be nice to have some sort of general brand/marketing space available for eMap.  The problem is….  Where do you put it?  Everywhere you look at BETT there are banners/marketing/brands.

Personally I disliked the amount of stands that were selling everything and nothing..  Pearson was a perfect example of this, in fact they win my vulgar stand of the year award.

What I worry about

How many innovative/unique ideas get ignored. People get little time to spend with the smaller vendors.  Most posts that I read just don’t mention the small, unique, niche companies in the SW and POD areas and I think that is dangerous.  Posts such as this reflect that, I think this post is fantastic and it’s great to see such a comprehensive look at Microsoft’s stuff but does Microsoft really need the help marketing/getting it’s message/brand across?

How many companies this year borrowed money from the bank in hope to get a return on investment from BETT.   Anything < £100k wont even get you mentioned in a single article.

How little money schools will have to spend on resources and products that are offered at BETT. Nothing much Emap can do about this and I think its natural change anyway.

What I think is great

Fantastic comparative blog posts like this Frog Vs Fronter comparison and this Tablet comparison.

Ian Addison is organizing a discussion this Wednesday to discuss what got people thinking at BETT.  Hopefully the fringe products will get a mention here.

Just how big and competitive the market is. With technology in schools being under threat the market is probably due a cull and with a lot of companies using the last of their ELC + HTG money to exhibit in the hope to kick start their dwindling revenue streams it is probably worth that now is the time that we may need to stand united to face off the conservative threat..  Of course a decision like that is way above my head and I’m a believer in natural market forces so I say let them dwindle..

How great it is to see real teachers working on stands. RM seemed to do this very well.  This goes down well with teachers.  I think Simon Haughton summarized this beautifully in his blog post writing:

“Overall, I thought that BETT was a fantastic day out which made me realise the huge range of great ICT products which are available out there to help improve teaching and learning and once again reminded me of the value of listening to others’ real classroom experiences to fully appreciate the potential uses of different programs (through the many teachers/pupils I saw ‘working’ on the stands and through events like TeachMeet Takeover).”

People willing to discuss BETT as a show, only through expressing our concerns and opinions can we make the show better.  Emap relies on feedback, both positive and negative to make changes.  Comments like this are extremely welcome:

RT @mattpearson: agonising over the fact that BETT has got very commercial is like agonising that there’s a lot of football played at old trafford #bett2011

That the event is in the UK and not even further away! 🙂

What is the future for BETT?

You decide!

Sources: View sources on this pad

Why we’re not exhibiting at BETT

Disclaimer:  Views in this post are my own and are intended to help Emap improve BETT.  I am not “knocking the institution”, I am simply voicing my feelings & concerns.

The technology in education market is still recovering from a huge E-Learning credit hangover, temporarily remedied by the “Harnessing Technology Grant” which acted as a sort of short term “fry up” solution.

Thankfully we never became dependant on either pots of money but a lot of companies did and then extended their debts into BSF bids which could only be propped up by Venture capitalist investment.

VC investment meant the stakes placed on ICT in Education were higher than ever and subsequently the marketing budgets available for the “top dogs” increased.  Naturally prices for BETT increased and we begin our tale called “The Hair of the BETT dog”.

In this post I am going to be documenting why we aren’t exhibiting at BETT 2011 in the hope to help Emap make future policy decisions that properly reflect exhibitors needs, especially the needs of small start ups with great new ideas.

Less delegates are attending

*Google Insight showing BETT Show search terms by frequency.  According to Google Searches BETT peaked in popularity in 2004 and has declined ever since.  Of course Emap will claim this isn’t true, yet there are pictures from BETT 2010 showing periods of time where entire isles were soulless.  It would be interesting to see some sort of Average # of delegates per square meter over a 10 year period to see how that weighs up.

Yet it’s getting bigger

More and more companies were exhibiting during the “drinking period” so BETT grew it’s floor space.  Over the last 4 years it feels that less companies are exhibiting and you see a lot of unused, open stands.  This shows a lack of demand and therefore the exhibitor price should reflect this.  So does it?  No.  BETT’s price year on year has risen — As a Yorkshire man I can safely ask “What the deuce?”.

Value for money

Take for instance PrimaryPad, to exhibit PrimaryPad we need 4+ Machines to demonstrate the power of its collaborative writing. Will our presence at BETT sway them to purchase PrimaryPad?  Possibly, but how many schools would need to purchase PrimaryPad just to cover the overheads of BETT?  400, unless we put our prices up (which we had to do with School Email when that went through this same process)..

Sponsoring events such as Teachmeet allow us to engage with educators in a much more intimate environment for a fraction of the cost of exhibiting at BETT.  BETT is often a small business’ largest annual single purchase.

Real life is slow

The internet is much faster, we used to attend BETT to find out the latest things companies are doing but now companies have blogs, newsletters, email mailing lists, radio stations & tv channels constantly keeping us up to date..

BETT isn’t e3, no one saves their hype for BETT.  No big major announcements are made at BETT.

I struggle most years to do a top 10 BETT new technology that is truly reflective of a classrooms needs mostly because I have already either a) reviewed the item/service before or b)  it was a great idea but hidden away in a tiny stand upstairs that no one can get to.

Green issues

Technology is never green, but consider how insane it is to travel to see a demonstration of a web based piece of technology?  Getting my head around that is an issue, so many great tools exist for demonstrating your products over the internet that the notion of travelling at all to see new technology is just a bit well, erm, old fashioned.


We want to be seen as a modern, forward thinking company.  BETT should reflect our needs by offering us more cost effective ways of engaging our customers.

The BETT Award

The award is one of my bug bears about BETT.  A lot of emphasis is placed around the award yet it is hard to meet people who work in the industry that don’t think the agreement for who will win the award is done in a dark, smokey room, somewhere in westminster and goes to the highest biggest candidate.  However some great companies/services/products have won the awards so it’s far from all doom and gloom 🙂


I think BETT is a fantastic national treasure but it’s time for a new angle, something value reflective for both small and large exhibitors.  All of the staff at Emap did a great job last year and all in all BETT is a fantastic CPD tool for teachers.   Drinking time will start again soon but until that time let’s consider a way of nurturing small, creative business instead of scaring them off with huge overheads.

To any company/marketing execs reading this then you should know that if your company isn’t being interesting all year round and communicating well with teachers then you will still not be interesting at BETT.  Your marketing will fail if you focus on a once a year push.

Animated Images courtesy of “If we don’t, Remember me“..

The response this post got from the event organizers

Joe Wilcox from EMAP (the company that handles the BETT event) responded to this blog post:

There is a good chance that readers of this blog for whom the annual BETT show is very well-known are not familiar with me or my role at the organising company, Emap Connect. I joined the company in July last year as the Content Director responsible for any current and planned events or media properties bearing the BETT name. Thus far, I’ve had the pleasure of working to keep the BETT seminar programme populated with insightful speakers, a task made more challenging by the demise of Becta, via which a significant percentage of seminar leaders were confirmed in previous years. I have also really enjoyed creating from scratch two new leadership conferences being hosted alongside BETT for the first time next week. These are designed to ensure that school leaders and representatives of national, regional and local government from the UK and from the wider world continue to attend the show in good numbers, i.e. by adding a compelling new reason to attend. Another enjoyable activity was travelling around the Middle East forming alliances with the ministries and school operators with whose valuable support we successfully delivered – back in November in Abu Dhabi – the inaugural BETT-branded event specifically created to connect the educators of that region with technologies designed to improve their systems and learning outcomes. Going forward, I will be expected to have some input into the strategic direction of BETT here in the UK and around the world.

When I saw John’s article explaining why his company has chosen not to exhibit at next week’s BETT show, I accepted that the piece was written in the spirit of offering my colleagues and I some advice on how best to keep the event relevant, well-attended and genuinely useful. We accept fair comment and don’t want to get into arguments with anyone who wishes to articulate an opinion about the value of BETT.

I do, however, wish to point out that the article contains a significant factual inaccuracy which readers should keep in mind when considering the views that John has expressed.

John alleges that BETT attendance has fallen over the period 2004-2010. The evidence that John offers is that “according to Google Searches BETT peaked in popularity in 2004 and has declined ever since.” He remarks that “of course Emap will claim this isn’t true”. Indeed, not least because BETT attendance figures are audited by ABC (, whose role is the independent verification of media performance, thereby providing a major trading currency for media buyers and owners across print, events, digital and evolving platforms.

Here are the numbers:

BETT 2010 BETT 2009 BETT 2008 BETT 2007 BETT 2006 BETT 2005 BETT 2004
Total 36955 38359 35881 29343 28315 27015 24508
Visitors 29262 29496 28438 29343 28315 27015 24508
Exhibitors 7693 8863 7443 NA NA NA NA

Yes, the 2010 event was a little less well-attended than the previous year’s show, but following a nice jump in visitor numbers from 2004 to 2005, I would say that the size of the crowd with whom exhibitors have the chance to engage has remained fairly steady over the period that John examines in his article. John has taken a decline in the frequency of Google search terms as evidence of BETT shrinking, but there must be some other explanation for why fewer people are now Googling the name ‘BETT’ than back in 2004. Answers on a postcard, please!

John doesn’t currently find that an investment in BETT makes sense for his particular company and of course it’s entirely in his gift to arrive at the conclusion. It was gratifying, though, to read that he continues to praise the show’s benefits for visitors. I also take very seriously John’s suggestion that BETT might offer more value to larger organisations than he feels it does for companies of the scale of his own. I feel we’ve gone some way towards addressing that with the creation of an expanded ‘Innovation Avenue’ zone at this year’s show. This offers space at a reduced rate to companies in start-up mode. This is a step in a positive direction, I feel, and we are looking at ways of going further along that route within the practical constraints of using the Olympia site. I am certainly open to suggestions about this question and about every other aspect of what BETT does, who it serves and how they are might be served better. Keeping this open-mindedness at the heart of what we do is part of my brief here. With this in mind, I shall be assembling a BETT Advisory Board as shortly after next week’s show as I practically can. This will be composed of a rich mix of BETT stakeholders – visitors and exhibitors; large exhibitors and small; BETT loyalists and BETT critics. I have extended an invitation to John to be a part of this and I look forward to his contributions to the discussions.

To everyone who will be joining us at Olympia next week, I offer my thanks for your continued support and hope you find the trip enjoyable as well as productive. If you won’t be joining us this time, I’ll see what we can do to tempt you into West London in 2012.

Joe Willcox, Content Director, Emap Connect

Bett 2010 – What floated my boat?

Bett is over for another year, do you feel these are the top 5 finds?

5. Development Games package – This interesting use of technology is nothing new but it’s fun and easy to adopt, Timocco’s new software (although it’s not web2) is a way of interacting with PC applications by using your hands.

4. LED projector – Casio – doesn’t require a bulb

Ever had the shock of the cost of a replacement bulb for your classroom projector? Most suppliers now supply a 3 year bulb warranty however the LED infused Casio replaces a standard bulb with powerful LED’s, capable of 3000 lumens and a reasonable throw (compared to it’s competitors). Shame about the price tag, £900+! Tied a close 4th was the Smart Document Camera.

3. IWB projector that doesn’t require an IWB (Epson BrightLink 450Wi interactive projector)
Epson showed off their latest short throw projector that doesn’t require an IWB (Interactive White Board) for it to have Interactivity. Most schools will probably want a whiteboard anyway but this product decreases cost of ownership by removing the interactivity from the board, we expect that our price on these will be £1600 fully fitted.
2. 3D LCD screen that doesn’t require glasses
This is one of those items I have been waiting about 6 months to see in the flesh and I hate to say it that I wasn’t bowled over but I was excited! The demo I saw didn’t have any decent content on it, I would love to borrow one for a few weeks and watch a load of 3d movies on it to evaluate the difference and to document some practice teaching and learning uses.
And in at 1. Finding out my cousin’s son frequently learns and plays on Primary Games Arena. Awesome!

As always, because I’m a moody monkey I had a beef with a few things:
The lack of creativity and research/thought that went into naming baffles me, a bad name for a service when there is already a great service called doing something similar and for free…… Bee-It disclosed their genius business model…. Charge suppliers for web space. Fail… Google’s advertising. . Google, if you are listening. You don’t need to advertise, we are already at your mercy. Stop wasting resources.
And some notes/thanks:
Had some great chats with @simfin, @merlinjohn, @ianaddison and many more great people, thanks! There were lots of interactive flash content creators there again this year, I expected that this market would of pushed quite a few out but obviously some are going strong! Sorry I didn’t do any evening events this year, I decided on my only evening available to go and see my family which I’m glad I did because we all had a great time :).. I discovered the NEN website has some great resources to offer, you should check them out.. Oh and It’s learning is probably my favourite VLE provider as it is inclusive for service providers, unlike pretty much every other VLE…
What I want to see in 2011? And I think I will…
A short throw LED projector that has interactivity built in.
Other peoples thoughts about Bett2010

Bett 2010 – I’m taking meeting requests

I will be at Bett on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (Jan 2010). Wednesday will be my day of aimless wandering looking out for new things. Thursday and Friday will be available for meetings, interviews and other general chats. Please let me know if you want to meet me at BETT ASAP so I can schedule slots and please include a suitable time/meeting point or if you want me to arrange somewhere/time.