BETT is a trade fair aimed at educational technology, specifically in schools. It is one of the largest education trade fairs in the world and has long been an established part of the mix for suppliers marketing to schools. A week on from the event, I thought I would reflect and give a brief review as a visitor.
I I traveled down to BETT on the Friday, traditionally the busiest day. It’s been a few years since I attended as an exhibitor (with a previous employer). Back then, it was held at Olympia in Kensington and had grown into an unwieldy beast that nearly every educational supplier felt obliged to attend.
The move to Excel in London’s docklands has seen a re-focusing of the show back to its technology roots – it had started to drift towards becoming a general education show. What is surprising to me however, is the very strong focus on infrastructure and hardware, rather than content and software. This could be because of the cost of exhibiting and the margins that the big hardware suppliers operate on, or it could be because content providers have more efficient (online) marketing channels at their disposal, I don’t know. It would appear to make it harder to use BETT as a venue for researching curriculum resources, which one would assume would affect the numbers of teachers in attendance. However, attendance certainly didn’t seem to be an issue, with big crowds throughout. Having said all that, there were 779 registered exhibitors this year and of course dedicated areas for school leaders, secondary, primary and SEN.
As has become normal at BETT, the show had a very international flavour, which a number of large stands given over to overseas suppliers, both European and from the far east. Scandinavia was particularly well represented, with a large zone of the exhibition hall. UKTI also had an extensive export section, with trade advisors on hand.
I suspect it is the range of speakers that draws most teachers to BETT, rather than the shopping experience. Sadly my train times prevented my from seeing Sir Ken Robinson on Friday afternoon, but by way of compensation I did get to see an excellent presentation by British astronaut Tim Peake and Lance Howarth introducing the Astro Pi competition, organised by raspberrypi.org which will allow school pupils to design and program experiments to run on the International Space Station – a beautiful way to encourage kids to get involved with coding and experimental design.
As an educational supplier, should you be exhibiting at BETT? Well, exhibition space starts at around £495/sq m. Add to that the cost of pre-marketing, set-up, tavel and accommodation and my opinion is that, from a pure sales and marketing point of view, you will be extremely unlikely to see a positive return, unless you operate at very high price points and margins. Even then, a lot of preparation will be needed to ensure you can drive the right traffic to your stand and meet the right people who will be able to sign off on large purchases. If you are a content provider, software publisher or smaller business, you may find there are probably more effective ways to spend your budget.
There are however, big changes taking place in UK schools, especially with the new computing in schools curriculum and its emphasis on teaching coding, that offer big opportunities for suppliers looking to enter or expand in the schools sector.
With the right ground work BETT could be an excellent networking event, with many possibilities to build potential strategic relationships, as well as keeping up to date with the state of the market. A day visit ought to be mandatory for anybody with an interest in education and technology. If you do decide to exhibit, please put enough preparation time in to make sure you get the best possible results.
For more information about BETT, you can visit the official site here.
For an informal chat about your marketing strategy and how to market to schools, please get in touch.