Phew! We have just returned from Bett 2015 after four hectic days of talking to school staff, college staff and other companies about our Jigsaw School Apps and giving demonstrations and biscuits to everyone who was interested!
We launched our parental engagement apps last year at the Bett Show and it proved such an effective way to meet prospective new customers that we returned again this year with a bigger and better stand.
So, what is it like to be an exhibitor at the biggest Ed Tech show in the world?
Great fun, exhilarating and hard work (not to mention hard on the legs and feet!) Most of all it is rewarding – it is so great to see people blown away by the products you have been working on all year.
So, we arrived at London’s ExCeL Centre on Tuesday afternoon – the day before the show opened. It was amazing to see the huge space full of half-built stands, bare floors, fork-lift trucks, lighting, rolls of carpet and wires everywhere. Lots of noise and people everywhere rushing to get their exhibits ready before the deadline.
We located our lovely corner space (chosen whilst we were at Bett last year!) and wondered how we were going to turn this bare spot into an eye-catching display!
Last year – as it was our first ever trade show – we had pull-up banners, a branded desk and a small space to give demos in. It worked really well and we had lots of interest – but experience helped us to improve things for this year.
This time we had some panels printed for round the walls of the shell-scheme and had three podiums to set up iPads in – to demo the apps on bigger screens than smartphones – and a large leaflet stand. This meant that, as there were five of our staff there this year, there was room for three demos at once. We could fit lots of people in the stand at one go!
We all set to work putting the stand together. There was a slight issue with one or two things – the workmen had stored some metal posts behind and buckled the walls a little and spilt coffee on the carpet. However, a quick visit to the organiser’s office on site soon got it all sorted. We were very impressed!
Then, there was an announcement to tell all exhibitors to clear the gangways immediately – so that the carpet-layers could do their stuff. It was unbelievable how quickly these guys filled all the walkways with purple carpet! They just rolled it out and ran down sticking it to the floor as they went. It looked great when it was all done! It is nice of Bett to choose our company colours for the carpets this year
Pretty soon we were all set up for the next day and could go to our hotel and try to relax before the big day. Luckily we were staying at a hotel very close to ExCeL – we learnt from last year that having a lengthy commute each day is NOT a good idea. At the end of a few long days on your feet you are lucky if you can hobble very far!!
We were all up early the next day and fortified by a sizable breakfast at the hotel we strolled over to ExCeL to start setting up for our first day. The stand looked good and we set up the iPads and the laptops – and Nathan had his favourite Surface tablet – all charged up and connected to the right network. We were ready to show the visitors to Bett 2015 how our Jigsaw School Apps could revolutionise parental engagement by allowing them to reach parents wherever they were.
We had chosen bright yellow t-shirts this year – so no-one could miss us! Suddenly, the tannoy burst into life with the announcement “Ladies and gentlemen – it is 10am and the Bett Show 2015 is now open!”
It wasn’t long before our first interested customers came along and our demonstrations were in full swing. The best part for me is when you show someone the translate feature and they see the messages turn into Urdu or Somali at the touch of a button. Some people actually gasp! It’s so great to see their reaction. The stand was soon buzzing and the next time we checked our watches it was lunchtime!
We took it in turns to have a break and sample some of the excellent food choices available in the ExCeL centre – although I’m not sure they are equipped to deal with the huge volume of people that come to Bett. Some days there were such long queues at the outlets that we had to make do with a sandwich from the shop, and also there were not enough tables and chairs either. Not much fun sitting on the floor, juggling your food when you’ve been on your feet all morning!
I can see why some (informal) Bett guides advise visitors to bring their own lunch – so our advice to exhibitors – have a huge breakfast then you won’t need lunch. On the plus side – there are lots of stands giving away free food and drink. There was free coffee, a juice bar, lots of sweets and chocolate – and we were giving away packs of biscuits for our customers to have with their coffee/tea breaks!
The afternoon also went by quickly – with most of our staff heading back to the hotel early to get themselves glammed up in black tie and cocktail dresses as we were attending the Bett Awards that night. The two that stayed until 6pm and the end of the show had to get ready really quickly. We were finalists in the category ICT Company of the Year – and were so excited about going to The Brewery and seeing Josh Widdicombe handing out all the awards.
Our taxi got us there for the 7pm drinks reception which was very impressive, as was the meal and drinks in the main rooms. The food was superb and beautifully presented and the wine as plentiful – we didn’t want to overdo it though as we still had three long days at Bett to go! It was very enjoyable and we met some great people – some chemists from Boulder, Colorado and a maths expert who was at Bett promoting Mathspace.
Sadly none of the people on our table won an actual award – but we were all very happy to have the recognition of being Bett Finalists and having such a great night out.
The next morning we were back to Bett ready to show more visitors our apps. I had a little time at lunch to have a look round the exhibition myself and I was so blown-away by the number and variety of products and services on display.
One of my favourites was Romo – a really great idea that turns iPhones into programmable robots that kids can learn how to program with. We saw them following lines and chasing balls – and they just look so cute!
Also everyone was captivated by the industrial robots on another stand that were showing off their capabilities. It was all very busy until one got bored and decided to put on some music – it chose a cd, showed it to the other robot, who shook his head. He tried again with another CD, got a nod of approval – so put it in the player. Suddenly there was Sultans of Swing (Dire Straits) blasting out and they were both doing a perfectly synchronised dance to the track – including a bit of shimmying and head-banging! It was so funny!
I also enjoyed the snow dome – an inflatable classroom where the inside could have anything projected onto it. I saw it snowing in there – and when the guy put his arm out against the side – the snow piled up above it!
Anyway – back to business. We handed out leaflets, biscuits, mints and pens for all we were worth and showed so many guests our apps. We ended the show with an impressive number of requests for more details and very tired legs and feet. It was great fun again and we love meeting so many school staff in person. We find that when they actually get to see the products then they are really keen to try them. It is so much better than sending emails or putting ads in magazines.
Also being Bett Finalists seemed to make a big difference to how many people came to see us this time. So, thank-you Bett for another wonderful show! We’ll be back next year!
PS The orders started rolling in on the train journey home and in the first week after Bett orders are up five-fold on the same time last year. These shows really work!!