Getting the most from the BETT show

Eleven years ago I wrote an 8-point guide to BETT, in my newsletter, and have reproduced it below. I think the points still stack up, especially the one about having a good breakfast! I hope you enjoy reading this blast from the past (9th January 2001 to be exact). And when you have done so, why not download the up-to-date bumper edition – 125 stupendous tips, and completely free? The URL is at the end of the article.

At the time this was written, the web was still relatively new to a lot of teachers, and Google had been on the scene for about three years. At that time it was still only a search engine. The newsletter was sent in text format from my own email address using my personal email client, which at that time was Eudora. Ah, such days of innocence!

I’ve reproduced the article in its original font, to give it the authentic feel of an historical artefact. Which, of course, it is!

You can always tell who has been to the BETT show (or any other educational exhibition) from their stooped shoulders and/or aching backs from carrying all those bags of literature and freebies around for a whole day, together with a  glazed look from having looked at everything and seen nothing. There are many guidelines at the moment on what to look for in the BETT show, but as far as I know there is nothing available on HOW to look. The articles in this section attempt to redress the balance.

One of the problems with visiting the BETT show and events like it is that, because they occur just once a year, people who attend feel duty-bound to look at everything they can. This is akin to going to the Tate Gallery with the intention of looking at every painting. It is (just about) possible, but the experience is horrible: it's exhausting, and almost totally unsatisfying.

A much better approach is to regard the BETT show visit as a reconnaissance exercise. You go to scout for possible new avenues and leads to explore AFTER the show. (Before anyone protests that as a teacher they do not have the time to do such follow-up afterwards, I have to say that it IS possible, as long as you plan and prioritise well and don't
expect to have completed all of your phone calls or emails in just a week or so.) In order to get the most benefit from a visit based on this principle, planning is of the essence. Here is an 8 point guide to planning your visit.

  • Make a (short) list of the sort of things you're interested in, such as networking products or books on particular areas.
  • Make a list of people you wish to meet up with. BETT is a great opportunity to maintain contact with people like suppliers and their reps.
  • Look through the list of exhibitors using a printed catalogue or the BETT show website in order to find out who can provide the information you're looking for, and where they are located, and where the people on
    your contact list are likely to be.
  • Look through the list of exhibitors using a printed catalogue or the BETT show website in order to see if there are any other stands you should visit AFTER you have visited the main ones on your list.
  • Plan TWO routes: one for your main list and one for the subsidiary list. It's important to make sure that you get round the main ones on your list while you are still fresh. So even though having two routes may seem like
    twice the effort, it can often be a much better use of your time and energy. Each route should involve as little back-tracking as possible: endless walking backwards and forwards can be very tiring in itself.
  • Get business cards printed before the show. Business cards fulfil two functions. First, they mark you out as someone whom companies should take seriously. Certainly in the UK at least, it is still so unusual for
    teachers to carry business cards that if you do people assume you must be important! Secondly, rather than lug around loads of literature, you can simply give your business card to exhibitors and ask them to forward it on
    to you after the show. (If they don't bother, that's OK: would you want to do business with a company that apparently isn't interested in doing business with you?) Not only will you lighten your load considerably, but
    you will also have more room in your bags for the really important things: mugs, pens, bookmarks and, if you're lucky, t-shirts.

If you want to do your own business cards, you can buy packs of business cards at computer suppliers. These come on sheets of A4 and are perforated. They may not always look the highest quality, but they do the job. If the pack does not come with software, either use a program like Word or a desktop publishing program, or download a shareware program from the internet, using a search engine like Google ( to find one.

Alternatively, you can have business cards printed, sometimes by the following day, at some photocopy shops or large stationery suppliers. You have to choose from a number of pre-set designs, but on the other hand the cards are of a higher quality (and look it) than you could probably obtain yourself.

  • Have a good breakfast. If you come over really hungry during the show it can be an expensive business.
  • After the show, write or email the companies that you were not able to visit. You will need to allow at least a  week for them to reply. The Monday after the show is usually spent catching up on emails and other correspondence. Then all the follow-ups are done: sending out literature to all those people who left their contact details with them at the show.

To download the latest BETT guide immediately, please visit our BETT Files page