With BETT fast approaching, how should exhibitors prepare for the show to get the most out of it? In the second section of his two-parter, Pete Roythorne goes behind the scenes at one of the highlights of the ICT-in-education calendar.
From January 13 to 16, 2010, an estimated 30,000 people will descend on the hallowed halls of London’s Kensington Olympia for the BETT show. Everyone who is anyone in ICT is under one roof at some time during the week – it really is that important.
Not every attendee will visit every stand, and successful companies spend a great deal on getting to their customers before the show in order to persuade them to come to see them and discuss what they have to offer.
“Companies ideally should be looking a year ahead in terms of what product or service they plan to launch at BETT,” says Amanda Peck, director of education (Europe) at DynaVox Mayer-Johnson, who has had around 15 years' experience of the show at her previous companies including RM. “BETT provides the largest exposure to schools, local authorities and the wider ICT education industry. “
Ray Barker, director of the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA), agrees. “Any exhibition is an investment of time and money, so companies need to know that they are getting the best return on investment,” he says. “Companies often spend months planning for BETT, and many say that it is the highlight of their year. It’s vital, therefore, that companies set attainable ‘objectives’ around why they are attending the show and what they intend to get out of it. And, they need to be clear about measuring these objectives.”
The biggest mistake any exhibitor can make is to not pre-plan to encourage visitors to come to them. “The least successful companies spend a great deal of time just waiting for people,” says Ray Barker.
“An impressive stand may help in the short term, but it is the message about how products can provide solutions that is important, and that needs to be communicated in advance. Customer relations and service are vital, as is following up on leads, showing understanding of the problems of educators and being alert to visitors and their needs.”
Amanda Peck reinforces this point: “Companies need to understand their audience, and how their products and services meet the needs of this audience,” she says. “They need to have a thorough grasp of the wider education market priorities; what their customers are struggling with, what their priorities are and how their products and services meet those needs.”
She believes this type of preparation is key to capturing and captivating visitors, retaining them in conversation and identifying good opportunities.
So is there anywhere companies can go to for help with all this? Fortunately, the answer is, "Yes." Emap (www.bettshow.com) and Besa (www.besa.org.uk) hold two roadshows for BETT – one in London and one in Manchester – where they give advice and guidance for companies looking to get the most out of the BETT experience. “It’s all about giving them a good return on their investment,” says Ray Barker.
Failing that, Amanda Peck adds some more handy hints: ”Approaching those who’ve been there many times before and have lessons to learn from, is one of the best sources of advice and guidance. Also, there are one or two organisations and companies out there that are very experienced in helping companies go to BETT and be highly successful, such as The Kite Partnership (www.kitepartnership.com).”
However, for companies returning to the show, she believes the best source of guidance is to review the previous year’s activity. “Doing a review after BETT is extremely important – as important as the planning,” she says. “You must capture and record everything that went well, badly, didn’t work or received poorer/better-than-expected responses. It’s only afterwards that the true cost of being at BETT unfolds. Companies should then take these key learnings into their planning for the next year – don’t forget them – but build your new plans from these learnings. If you do this every year, you’ll be guaranteed a better result each time you attend.”
If this all sounds a little scary, Amanda Peck concludes on a lighter note: “Above all,” she says, “look forward to it. It’s really hard work but exhilarating. After all, what other occasions through the year offer you the chance to speak to so many of your potential customers than BETT?”
1. Set clear objectives – and measure them.
2. Have the right staff on the stand.
3. Make sure staff act professionally: no eating or drinking; no mobile phones; no breaking down early. Respect the customer.
4. If you don’t have an international strategy – then have a strategy to deal with it. Don’t just turn international visitors away.
5. Spend time and money getting people to come to you.
6. Use the right language for your audience.
7. Use clear messages on your stand.
1. Plan your strategy carefully.
2. Don’t be complacent about detailed preparation.
3. Capture all interested visitors details.
4. Don’t lose sight of the budget.
5. New companies to the show should promote themselves to the right audience in advance of BETT. To do this they need to understand who are their right audience.
6. Make the most of the stand space you have/can afford. Make it open and welcoming, and have the right messages and clear branding.
7. Make the most of your own website – advertise that you are going to be there and why visitors should come and talk to you face-to-face.
8. Use the online BETT Show website to engage with a clear statement of what you are in the business of doing.
9. Incentivise visitors to come to your stand and promote yourselves.
January 13-16, Olympia, London
DynaVox Mayer-Johnson is the international standard in symbol-based teaching and learning tools for all ages and abilities. The company will be appearing direct at BETT2010 for the first time in 2010, Stand T29.
Pete Roythorne is a freelance journalist and digital communications/content specialist (www.three-sixty.co.uk)