Bett 2017: A survival guide

Written by: Terry Freedman | Published:
Bett is back: The Bett exhibition floor during 2016’s event (Image: Jack Terry Photography)

Following on from his inside tips last week, ICT expert Terry Freedman gives us his survival guide to the 2017 Bett Show, which takes place from January 25 to 28

If you have never attended the Bett Show then you are in for a treat – or a shock. Spanning four days, with more than 600 exhibitors and scores of talks, Bett is no casual affair. It requires planning.

Before the event

The first thing to tackle is getting permission to attend. School leaders are reluctant these days to allow teachers out, so you need to think about what value you may be able to add to your work, and that of the school as a whole, by going.

It may be helpful to point out that Bett does not just cover ICT and computing. It also covers the STEM subjects, especially science (2017 sees Heston Blumenthal giving a keynote; in 2013 it was Brian Cox’s turn) and maths.

Other subjects are covered too, including English, maths and languages, as well as generic topics such as assessment and administration.

In fact, given the variety of talks and exhibition stands, and the fact that entry is free, the Bett Show offers a very quick and relatively cheap way of gaining some useful information and professional development.

Once you have secured permission, there are a couple of other things you should do. First, register in advance, because that will save you from having to line up for a long time when you arrive.

Second, furnish yourself with business cards. They are cheap enough online and you can even make your own if you buy business card printing paper and have a decent word processor.

Business cards are essential for that all-important activity of entering competitions. Many stands have a bowl in which you deposit your business card, and from which they draw out a winner. You never know, you may win an iPad or even a weekend break. What’s not to like? Furthermore, having business cards to give out will save you time and effort, because you can ask exhibitors to send you further details of their product after the show. Instead of filling in their form, give them a business card and staple it to the form.

That’s another thing you’ll need: a small stapler. Use it in the way just suggested, and also to keep together papers and leaflets you collect during talks and on your way around the exhibition.

Another thing to consider is very basic but crucial: your shoes. While the ExCeL Arena in London may have a nice carpeted floor, the carpet is not exactly deep-pile luxury. It’s industrial strength and thin, laid over concrete. A few hours of walking around, and your feet will be killing you. So wearing comfortable shoes is a must.

Planning is essential. Check out the seminar agenda online and put the talks you wish to attend in your diary. Then have a look at the list of exhibitors. You can filter the list by subject and product category. For example, if you are in the market for 3D displays, apply that filter and, at the time of writing, the 710 companies will be whittled down to a much more manageable 19.

You can then make a note of these and where they are located, and then work out an ergonomic route that enables you to visit all of them in the shortest amount of time, and without wearing out your shoes.

At the event

Be prepared to drop your carefully crafted plan. If you spot an interesting product demonstration about to start, that might be better for you than going to the seminar you had in mind.

Also, allow some time for wandering around. Sometimes one comes across stands that had escaped notice when perusing the list of exhibitors.

One thing to avoid is the trap of collecting stuff. You think, this looks interesting, that will be great for the maths department. Don’t. All that will happen is that you’ll go home with an aching back and lots of paper to sort out.

Take a spare phone battery or your charger, but consider turning your phone’s wi-fi off. In the past at Bett, connectivity has been a problem because, counter-intuitively, so many stands have their own wi-fi network.

Finally, if you get into conversation with anyone, always ask: “What have you seen today that is really interesting?” You’d be surprised at the number of things you’ll discover that you had no idea were there.

After the event

The first thing is to have a well-deserved rest! Then, as soon as possible, you should collect your thoughts and your notes, and arrange to give feedback to your department or senior leadership team. Not only will that help to ensure that you do not forget details, it will also signal to the powers-that-be that you can be trusted in future to go to the Bett Show and bring back something of value to the school.

  • Terry Freedman is the author of Education Conferences: Teachers’ guide to getting the most out of education conferences, available via He also publishes the ICT & Computing in Education website and the Digital Education newsletter at

Bett Show Guide 2017

The Bett Show 2017 takes place at London’s ExCeL Arena from January 25 to 28. For further information, including full exhibition and seminar listings, visit SecEd’s free guide to the Bett Show 2017 is available to download in pdf format from the SecEd website. Visit


Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
Sign up SecEd Bulletin