Visitors to BETT 2012 have a year to recover, but for exhibitors there is no respite with most having already been offered a ‘deal’ to sign up for 2013 when for the first time BETT will be held at ExCel in Docklands.
Emap’s minions will of course be espousing a myriad of benefits at Excel, but it’s clear there is no demand for this change from exhibitors or visitors, so if Emap don’t get it right then they will risk damaging their flagship brand in the edu tech market.
As a B2B show BETT is successful, but it seems stuck in many ways. Firstly there is the appearance year after year of well-known suppliers with huge (expensive) stands, selling products that most schools either have or don’t need more of. Then there are the smaller exhibitors who have to commit a huge proportion of their MARCOMS budget to BETT, only to be gypped at every opportunity (e.g. high price for execrable WiFi) and then treated by Emap as if they were some down-at-heel relative at a grand wedding. These issues pale into insignificance compared to Emap’s ignorance of major education trends ,like the seismic shift in the market from B2B to a hybrid B2B/B2C (led by companies like Pearson). I doubt Emap even know they are happening, let alone how to respond. The only really encouraging thing I saw was that some really innovative companies actually won BETT awards – so congratulations again to Twig and Oddizzi.
For visitors the situation at BETT is also dire – too much to see, food and drink that are cheaper at the Ritz, inadequate seating, an overworked cloakroom….all of which add up to being a serious disincentive to teachers and educators. Just in case Emap has forgotten these are the people at who have to actually use what is on offer at BETT!
Finally, there’s my pet hate, the Press Room. Rather than being somewhere you can organise interviews and speak to people, it’s like a 6th form common room, littered with thousands of pounds worth of unread press kits and staffed by people with a proprietorial attitude that makes me want to scream. Emap don’t seem to understand that Europe’s largest edu tech event should not have a media strategy from the 1970s!
Before decamping to Excel, Emap need to have a serious rethink about making BETT more relevant and reflective of the international edu tech scene. If they don’t then they will haemorrhage exhibitors and delegates to events like Learning Without Frontiers, StartUp Weekend Edu, TeachMeet and other events that embrace the ideas and tech that are changing education.
The London Book Fair, who shifted to Excel for just one year (2006) before returning to Earls Court in 2007 should be a lesson for Emap, particularly as this event is run by Reed Exhibitions (Emap’s arch rival). Aside from overwhelmingly negative reviews by attendees and exhibitors, the Excel experience was not helped by publishers and the book trade (a conservative bunch) having to share Excel with the Beauticians’ Show. But the key to the change was direct commercial competition. Listening to all the complaints, Borsenverein, the company who own the Frankfurt Book Fair, announced at the 2006 Publishers Association conference in Bournemouth, a rival London show to be held at Earls Court. Excel pushed Reed into a desperate battle to save their flagship event in the international publishing calendar and I predict the same will happen to Emap.
Emap seems to have forgotten that BETT’s success is about about exhibitors and visitors and their planned move leaves them very exposed, something I don’t think has gone unnoticed at CloserStill (the owners of Learning Without Frontiers) and Reed Exhibitions.