BETT: Q&A with Debbie French, BETT Event Director

BETT: Q&A with Debbie French, BETT  Event Director

Q) How would you describe BETT for someone who hasn’t heard of it before?

I would describe BETT as a celebration and a meeting place for everyone who is involved in learning globally. It’s somewhere where anyone involved in learning can have the opporitunity to network with their peers. They can try, test, evaluate and buy solutions that are ICT focused. So it’s more than your average trade exhibition, it’s got a real sense of community behind it.

Q) BETT is much larger than your average trade show or conference – how does it compare with other events?

We have just over 600 exhibitors. In regards to visitors, we have about 30,000, of which I think either 10 or 20 per cent is international. We even have minsters for education from around the world who will attend BETT on the Wednesday.

The event’s been running now for 29 years and it’s just grown massively. It was created 29 years ago when the government was ring fencing ICT in regards to education budgets, and then it was created as an opportunity for people to train, and they could try these solutions and actually understand how technology helps the learning process.

You can imagine at the time, 29 years ago, that there wasn’t quite so many elements of technology that we do now. So now it’s a lot more embedded. It’s a part of everyone’s life now, I’m sure you and your readers do their banking via the Internet, their shopping online, and their further education establishment uses the technology – the works. So it’s very much embedded in regards to what we do day to day and in education, because in particular this is their language now!

And in order for us to really communicate in regards to the learning process, full stop, we have to use those technologies.

Q) Can you explain the structure of the event? Does the trade show and Educaton Leaders Conference run side by side?

Our Education Leaders Conference is new to BETT, the reason why we’ve done this is because as a result of education policy, etc, leaders now are very much in a different role than they were for many years.

They’re almost like a CEO of a business, there’s many matters which they now need to debate, and as a result of the quangos, etc, which have now gone. There’s been a lot of change from the government, but there hasn’t been as much guidance as there has been before in the past at the moment.

So as a result the UK education leaders conference has been put together as an opportunity to hear panelled discussions, big debates which look at the bigger picture and discuss issues which are at the very heart of what leaders are doing ta the moment, what they’re worried about they can share with each other, etc.

That’s the conference element in regards to the education leaders.

Then LearnLive, these all take place on the show floor themselves and there are a mixture of demonstrations, discussion panels, seminars, all leaning more to do with best practice.

Q) A lot of the focus seems to be on school – is there going to be plenty for FE professionals to see too?

Absolutely, BETT is very much directed at the early years right through to further education and higher education, and that is very much where we’re growing into from this year onwards. So absolutely, there’s a lot there for further education in regards to the content, but also the solutions, there’s a lot in terms of system management, in terms of how the core communicates with each other, and also the pure technology in the show.

Q) What are some of the highlights this year? Isn’t Michael Gove making the opening address?

It’s amazing that Michael Gove is coming to the show on the Wednesday, so without a doubt I wouldn’t miss that. I would also make sure you definitely go to the conference, and also see a mixture of some of the LearnLive opportunities that are around the show – there’s a while mixture of demonstrations and interactive opportunities, as well as being able to mix with peers.

I would also go to our central feature, which is New Worlds of Learning, there we have a class of learners each day using technology, doing certain projects, and they’re actually connecting with other learning establishments around the world who are doing similar projects live on the stands.

Q) Technology is always changing – what’s new at BETT this year?

There’s lots of ‘new’. Cloud learning is very big at the moment, portable mobile learning is very big at the moment, and one of the big things that people need to realise, is that at this moment, everyone wants to find somewhere where they can do things in a more cost effective way. Of course technology enables you to do that, so there’s also that reason for attending the show, and that’s very new to what’s going at the moment.

Q) Any tips for first time visitors attending BETT?

Without a doubt, I would pre-plan. Use the BETT website to have a look and see what’s there in regards to the solutions, the exhibitions, and also all the content. Planning is without a doubt really important.

Read more about the BETT Event here.