As you’ll know, the BETT Show in January is a major event for schools in the UK, and also a major event from Microsoft too. After months of planning, it’s all over in four days, and we then get a chance to recuperate from the week. After the show, it’s my job to write an internal review of the BETT Show for the Microsoft UK staff. Given that so many of you will have been to BETT, I thought I'd take the risk of sharing a big chunk of the review with you, so that you can see what BETT means to us.

To be honest, I’ve hesitated to share this for a week now, because I don’t want to be seen as showing off about what BETT means to us. But I think that there’s information in here that will interest most of the readers on the blog, so hey, publish and be damned!

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As well as being Microsoft UK’s largest event of the year, the BETT Show is the largest education ICT trade show in the world, with 30,000 visitors in 4 days. So our appearance at the show is the result of months of planning, and massive amount of team work right across the UK business. For example, with a core education team of 15 people, it takes a huge effort from an extended education team, and volunteers from right across the company, to get up to 50 staff for each day at the show – including the ever-popular Saturday. I noticed somebody on another blog calling it an ‘army of staff’ and being critical of the fact we had so many. But with 6,000 visitors a day heading to our stand, it is amazing how busy everybody gets in the peak times of the day!

This year, with plenty of new products to launch, every one of the 200 square metres was busy all day, and with a mix of demonstration pods and a theatre holding up to 200, we were able to get through the usual volume of show visitors. Our research has shown that of the 30,000 visitors, 80% visit the Microsoft stand, and either see an individual demonstration or sit in one of our theatre presentations – from both Microsoft presenters as well some of our customers. Alongside the BETT show main stand, we also carried out 25 press briefings, for education, technical and mainstream media. This year we had a broad spectrum of individual briefings, for journalists from the Times Education Supplement and Education Executive, to the BBC and The Register.

In addition to the BETT exhibition, the UK team were also deeply involved in Becta’s Learning and Teaching World Forum (LATWF) and the Education Leaders Briefing (ELB), events which were events for senior education ministers and policymakers around the world. LATWF is hosted by the UK government, and we are a sponsor, whilst the ELB is Microsoft hosted, and involves delegates from 48 different countries, and also brings in UK customers to present good practice examples. And finally, over 50 international visitors headed off to the New Line Learning Academies in Kent, to see an example of how education could be transformed by effective ICT.

It was also the first time that we’d used the new brand at an exhibition, and the design of the stand was very different from the conventional Microsoft branding used before.

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So with a bright orange stand, and 50 Microsoft staff, how did it go?

  • In our on-stand theatre we had seating for 60 people, but regularly packed in 180-200 people who were standing around the edge and in the exhibition aisles. With 18 presentations a day, all 20 minutes long, we presented some of our new products and solutions to more than 7,000 people.
  • The 20 individual demo pods gave us the chance to show off many of our existing and new products, including many of the things that schools can get for free. In addition to Windows 7, Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010, we also promoted DreamSpark (free technical software for students), AutoCollage (free to teachers), Bing Maps, Live@edu, Education Labs and a few specialised partners (Prodigy Learning for IT Academy, Comet for Home Access and HP for MultiPoint Server)
  • We were joined on the stand by 13 school customers, who we were giving an insight into how they use our products on the demonstration pods as well as in the theatre.
  • Launches included two new products - MultiPoint Mouse and Kodu – as well as a new Partners in Learning competition for teachers.
  • We completed 25 press briefings in 3 days – with all kinds of journalists, from the mainstream press (like the BBC, T3, and the Financial Times) to IT trade press (like the Guardian, PC Advisor, ZD Net, Microscope and The Register) to specialist education titles (like the Education Executive, ICT in Education, and the TES). Some of the stories have already appeared, whilst some will be appearing over the next few weeks.
  • As well as UK customers, we hosted visitors on the BETT stand from 43 other countries (Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Cyprus, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guernsey, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Libya, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA)

Of course, all of that work will be most valuable when it helps customers to understand what it is that we offer to the UK Education market, and helps them to consider using of our products and services in their teaching and learning. So in addition to the 1,000 customers who have asked for a follow up from us, we’ll also be surveying a random sample of UK education customers through an independent school research panel. By using an independent panel, we can check the difference in views of Microsoft and our products between those who came to BETT and those who didn’t, and also those that came to the Microsoft stand and those who didn’t.

BETT Press Coverage

Some of the press briefings won’t appear in print for quite some time, but you can get an idea of the kind of coverage from what has appeared already:

The Register

Microsoft tells UK schools: buy our software, save money

ZD Net

Building Windows 7 into free home PCs

Integrating Microsoft with Moodle

The Times Education Supplement

Off-the-wall ideas for a brave new world of global connections

The Guardian

School online services - for free

The Guardian Technology Blog (Jack Schofield)

BETT 2010: Trend spotting products

MJO Online

BETT 'knackeration' and 'Top 10 Money Saving Tips'

Softpedia

The Microsoft “Innovid” video competition is opened to teachers in the UK

PublicTechnology.net

Minister: Private/public partnerships vital to educational success

Microscope

BETT attracts major IT players targeting education