I don’t like IKEA. I’ll tell you why. It is because of what I call ‘IKEA Fear’. The symptoms of IKEA Fear are a mounting sense of disquiet that commences the minute I pass through the large revolving doors. This disquiet worsens progressively as I meander first through immaculate living rooms, on through offices, bedrooms and kitchens until it becomes something visceral within my chest and stomach, usually around the time I reach the carpet, curtains and cushions – urging me to run screaming from the building clutching at my hair.

I have contemplated this feeling and the possible reasons for it. I have a theory based upon nothing other than my own tenuous guesses. I think my problem may possibly be similar to conditions such as agoraphobia or claustrophobia, and here are a couple of exacerbating factors:
• There is a disorientating absence of any reference to the outside world. If you are lucky, you might glimpse a rectangle of far-off, semi-industrial car-park through a distant fire door (the location of which is noted in the event of a panic-induced exit in due course).
• There is a disturbing juxtaposing of comfy, soft, homely environments in which you can sit and imagine oneself in the bosom of family relaxing after or during a meal… until you look up and witness the horrific, industrial tangle of ducting and steel. I don’t mind telling you that this contrast messes with my head.

Now, on to the BETT Show 2013. This year, it relocated from Olympia to Excel- a move I welcomed initially as it certainly improved accessibility for me. This welcome feeling was short-lived. On arrival at Excel, I attempted to feel upbeat and optimistic but that familiar disquiet, the IKEA Fear, started to creep up on me. I apologise to those friends of mine whom I encountered on that first morning, my brow knitted and jaw slightly tensed. I put on a brave face and greeted you enthusiastically but I wasn’t quite myself. Walking the (seemingly) mile-long boulevards, snickets and ginnels of the exhibition space, my anxiety mounted until I had to make a swift exit. David Mitchell and Julia Skinner were fortunately on hand to scoop me up as I composed myself over some lunch with them.
I struggled throughout the two and a bit days at the show. My misery was mitigated only by the wonderful encounters I had with lovely people. The social, the teachmeet, the laughs and the learning mean that I won’t be boycotting in future. I will take the rough with the smooth.

I miss Olympia. I miss the quirkiness, the characterful architecture, the nooks and crannies, the expanse of sky spread out above. I also miss the opportunities for out-of-body elevations to the balcony for welcome, reorienting breathers during which one could see the layout, establish the landmarks or spot a friend to pursue.

Oh, and I didn’t even see anything especially exciting or innovative in those long corridors of anxiety. Next year, I will dedicate myself to establishing quick exit routes whilst also seeking out people – after all, it is them that make a visit to BETT worthwhile.

33 thoughts on “BETTophobia

  1. I sympathise Dughall. And have much the same IKEA fear experience you describe. And BETT.

    The people make it for me too.

    I try to target areas of school development prior to going. One person asked me if I could sign the school money away right there right then. I laughed and wondered who would do that. Anyone? I have to say though, I quite liked Excel because it was one room. And the boulevard outside allowed for easy escape. And seeing the free presentations was also more pleasurable than I anticipated.

    Just sorry to have missed you. 🙂

    • Yes, I agree Dai, there were one or two compensating factors such as the generally excellent LearnLive sessions. There was one little stand selling cheap rolls of instant dry-wipe surface that you could add/remove straight to the wall – would have been happy to part with a few quid for that on the spot but anything else? Surely not!
      Sorry to have missed you too!

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  2. I take Bett for what it is – a trade show that attracts people from all over the world (the mix of accents was very interesting). The teacher led takeover sessions/workshops are great and really help cement what can be done when learning drives the use of the tech. However, I never lose sight that the show is ultimately a place to sell goods (physical/software/consultancy services).

    One thing that was mentioned to me by a colleague was the shift toward giving feedback in lessons in many pieces of software. I thought this was more revolutionary than any shiny piece of tech (normally an IWB of some kind) on display. Progress? Possibly.

    • Thanks for the comment, Nick. I agree about the slightly more ‘international’ flavour – I saw a number of stands operating and presenting in languages other than English. I hadn’t noted the the feedback trend but agree, that would certainly be progress! Very perceptive of you! Sorry not to have bumped into you.

  3. An interesting post. On Friday I ventured down onto the show floor (I had been working mostly in the relative calm of the gallery rooms), and it was an absolutely manic sea of seething humanity. I gritted my teeth and powered through until I found the stand and person I wanted, but I couldn’t help feeling at that point that there must be a bett-er (pun intended) way of doing things (although I have no idea what this might be).

    I suppose the real issue that BETT has different meanings and uses for its different audiences. The vendors want conversations (to convert to leads, and then sales), with educators with money to spend. They have to have these, BETT will be their largest marketing spend of the entire year (probably adding up to more than the rest of their marketing activities added up). So they need to make it pay. Educators go to see what the latest technology is (and perhaps get something ‘sold’ to them), but their interests and expectations do not align with the vendors. Many UK educators go primarily for the networking opportunities (BETTworking ? (after that one I’ll get my coat) – but then as it is an international show it’s an imperfect way of doing this too.

    • The gallery was real??? I saw mention of it on the map but got the feeling once I’d circled the whole space looking for a way up, that it was a figment of my imagination. Better sign posting and stand numbers please next year. I am not good at orienting myself on a map in a huge space. GPS next year on my kit list LOL!

      • The gallery was real and accessed via stairwells and lifts on the backwall of the show floor (opposite the doors you came in through). Signposting was not brilliant, but I am sure that next year things can be improved in that regard.

  4. Hi Dughall, I am the Strategy Director with the company which runs Bett and, as such, one of the people responsible for inducing your bout of IKEAphobia this week – an unfortunate consequence of the move to ExCeL! top 10 casino canada

    We made the move precisely because ExCeL offers far more space for groups of teachers, techies and others to run their own meetings, workshops, TeachMeets etc. We managed to pretty much double the number of workshops, the vast majority of which were run by educators, with session abstracts peer-reviewed by educators who are members of Naace. Bett is, I believe, on a journey away from being ‘just’ a trade exhibition with a few workshops to becoming a big hub for sharing ideas in a very grassroots way. There is only venue in the UK fit for that purpose – and that’s ExCeL London.

    In terms of evolving beyond the tradeshow-centric experience into something more powerful, we do have more to do and we’re always talking to all sorts of partners in order to figure out how best to proceed. But I think we took some important steps forward this year – steps that would not have been possible at Olympia. Record visitor numbers give me some confidence when I say that.

    I do hope you’ll be able to overcome the IKEAphobia to the point where you can join your friends and peers again at Bett 2014!

    • Hi Joe, thank you so much for your comment! I will certainly be there in 2014! You deserve credit, and I have perhaps been a little unfair not to have recognised many more of the positives – I am glad you have recorded some here. I chaired a workshop and attended others – the format, accommodation and arrangements for these were a vast improvement on Olympia. I also attended sessions in breakout rooms both small and large in addition to treading the exhibition floor.

      You certainly can’t be expected to pander to the individual foibles of every visitor and their quirky phobias – it is up to me to deal with my own. I say keep up the good work and here’s to 2014.

      • Thanks, Dughall. Glad to know that we may be getting more right than wrong 🙂 As I said, Bett is always on a journey and we wouldn’t know which routes to explore were it not for the many comments, criticisms, suggestions and questions that we see from the people who pay the event the great compliment of caring about it enough to blog or tweet about it. I’m happy to read a load of comment which includes constructive criticism. This is much better than seeing nothing at all. If people are talking about Bett, at least we get a sense that it remains relevant and interesting to some degree. This gives great encouragement as we keep talking to everyone we can in order to improve the experience and to find ways of resolving the tensions between vendors’ and visitors’ interests that Matthew mentions in his comment above.

        • Hi Joe, I’m going to scrape in on Dughalls blog to follow up to my earlier comments because I am genuinely impressed by yours. The fact that you have made a big move to Excel to facilitate more innovative practice is commendable. The result is sharing of classroom practice, which brings me to the point of my reply. Why do ed tech companies not understand that they should be embracing this more? Surely all these companies test there wares in schools. So, why not get those teachers in to present their classroom practice; actual use in the classroom showcasing learning in process. It astounds me how many demo systems I’ve been shown that are not properly populated with pupil users – they don’t even have to be real pupils. Should they take this opportunity to really showcase their material in action, maybe teachers might connect with their endeavours. top 10 gambling sites

          I’m not sure I’m articulating myself well, but I hope you get my drift, because maybe you are in a position to encourage exhibitors to prepare their systems for teachers to see. It strikes me that too many of them spend all their time building and selling, and not enough time using their own kit.

          What do you think?

  5. Coming from IKEA country I must tell you I sort of agree with you, even though I can’t do the comparison with the Olympia, because this was my first year at BETT.
    I just wrote a simular blog post about how people and some really good free presentations were the proceeds of BETT. I for one (as a true fan of the flipped classroom) was really glad to hear Bergmann and Sams for example.
    Liked your post.

  6. Speaking as a vendor, I also find the experience overwhelming. The logistical and operational effort required to get our “wares” in front of people is daunting, but I found it more like being in an airport than being in Ikea: it set off my (literal) agoraphobia rather than my claustrophobia. I’m a technical person, not a sales person, so I expect my feelings are atypical.

    However, once we made it past the contrived and surreal setting, we had some really good conversations with visitors. The organisers had managed, as far as is possible, to get people to us in a relaxed and enthusiastic mood. We are not a “hard sell” company and we learned a great deal about our own product from the experience. We rely on this feedback to steer our product strategy and Bett is a great place to gather it.

    My biggest regret is that we were not able to explore the more teaching-centric aspects of the event. We are a small company and it was all hands on deck just to support the stand. Hopefully next year!

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Rupert. I am delighted to have so many diverse perspectives reflected in these fabulous comments!

  7. Hi Dughall, great blog post and really interesting points. I’m speaking from my own perspective here, not my employers, but it is with my employers interests at heart that I’m responding. As you know I’ve worked within the education team for a couple of years, but my background is not from a school. Over half of our demonstrations and presentations are from teachers, and about 50% of the staff on our stand are actually teachers and a couple of network managers from UK schools. We don’t have students presenting (but would be happy to look at this if you think this would be more beneficial?). I would like to think there is no hard sell from us but then I know we have to demonstrate a return on the considerable investment that is having a stand at BETT. We do this by showing our budget holders how many people we have reached in conversations/presentations. As I hope you’ve seen from meeting with me in the past, I am completely open to suggestions and feedback on how we can improve. If you did manage to visit our stand at any point then I would love to discuss your thoughts with you.

    • Yes, I agree Sean and appreciate the open, progressive approach you demonstrate. I think that it always helps to have practitioners advocating on stands and look forward to perhaps seeing some students in future!

  8. Interesting thoughts.

    I have attended as both a “punter” and now “exhibitor” for the last 14 years. My perception of the event is that stand space is getting bigger and definitely taller (making it feel very claustrophobic in certain areas). The worry is that the smaller companies will drop away as they are either priced out of exhibiting or lost in the space with huge skyscraper blocking routes to other aisles. By losing these smaller companies you risk losing a lot of the innovation you couldn’t find and most certainly a lot of the character.

    It’s a very expensive week to exhibit at and more so exhausting for those that have to “work” the floor. Saying all of that we actually had a really good week with some great “business” conversations but also a lot of good warm customer service happening with existing subscribers.

    The Learn Live areas and the TeachMeet event felt like they had a higher profile which was great. These professional development areas made Bett feel more like the US equivalent of ISTE.

    Interestingly, ISTE moves to a new location each year, now wouldn’t that be an interesting idea for BETT? what is the safest online gambling sites

    • Thank you for your comment, Peter. I know what you mean about the smaller exhibitors, however, ironically, I actually believe they were advantaged by the move to Excel. At Olympia, they were often hidden away in easily-missable balcony locations. At Excel, many were positioned around the outside walls – the very place all the visitors I spoke to reported they went first. Everyone, myself included, started with an orientating ‘lap’ of the hall before adventuring into the inner reaches of the ‘forest’. Exhibitors might be wise to take note of this fact, perhaps…

    • Hi Peter

      Dughall has answered your question about the smaller vendors. But I’d like to add that a firm called Edmix also put n together a start-ups pavillion and organised a number of activities which kept their area really busy during the show: – whenever I managed to look in, the place was buzzing.

      I’m really pleased you mentioned ISTE. When I first joined i2i (Emap Connect at the time), I had a good look at the ISTE show and we can be really open about how much inspiration it provided. I’ll readily concede that ISTE has long outperformed Bett in terms of the scale of the CPD offering to educators. We had this in mind when we multiplied the number of Learn Live workshop – something we could only do at ExCeL. There are other features of ISTE I’d like us to try to emulate – watch this space as they come to life at Bett 2014 and beyond 🙂

      Regarding the suggestion of Bett moving from venue to venue – sounds fun, but I really think it’s impossible. Venues of scale with great facilities are nothing like as plentiful in the UK as in the US. We think we’ve found an ideal home for Bett at ExCeL – streets ahead of any other practical option. Also consider why US events move around that giant country – it’s to cater to a visitor audience spread over a much larger area….

  9. I found the venue much easier to access than Olympia, but like you, was a bit overwhelmed by the Ikea-ness of it all. The constant pass swiping was a bit wearying as well, though I understand the need to collate attendance data. There is a definite shift to seminars and discussions, which I appreciate greatly – I came away with a huge number of T & L ideas that I could put to good use. For me, this is always the utility of BETT. I’m not really there to be sold things. So, it is most welcome to see the focus move to teachers talking to one another much more. The design of the Learn Live studios was far too open though – hearing over the noise of the conference hall was difficult and the fact that they were so far apart meant a few sprints from one end of the hall to another. Prof. Brian Cox was a bonus, too. My main observations that someone needs to seriously sit down with the Microsoft team and give them a dose of reality. My unscientific observation was that mobile devices in use were 70/30 Apple/Android. The only MS Surface I saw in use broke down and when I asked about solutions for mobile use in the classroom with an IWB or Projector, like Apple TV, the rep seems stumped. Surprising that teachers might want to move around their classroom with a mobile device? They need to get real if they are serious about the education market, they don’t appear to understand its basic needs. Good blogpost, as ever.

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    • Thanks – it is useful for us to hear this and I will pass this into the team. Regarding the Apple TV question – some of the team may not have been aware but I will make sure they are. A good solution for Windows 8 devices (not RT, including Surface RT) is to utilise the Widi technology from Intel ( I just purchased a Belkin adapter to plug into any TV/Projector to turn that into a device that you can connect to in the same way as Apple TV. It cost about £50 so very affordable. For RT devices, you can use wireless presenters, but in my opinion (not necessarily my employers!) I think Surface RT is a consumer/BYOD solution. I prefer that schools consider Windows 8 devices for all other scenarios due to the ability to manage them centrally, run other software aside from apps on them etc…On to your point about Apple/Android devices at BETT, I was actually surprised at the amount of Windows 8 devices from partners. If you consider that Win8 only came available late in 2012, and that there were hardly any devices in the channel until January due to screen availability, I was very positive about the amount I saw in action. Like I say, just my opinions, but hope that helps? Happy to help with any further questions on the connections to screens etc… (@seanofthenorth)

  10. Really interesting post Dughall and great to see it provoking so much interest! I think it’s really important to garner feedback as quickly as possible after an event when the experience is still fresh in people’s minds. I think BESA is going to be sending a questionnaire to members who exhibited and hopefully Joe and i2i team will be doing something similar soon to visitors.

    We had a great time at BETT but I think that was in part down to our own publicity in advance of the show We also had 8 schools presenting during the show and the odd Teachmeet takeover which helped. I do know there were frustrations with signage (Frankfurt and London Book Fair do it well – worth checking out latter in April Joe). – it actually took me some time to find my own stand on the first morning as Leo Cych will testify! – and inevitably the size of the show and the scale of some of the stands will make things a bit claustrophobic in some areas. But on balance I felt it was a big improvement on Olympia. The content of the show (CPD etc) was really strong and the arena and Learn Live locations were very impressive. I am sure that moving such a massive show to a new location was far from easy and teething problems were to be expected. I think the i2i team should be congratulated and I’m sure they are looking to build on it for next year. I also hear that visitor numbers (to be confirmed) were up by 15% or so on last year, which is really good to hear.

    I obviously don’t agree with your comment about lack of innovation but maybe that’s a discussion to have in the bar at the NAACE conference!

    • Thank you for your comment, Andrea. Rising Stars do seem to ‘get it’ – at least from my perspective (I enjoyed the glass of bubbly!) I also like the way that you (like others) include practitioners and learners in the overall experience. Yours will be one stand that I will seek out again next year!

      See you in March for NAACE conference! 🙂

    • Hi Andrea – yes, signposting will improve in 2014. We learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t at the new venue – I don’t think ExCeL is a bad venue for navigation, but of course we can do more to make getting around the place even easier. Yes, we will be surveying both visitors and exhibitors very soon. My next meeting is all about tweaking those surveys such that they test reactions to some of the new Bett elements we launched in 2013 and to test the appetite for some further new ideas for 2014.

  11. Hi Dughall,

    your post really seem to hit a nerve.I totally agree with you – it’s about the people and not the show. It was also a bit annoying for me to see how fast face-expressions changed when I revealed where I come from and what my position is – it was obvious that the audience they address are IT-managers and sellers from foreign educational departments and not teachers. An easy way how they can improve it would be “chill-out-lounges” to meet the people – I guess this would relax everybody and make the exhibition even more successful.
    It’s a pity to hear you felt that unwell! You really encouraged me during the TeachMeet and helped not to loose my nerves 🙂

    It was a pleasure to meet you there!

    Best regards from Dresden

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  13. A great blog and really useful comments/discussions ensuing from it. Thank you Dughall.

    Personally for me I missed Olympia (particularly the easier access coming from the South East) but I can recognise the advantages of ExCel. Due to school commitments I was only able to visit for a short time on Saturday so my impressions are definitely incomplete.

    Overall I loved the move towards more seminars, etc and removing the charging. I less liked navigating the hall as there weren’t long runs of stands to work your way around. At least in Olympia the seemingly random walkways were sectioned off clearly so you could make your way around the show and know you hadn’t missed much. With just one large exhibition space I know that stands were missed as my Network manager spent two and a half days there and when we swapped information I had come across three useful companies she’d missed!

    I enjoyed the idea of having more parallel conferences sharing the learning space even if I couldn’t take advantage of them this year. I thought it a loss that many of the subject associations, the National College and various quangos were not there/visible unlike previous years. I didn’t even notice the DFE which I would have expected to be pushing things forward particularly as they had just announced Computer Science as part of the EBacc!

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to a more active visit next year. A final comment is that I actually preferred the early January dates but I’m probably a lone voice in the wilderness there… the best online casino for mac usa

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