With the cancellation of Bett 2021 in October last year, Hyve opted for a virtual solution to get content out to teachers and educators.
When Hyve Group was forced to face the reality of cancelling Bett 2021, it needed a virtual substitute, which would offer something different to the exhibition for educators, which usually attracts around 40,000 visitors from 100 different countries each January to ExCeL London.
The decision to cancel the in-person event was taken in October 2020, just four months out from the show.
This week-long festival of education has been an annual fixture since 1985 so Hyve was determined to provide educators with the CPD-certified content they associate with Bett, whilst promoting all the virtual fringe events such as the Global EdTech Startup Awards, TeachMeets, and the EdTech APPG Parliamentary report launch, as part of a week-long programme.
“Retaining customer engagement in Bett and what has become known as ‘Bett Week’ was really important for us,” says Bett’s global head of content, Sarah Marshall. “It was also an opportunity to reach a new audience of educators who had previously not been able to justify the time away from the classroom and to develop a suite of digital assets, which could be monetised and evolved for the future. Industry product launches are planned around Bett so instead of exhibition stands, we decided to offer brands paid-for content to showcase their latest innovations.”
The plan was to focus content on three daily themes of Leadership, Digital Inclusion and Resilient Futures, offering product discovery, practical CPD (Continuing Professional Development) and best practice for educating students during a pandemic.
Production partner, Aztec stepped-up to manage the content delivery from its Chessington-based studio, producing 40 sessions across three days that were either pre-recorded with live Q&As or broadcast in real-time.
Each day featured two-hours of main-stage content, a choice of two in-depth accredited CPD sessions in the Bett Academy and a selection of on-demand Solutions Showcases sponsored product videos.
“We created a sponsorship inventory comprising four packages: Headline sponsor; Main-stage keynote; Solutions Showcase session and Bett Academy CPD. These four content-led packages mandated collaboration with the Bett content team on themes and messages and contained a clause giving Bett final approval before broadcast, ensuring high-quality output,” Marshall says.
Aztec gifted ‘AV Care Kits’ to each speaker comprised of enhanced lighting, backdrops and webcams to raise broadcast standards. The Aztec team also provided full technical support and managed rehearsals, recordings, timings and the host.
The content was live-streamed or pre-recorded via Microsoft Teams and integrated into Bett’s chosen BigMarker digital events platform. It became available to watch on-demand post event and has remained online for three months since the January event.
“The original plan was to have live panel discussions from our studio but after the country went back into total lockdown, the Aztec studio became the anchor point for the host to manage the schedule, talk to the presenters and introduce each session,” Aztec’s head of corporate events David Stanley says.
Aztec’s Jess Duxbury was digital producer on the event. She says: “We carried out end-to-end rehearsals to practice all the transitions with remote speakers and ensure that the viewer experience was scheduled to perfection.
“When you’re telling senior leaders how to dress for the camera, what books to remove from their background bookshelves or to turn-off other wifi devices in their homes to try and guarantee a good connection, it removes any ego and makes digital events a much-more collaborative process.”
Engagement during the 20-25 minute main stage sessions saw attendees comment on presentations in the live chat, share useful articles and swap LinkedIn contacts for connected networking.
Viewers were also able to interact directly with speakers in the Q&A sessions and engage via twitter, using the hashtag #Bettfest which also streamed on the platform.
A number of polls during some sessions added to the engagement, with prizes given away as incentives to participate.
The pre-recorded content for the Bett Academy was slightly longer, lasting between 40 and 55 minutes. Presenters were on-hand to answer live Q&As and since the sessions were officially accredited, teachers could download their certificates on completion.
The total number of pre-registrations for Bett 2021 was over 14,000, with 7,173 visitors attending across the three days, of which 4,552 were uniques.
Marshal says: “We set ourselves a revenue target of £80,000. Our final booked revenue for BettFest was more than double this target (£191,000), selling out all sponsored inventory on an extremely short sales cycle. But for us, the real win was over £100,000 win-back from lapsed customers and the retention of Bett Week as the sales and marketing milestone for the EdTech industry.
“We’ve now established a suite of digital content assets, which means we can run monthly webinars and provide regular Bett Academy, CPD-certified content to maintain and build our extended global audience. The live in-person exhibition will return but with more than half of our online audience unique, first-time visitors, why would anyone turn their backs on developing this new audience?”
Marshal concludes: “I honestly can’t say where we’ll be at the end of this year. The vaccine roll-out across the UK is a success but in other countries it has had challenges so whether or not the UK will allow international visitors to Bett 2022 is very much a watching brief. Whatever happens though, we know that we can deliver strong content in an engaging and high-quality format. It has been an education for all of us involved.”