Six Takeaways for Success from the Festival of Education

Six Takeaways for Success from the Festival of Education

How to build connections with educators and exhibitors at your next education conference based on Ben's Festival of Education experience.

How to build connections with educators and exhibitors at your next education conference based on Ben's Festival of Education experience.

Ben Sawyer
Ben Sawyer
Published: 12th July 2023

My top six takeaways from the Festival of Education

It was such a pleasure to be at Wellington College last week at the 13th Festival of Education (6th-7th July 2023). It was my first visit to this two-day event, but I really got the sense that it forms an important part of many people’s calendars, particularly as the school year draws to a close and educators start to reflect on the year just gone, and thoughts move on to the next one on the horizon.

For the unfamiliar, the festival is comprised of high-profile keynote speeches in a state-of-the-art auditorium; talks and discussion panels in numerous venues around the school campus; exhibitor stalls where education businesses, charities, and service providers have a chance to show off what they have to offer; and some fantastic food and drink stalls to keep delegates well-fed and watered. It would’ve been impossible to take in everything the festival had to offer, but it was brilliantly supported by an app which enabled delegates to plan their own schedule in advance, finding the speakers and subjects they felt would be most relevant to them.

The festival had clear themes: climate, with a marquee devoted to exhibitors in this important area; AI and EdTech, and how they are developing to enhance and support teaching and learning; wellbeing, with a strong link to SEND as well as recruitment and retention; and of course, teaching and learning, with an emphasis on accountability through Ofsted, careers, diversity, resources, and more.

For me, as Sprint Education’s Head of Education, my aim was to hear talks on the major trends in education, and to meet with exhibitors to discuss how we can help businesses sell more to schools. But not before I found one of the various coffee wagons!

Six takeaways to get the most out of your education conferences experience:

Warm receptions: One of my key aims was to chat with exhibitors about their businesses. The first exhibitor I was brave enough to approach happened to be one of our clients, and her face lit up when I said who I was! It immediately put me at ease, and empowered me to speak confidently to other businesses.

Good preparation: I’d like to say it was an accident that the first business I spoke with was an existing client, but I’d done my homework. Having made a personal inventory of exhibitors and referenced this with our client roster, I knew who to speak to!

Coffee queues pay: I made some great new contacts waiting for coffee (and bumped into an old friend!). Just chatting with people about what they do - whether they work as a teacher, at an education business, or for a charity - made for a fascinating addition to my festival experience, and some potentially fruitful new connections.

Prioritise: The festival app gave me the opportunity to plan which talks and discussions I would attend in advance. Hearing Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman respond with dignity to some challenging questions in a fairly charged atmosphere was engaging, Eddie Izzard recounting stories of their education experience in their trademark stylings was a joy, and Chris Packham vividly painting a picture of what it was like to be autistic (and not knowing it) in the 1970s was truly inspiring. All of the keynotes were fascinating and enjoyable experiences that were top priorities for many (you should’ve seen the queues!). Importantly, they provided valuable insights into the education trends coming to the fore.

Be flexible: Much as I tried to stick to my plan, there were times when I definitely went with the flow. One talk I stumbled upon turned out to be essential listening, as it addressed the huge subject of harnessing AI in education; a real eye-opener from speaker Dan Fitzpatrick (this comes from someone yet to dip their toe in the AI ocean). Another fantastic talk I stumbled upon, ‘A Good Life – 5 principles for a better SEND system’, raised some important questions and considerations for SEND provision. I did miss some of the talks I’d intended to go to, though, due mainly to takeaway number 6…

Don’t be shy: One of the most enjoyable aspects of the experience was talking to exhibitors. Many assumed I was a teacher (and I was indeed a teacher!), but the vast majority responded very positively when I explained who I was and started to talk about Sprint Education. The thing that shone through in these conversations was how passionate the exhibitors are for their product, and how knowledgeable they are in their specialism. It led to some engaging and memorable conversations.

These takeaways will stand me in good stead for the next time I attend a conference or festival. It was a real joy to spread the ‘Sprint Education’ word, and meet some of the inspiring education businesses that have benefitted from our services over the years, as well as make some new connections.

I look forward to the next one with excitement and anticipation!

Want to turn education conference connections into leads? Contact us today and we can help you make the most of your next event with our managed strategies. Click here to arrange a free strategy call, or contact us at or on 01684 297374.

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