While taking a break from showing off my school team's tank and GPS system (!) I started to think about why so many people were here. There's obviously a lot of learning and entertainment, but there was also a lot of networking going on - I met with a good number of people who I hope can help my school develop our science teaching, including the interesting possibility of holding our own mini-Big Bang!
The importance of networking was also mentioned last week as one reason for the pre-eminence of major global cities such as London by broadcaster Evan Davies in his fascinating documentary series 'Mind the Gap'. He saw the concentration of talent and opportunities to network in London as a key driver for its recent growth.
So, what are the lessons for school marketing?
There's a very simple first message that despite the growth of the Internet, people still like meeting face to face. I could have found the contact details of anyone exhibiting a the Big Bang online but it was much easier and enlightening to meet face-to-face. From a school marketing perspective it makes the obvious point that no-one is going to choose their child's school without visiting it - make sure you get the invitation to look around in early in the recruitment process.
But networking can be a lot more than that. People like getting to know other people who have the same interests - other parents who can help with advice on parenting, people who've moved to a city and need help finding their way around, people who work in similar industries or have similar hobbies and interests, or share a faith.
Schools can be at the centre of these networks - they can set them up, they can offer space for networks to grow and they can encourage and facilitate members of their community to join them.
How can schools do this? Here are a few tips (and as always please add your own!)
1. Be interested in your communities. Ask your parents, teachers and alumni what they do outside of school and what they are interested in learning about. Find out about existing community groups in your area.
2. Act as a central community point. A very easy action is to create an information station in your reception area for local community groups. Encourage parents to drop off flyers or posters for groups they are involved in. You could have a similar area on your website or use your social media platforms to pass on information. You can also do the same for teacher development in your staff room or Intranet.
3. Set up groups to fill gaps. A lot of schools have had a lot of success bringing parents into school to talk about parenting issues. Some arrange opportunities for fathers to meet up. Others will set up sporting clubs, link up parents from particular communities or those who have just moved into the area. You can arrange for teachers from different schools to meet up and train together, or help former students working in particular career areas to keep in touch.
4. Help groups by offering your space or facilities. Schools may not be rich in cash terms but often have the best meeting facilities in the area. While the sports hall is often rented out, schools often forget that classrooms are empty in the evening or weekends. Don't forget other specialist rooms such as Art, Photography or ICT.
5. Give networks time and support. It takes a while for groups to develop but once they exist you can use them to communicate positive messages about your school and engage community members in other activities that will help the school.