Strategize for Success

SEMA News—October 2018


By Amanda Gubbins

Strategize for Success

Pro Attendee Tips From the SEMA Show Director

  SEMA Show
The SEMA Show builds the optimal environment for matching buyers with sellers, and there are several ways buyers can start preparing now for a successful week in Las Vegas.

Each year, the SEMA Show brings together upward of 170,000 specialty-equipment professionals in Las Vegas to network, sharpen their skills and discover new products. The 2018 event is guaranteed to offer new opportunities for attendees to accomplish those same goals. SEMA Trade Shows Director Tom Gattuso offered a preview of what attendees can expect this year, along with his pro tips for a successful week of business.

SEMA News: What’s new for the 2018 SEMA Show?

Tom Gattuso: The significant change for buyers this year is a focus on innovation. We have hundreds of new exhibitors, an improved New Products Showcase layout, and an enhanced SEMA Central. Wherever we could, we made improvements to make it a better experience for our buyers—all the way down to a brand-new industry artist who’s responsible for all of the signage and artwork that you’re going to see at the Show.

SN: How does Show management strive to make the buyers’ job easy?

TG: Our job is to provide resources for planning, and that really manifests itself with an easy-to-use website, mobile app and organizing features such as the New Products Showcase so that buyers discover them as they explore the SEMA Show. The Show’s not laid out by accident. We purpose-build it with buyer traffic patterns in mind while maximizing our use of the Las Vegas Convention Center campus.

SN: What steps can buyers take now to prepare for a successful SEMA Show?

TG: Buyers glean more benefit if they have a solid pre-, during- and post-Show plan in place. The biggest thing is knowing the resources that you have available with, SEMA eNews, our SEMA Show social-media networks and SEMA News. My recommendation is to start reviewing those resources now, along with our current exhibitor lists. We find that the majority of buyers come to the Show with a list of companies they want to see. Those resources are designed to make it easy for you to build that list.

Then I recommend mapping your days out down to five- or 10-minute intervals to make efficient use of your time. Be sure to include time in your schedule to meet with the companies you’ve predetermined and to walk through the New Products Showcase. You should also review education options in advance and schedule time to attend the sessions that you think will be relevant for improving your business over the next year.

Finally, take time to walk the floor objectively. One of the best things about the SEMA Show is that you can literally find your next new product or best seller right around the corner. We recommend that you schedule time to walk the floor with no agenda, so you can rediscover the industry for yourself.

The New Products Showcase is centrally located in the Skybridge and is organized into 16 product categories to make it easy for buyers to navigate.

SN: How can attendees make the best use of their time at the Show?

TG: I highly recommend scheduling time off the Show floor. That includes attending events that take place before and after Show hours, such as our New Products Breakfast, the Industry Awards Banquet, evening receptions hosted by our councils and networks, as well as off-site activities that the industry affords you. Those are all phenomenal connection points to expand your professional circle, and they allow you to get even more out of your days.

Make sure you also spend time outside in our demonstration areas to visually and audibly experience industry innovations. A few of those activations include Ford Out Front, Polaris and, new this year, both Hoonigan and Mahindra.

I’d also add staying all the way through the end of the day on Friday to be sure you take advantage of every opportunity available. The Show floor will be open until 4:00 p.m., and a selection of education sessions are scheduled throughout the day. Celebrity appearances, the SEMA Cruise and the Battle of the Builders competition will also take place Friday, and SEMA Ignited will cap it all off.

SN: You mentioned the New Products Showcase earlier. What should buyers know about it?

TG: More than half of our surveyed buyers report that they found companies they were going to do business with via the New Products Showcase, so it really is an important stop. The Showcase includes more than 3,000 entries and is organized into 16 individual product category sections. It’s located in the Skybridge that connects Central Hall with Upper South Hall in two large rooms adjacent to our Media Center for easy access.

To make it more convenient, the Showcase is open from 8:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. each Show day—an hour before Show start and an hour after closing. Buyers also have access to free scanners that can be used to create customized lists of the products they are interested in, including company names, booth numbers and product descriptions. It’s the best place to find new products, so be sure to spend some time there.

SN: What about SEMA Central?

TG: We’ve taken the association services that we feel most pertain to buyers in our industry and put them in the forefront, right in the middle of the Grand Lobby. There you can learn about new things that SEMA is doing to serve the industry all year long, as well as innovations that are coming from the SEMA Data Co-op, the SEMA Garage and the SEMA membership team. It’s designed to give you a place to check in with the association as you’re going about your SEMA Show experience.

SN: What kinds of opportunities do first-time exhibitors present for buyers?

TG: Our industry was born from ideas and continues to thrive on them today. Every year, hundreds of new companies come to the SEMA Show with their fresh takes on automotive specialty equipment, and we’ve organized them into areas where buyers can efficiently see who they are and what products they have in the marketplace. You’ll find that our expansion areas in the Westgate, Racing Annex, Upper South Hall and Performance Pavilion are full of innovation, and we recommend that you include those new exhibitors in your search for future products to sell. Every single one represents a potential new partnership for buyers.

SN: Do you have any tips for media attendees?

TG: We have a world-class Media Center adjacent to our New Products Showcase on the Skybridge. Be sure to check in there and meet our public relations team that’s ready to support any story you’re looking to discover and write about while at the Show. The industry is thriving, and as a result we have more new products and innovation than ever. We invite you to explore the Show and use the resources that we make available through the Media Center to optimize your experience.

The Monorail is just one low-cost and hassle-free way to get to and from the SEMA Show campus. Visit
ground-transportation for complete transportation details.

SN: What do attendees need to know about transportation at the 2018 Show?

TG: The convention center is undergoing an expansion. As a result, transportation on and off campus is more important than ever before. We’ve provided really good resources in the form of free shuttle buses and transportation zones where you can take a taxi or catch an Uber or Lyft. We also have a very robust Monorail service that runs extended hours during the Show.

We recommend pre-planning how you’re going to get to and from the Show before you arrive in Vegas, because any one of those options may be your best, depending on where you’re staying. For complete details about SEMA Show transportation options, visit

SN: While we’re on the subject of logistics, what can you tell us about on-site dining options for attendees?

TG: On the SEMA Show campus there are dining options that range from food trucks to sit-down restaurants. We always have some food trucks on North Road, between the Westgate and the North Hall. There will also be a few in the Bronze Lot near the Continental driving experience.

The caterer at the convention center recently went through a rebranding of its food options and has made it more efficient for you to get a high-quality meal at a value-centered price. Its staff is working hard on that and is doing a great job—they’re serving more people than ever before.

SN: What’s new for SEMA Ignited this year?

TG: This year, the SEMA Cruise will take a different path through the Show and will end on the east side of the Show campus in the Platinum Lot, where SEMA Ignited will be held. The event will have a similar format to previous years but promises new features and exciting elements to make it a must-see for the end of your time at the Show. It’s the official SEMA Show after-party, and you’ll want to be sure that you stick around for it.

SN: How can attendees make sure they keep their momentum from the SEMA Show even after they head home?

TG: While the tools we’ve discussed already will help with your Show preparation and your onsite experience, we continue to use those same tools post-Show. Watch SEMA News for product features, read eNews for event wrap-up stories, and continue to visit to see what we’re planning over the next quarter based on what happened at the Show.

The SEMA Show mirrors the industry, and right now our industry is thriving. We are excited to host what we feel will be the most innovative business event you’ll attend in the next year.

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