Insider Tips for Show Buyers

SEMA News—November 2018


By Mike Imlay

Insider Tips for Show Buyers

  Tips for Show BuyersA week spent at the 2018 SEMA Show can help ensure an industry buyer’s success throughout the coming year. But with so much there to see and do, pre-Show planning is essential to maximizing your investment.

Make the Most of Your 2018 SEMA Show Investment

What’s the best way to set up your aftermarket business for success in 2019? Experienced buyers will tell you that the answer is the 2018 SEMA Show, which will be held October 30 through November 2 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. As the world’s premier automotive aftermarket trade-only event, the annual SEMA Show is a smart investment that can make a significant difference to your company’s bottom line.

“This is our 52nd SEMA Show, and we’re more excited than we’ve ever been over what’s in store for the industry,” said Tom Gattuso, SEMA director of trade shows. “We’ve received more support, we’re seeing more innovation, and we’re really stretching the limits of the value we can bring to our Showgoers in 2018. Attendees will also see lots of new things at the Las Vegas Convention Center, because they’re in the process of building expansion, making it possible for us to further grow and transform our Show. When that expansion is finally completed and ready for our 2021 Show, the industry is going to shine brilliantly in the new exhibit space. So we’re enthusiastic not only about this year but also for the future. This is truly the beginning of something great.”

Plan Before You Arrive

But don’t simply show up at the SEMA Show. Instead, give careful consideration to what you want to accomplish. In other words, plan ahead.

“Think of it as maximizing your return on investment,” Gattuso said. “Properly allotting your time and energy at the Show can make a major difference in achieving your 2019 goals. But the effort that buyers put in before they get to Las Vegas—planning out their days, their week and their year—will pay dividends once they’re onsite and experiencing everything live. In fact, our surveys indicate that the majority of attendees come to the SEMA Show already armed with a list of exhibitors they want to see.

“Our advice is to have that solid plan when you arrive, then visit the New Products Showcase to find any other items you might want to investigate, and finally, make sure to schedule time simply to walk the floor and discover whatever new innovations strike you. At the SEMA Show, your next bestseller is literally right around the corner.”

Consult the Mobile App and More

For pre-Show preparation, be sure to consult the Show website and floorplan at You should also immediately download the 2018 SEMA Show mobile app from your native app store. One of the best tools for maximizing your time at the Show, the free app contains detailed exhibitor information, interactive floorplans and up-to-date event and education information.

“This year’s mobile app has also been upgraded with New Products Showcase elements, including the ability to scan products, find booths on the Show floor, and see a complete list of new products on your mobile device,” Gattuso continued. “Moreover, the app features turn-by-turn direction capability, transportation schedules, press releases, and the ability to build an appointment calendar. It essentially puts the SEMA Show in your pocket and is an ideal tool for pre-Show planning, attending the Show, and then following up afterward.”

Additional Show-planning resources include SEMA eNews, SEMA News and the SEMA Show Daily, which is distributed each morning at the Show.

“All those resources are specifically designed to provide the information you need before the Show so that you can make the most of your time while there,” Gattuso said. “A lot of those sources also live past the Show in some shape or form, because an important part of every pre-Show plan is a strategy for follow-up and post-Show analysis. SEMA wants to remain an attendee resource before, during and after the Show.”

Determine Your Transportation

With Convention Center renovations currently cutting into several traditional parking lots, transportation will be an important factor in your overall Show experience.

“This year more than ever, thinking about how you will get to and from the Show is crucial,” Gattuso advised. “Our recommendation is to carefully familiarize yourself with all the options well in advance to avoid the possible frustration of congestion and delays.”

Free shuttles are often the best way to get to the Convention Center from your hotel. Shuttle bus service is available on all Show days from partner hotels, with shuttles running every 20–30 minutes. Another choice is the Las Vegas Monorail, which stops right in front of the Convention Center. Trams are paced every seven minutes throughout the day, starting as early as 7:00 a.m. and staying open until 2:00 a.m. on Show days. Two transportation hubs at the Show also accommodate taxi and ride-sharing (Uber and Lyft) arrivals and departures. Visit
ground-transportation for a detailed description of all those options or see p. 48.

  Tips for Show BuyersThe New Products Showcase should be at the top of every attendee’s to-do list. It’s the number-one Show destination for buyers and the single best way to discover new ideas and products.

Hit the New Products Showcase First

Did we already mention the New Products Showcase? That’s because that particular destination’s importance always bears repeating. For 2018, more than 3,000 exciting new and featured products are slated to appear in the Showcase, which opens daily at 8:00 a.m., one hour before the Show itself. Located on the Skybridge between South and Central Halls, the Showcase offers an incredible preview of the latest technologies and items attendees can expect to find throughout the Show.

“Our objective is to help our buyers succeed and prosper, and our post-Show surveys tell us that the Showcase is our number-one Show feature for industry buyers and the media year after year,” Gattuso said. “We really like to emphasize the Showcase as the ideal way to focus on the innovation most relevant to you and organize your Show schedule accordingly. Our hope is that you’ll visit the Showcase, find and scan products that you’ve never seen before, and then connect with their exhibitors through the Show app or our other guide materials.”

Explore the Show Floor

While visiting the New Products Showcase and their targeted lists of exhibitors, attendees should also budget plenty of time to take a trek through the impressive Show floor. The 52nd SEMA Show will feature more than 2,400 exhibitors organized into 12 sections, reflecting all of the industry’s major categories.

From Racing & Performance to Wheels & Accessories, every section is color-coded with easy-to-sight signage. You’ll also find the sections listed and described on the mobile app as well as in the SEMA Show Pocket Guide and even color keyed on the front page of the SEMA Show Daily. Plus, there are four additional areas that buyers will especially want to zero in on.

“Thanks to our incredible industry involvement, those 12 sections must accommodate more and more businesses each year than we physically have space for,” Gattuso said. “This time around, we’re welcoming more than 400 new exhibitors. That’s why we’ve created several First-Time & Featured Exhibitor expansion areas. They are must stops for buyers at the Show, since they’re filled with interesting businesses displaying a variety of beneficial products.”

The SEMA Show expansion areas include the Performance Pavilion on the south side of the Convention Center; the Upper South Hall; the Racing Annex in rooms N110 between North and Central Halls; and the Westgate Pavilion area of the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, just north of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

In addition to those expansion areas, make sure to spend some “fun time” with the Show’s many interactive exhibits, including ride-and-drive opportunities from Continental, Ford, KIA and Polaris. Those and other demonstrations allow you to experience industry innovation firsthand.

Include Education and Networking

The 2018 SEMA Show is also the ideal venue to network with industry professionals and gain new insights. This year’s Show boasts more than 100 seminars aimed at small-business topics, and the majority of them are free. The full seminar calendar is available at, and registering is simple.

“Our education track is a real asset for gaining deeper industry knowledge, personal and career-skill development, and connecting with other industry professionals,” Gattuso said. “Whatever your role in your company, your place in the industry or your career path, we’ve designed an educational program to suit your needs, so we highly recommend that you check out the more than 100 seminars we offer.

“We also encourage attendees to add networking events to their Show calendars. Those events offer a great way to celebrate and connect with the industry throughout the week. Buyers especially will want to add gatherings such as Tuesday morning’s New Products Awards Breakfast and Thursday evening’s Industry Awards Banquet to their schedules. The banquet always showcases our industry’s best and brightest, while other industry events such as the International Happy Hour [Wednesday evening] and council receptions throughout the week present meaningful opportunities to further your Show conversations with industry colleagues.”

  Tips for Show BuyersWith business getting done on the floor right through Friday, the Show week culminates in the spectacular SEMA Cruise, with more than 1,400 vehicles parading out of the Convention Center. This year the procession will land in the Platinum Lot for SEMA Ignited, the Show’s official after-party.

Power Through Friday

“Typically in the trade-show world, a show’s final day is considered a throwaway day, but we take the exact opposite approach with the SEMA Show,” Gattuso said. “Our goal is to pack more value into Friday than any other trade event on the planet. In fact, our post-Show surveys tell us that industry buyers—along with the executives of exhibiting companies—are now staying longer through Friday and reporting more business than ever before.”

With so much of the industry packing so much business up to the very end, why shouldn’t you? Moreover, along with an active Show floor, SEMA Show education continues with Friday sessions, and the New Products Showcase remains open until the end of Show. The Top 10 SEMA Battle of the Builders contestants are also selected and judged on Friday.

What’s more, when the Show officially ends at 4:00 p.m., the engines start up for the SEMA Cruise—a parade of 1,400 Show vehicles from the Convention to the site of SEMA Ignited. A Showgoer favorite, the parade winds its way this year to a new location in the Platinum Lot on the Convention Center’s east side. Meanwhile, at 3:00 p.m., the gates to the lot open for SEMA Ignited, the Show’s official after-party, and a night of food, entertainment and drifting demonstrations—not to mention the announcement of the SEMA Battle of the Builders winner. Best of all, your SEMA Show badge gets you in free, making it the perfect place top off all your successful Show planning.

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