Business Tools

25 Steps to a Successful SEMA Show

 SEMA Show manager Chuck Schwartz
 Prepare and budget for the 2009 SEMA Show with the valuable tips provided by trade show expert Chuck Schwartz.

SEMA Show manager Chuck Schwartz presented 25 tips that will help exhibitors save money and prepare for the 2009 SEMA Show. The past chairman of the International Association of Exhibition and Events (IAEE), Schwartz is considered one of the foremost experts on trade shows and exhibitor training.

Here are the first 10 of the 25 tips that Schwartz offered during his SEMA webinar presentation:

1. Pre-Show Marketing
A post card sent to buyers is a useful tool to announce that your company will be at the Show and to provide details on new product introductions, special pricing and other incentives.

“Keep in mind that it's more important to reach your existing customers than it is to reach new customers,” said Schwartz. “Sometimes we put a lot emphasis on getting new customers at the Show. But with all of the competition out there today, it’s just as easy to lose an existing customer.”

E-mail can be used for pre-Show outreach, he says, but suggests that companies should avoid using e-mail exclusively.

2. Handouts at the Show
Print enough catalogs and flyers for the Show. Schwartz suggests that a company should bring about 500–1,500 of each. He emphasizes that at the Show, you can be as busy as you want to be.

“You have to be proactive. People are not going just walk up to your booth just because you have a flashing neon sign that says ‘Come In.’”

3. SEMA Show Matchmaking
SEMA has launched a new matchmaking system that brings exhibitors and buyers together. Even if you're intimidated by technology, Schwartz says you need to take advantage of the matching service. For exhibitors who think that it is not necessary to communicate with buyers prior to the Show, Schwartz says they are missing out on a valuable opportunity and that matchmaking prior to the Show is the future of pre-Show communication.

“You have to recognize that people are starved for time and for anything that will free up time while at the Show. Matchmaking makes it more efficient to do business at the Show.”

4. Hotels
If you haven't made hotel reservations yet, take advantage of lower room prices now before they're gone.

"Look for the properties where we have the shuttle. Or look for properties that are close to the monorail, such as the Sahara, Bally’s, MGM, Imperial Palace, Flamingo. Using the monorail saves money compared to the taxi fares. In addition to being upbeat and positive about being at the Show, you also want to do the best you can about saving money.”

5. Badges
Order badges for your staff as soon as possible.

“If you don’t order your badges in advance, you'll be standing in line to get badges at the Show. You don’t want to do that.”

6. Deadlines
Don’t miss deadlines. Get all of the Freeman orders in on time for labor, electrical, hanging signs, furniture, etc.

Schwartz also urges exhibitors to take advantage of the New Product Showcase.

“It’s not about winning, it’s about being in there. Get your products in the Showcase.”

The New Products Showcase display has been moved this year to a new location at the front of the South Hall, with a new design that provides easier access to buyers and media. It opens at 7:00 a.m. Because of its accessibility and popularity, Schwartz encourages all exhibitors to get a product in the area.

“Even if you re-tool something that you currently have, and make it in a new series of colors, a new design or icon, go for it and get it into the new products area.”

7. Electrical
Make sure you provide a layout for your electrical order. If you’re not sure of your power needs, there a simple way to do it.

“Everything electrical has what voltage and wattage it is,” Schwartz explained. “Just add all of the wattage together and that’s how much power you need. It’s usually in 500-watt increments.”

You must also budget for labor. When you buy the electricity, you must also pay to have it installed, hence the importance of a booth layout.

8. Freight
If you have 1,000 lbs. or less of freight, it’s free. Not only is the freight free, but it will be delivered to your booth free and picked up after the Show.

When you ship freight to the Show, Schwartz suggests shopping around. He also explained that the most inexpensive way to ship freight is on pallets and shrink-wrapped. Freight prepared this way means it can be handled by one drive on one forklift.

“Once it becomes loose freight, it’s a bunch of boxes that takes multiple people, multiple trips, and it’s a higher rate.”

9. Show Expenses
Control your expenses from the minute you arrive in Vegas. Give you employees a per diem. Budget you entertainment. Take advantage of the shuttles and monorail. If you have not booked your airfare to Las Vegas, visit

“SEMA has posted all of the airfares that we find, almost by the hour, and you can see where the best deals are,” Schwartz said.

10. Intellectual Property
“If you have concerns that somebody, some company, is going to be copying your products, you need to be prepared to protect what you have," Schwartz said. "The SEMA Show cannot be judge and jury. The SEMA Show can act if we have the ability to act."

In order to act, companies need a legal action, such as temporary restraining order, an injunction, or a cease-and-desist from a court in Nevada or federal court. It also helps to have the trademark, copyrights or IP protection.

Schwartz told participants that on Monday, November 2, the last day of set-up, SEMA will have an intellectual property attorney in the Show office, full-time. Companies are welcome to talk to him, even if they’re not taking action at the Show.

Hear the rest of Schwartz's tips by downloading the entire webinar session. For more information on SEMA webinars, including past presentations available for download and upcoming sessions, visit