What Exhibitors Need to Know Before Hosting a SEMA Show Press Conference

By Della Domingo

SEMA Show press conferences can be effective in reaching a large number of media. A booth press conference allows you to showcase a vehicle or product, and it can also attract potential buyers.

The SEMA Show provides exhibitors with the opportunity to generate media coverage for their products and to develop long-term relationships with reporters.

One strategy that exhibitors may want to consider for communicating with the media is to hold a press conference. Although not ideal for all exhibitors, a press conference can be effective under the right circumstances.

Here are some factors to keep in mind when considering a press conference at the SEMA Show:

Important and Relevant News: Key words being "important" and "relevant." A new product announcement may be news, but because it will be among the thousands of new products debuting at the SEMA Show, it may not be important or relevant to a large number of reporters.

“I’ll usually only attend press conferences if they apply to my readers,” says John DiBartolomeo, editor of Drag Racing Action magazine. “It’s useless for me to attend a conference for a street product or something that doesn’t apply to drag racing.”

Another reporter noted that he prefers one-on-one meetings with exhibitors over press conferences.

Visuals and Spokepersons: Having great visuals and spokespeople who may not be easily accessible for the media will entice reporters to attend your event. By holding a press conference, you are forcing the media to choose a single day and time to hear your announcement. The more reasons you can give them to attend, the more successful you will be.

Location: Exhibitors can choose to host their press conference in their booths or in the media center. Depending on the booth location, it may be difficult for media to locate or get to, and it may have space limitations. Exhibitors may also need to arrange for audio visual, sound and/or signage if they are hosting a press conference in their booth. The benefit, however, is that a booth press conference allows you to showcase a vehicle or product, and it can also attract potential buyers.

In the media center, there is a stage with AV equipment and seating already provided. It is also conveniently located between Center and South Halls and all media know exactly where it is.

Day and Time: The press conference application allows exhibitors to request specific days and times, but ultimately the day and time will be assigned to exhibitors. The final schedule is created so that there are no competing press conferences taking place at the same time, and so that media are able to go from one press conference to the next as easily as possible. (For example, the schedule will not have reporters going from South Hall over to North Hall and back to South Hall throughout the day.)

If your press conference has important and relevant news, and it offers media great visuals and spokespersons, then you’ll be much more likely to be successful regardless of the day and time you hold it.

Targeted Invitation: Only invite the media who may be interested in your announcement. Media at the SEMA Show often voice frustration because exhibitors send them information that is not relevant to them.

E-mailing the media directly is effective, but follow standard e-mail etiquette: Do no list everyone in the “to” line of the e-mail. Instead, use an e-mail distribution service or list the recipients in the bcc (blind carbon copy) field.

On occasion, sending an attachment is okay. However, attachments may increase the likelihood of getting caught in spam filters and they may be difficult for those using mobile devices. Consider including everything in the body of the e-mail.

Keep the e-mail simple. Avoid excessive graphics or formatting, and focus on the information you want to get across.

As for when to send the invitation, consider who you are sending it to. In a recent survey about when they begin their SEMA Show planning, reporters’ responses varied from “as early as June” to “two weeks before the Show” to everything in between. Much will depend on the reporter and the individual publication, so it’s best to follow up with reporters directly and get to know the outlet’s individual requirements.

Under the right circumstances, SEMA Show press conferences can be effective in reaching a large number of media. They are, however, a great deal of work and require considerable time and effort from exhibitors.

Exhibitors may want to consider other strategies for working with media at the SEMA Show, including utilizing the SEMA Show online media center, placing press materials in the Media Center on-site and individual, one-on-one meetings with targeted media.

Learn more about hosting a successful press conference.

Submit a press conference application.

Learn more about public relations opportunities for SEMA Show exhibitors.