First-Time Exhibitors Share Their SEMA Show Experience

By Chad Simon

The 2021 SEMA Show attracted more than 100,000 industry leaders, including 50,000 buyers from around the world. With last year's expansion into the Las Vegas Convention Center's (LVCC) West Hall, the Show featured 1,350 exhibitors, including 258 first-timers dispersed throughout the LVCC.

Hot Shot's Secret

Lubrication Specialties’ main strategy was to show off its title-sponsored race truck—the world’s fastest diesel.

This year’s event—to be held November 1–4, in Las Vegas—is on track to surpass last year’s numbers. With nearly 250 first-time exhibitors as of press time with three months still to go, the 2022 SEMA Show is expected to draw 125,000 attendees, including 60,000 buyers. This upward trajectory is an indicator that the industry is returning following the Show’s hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic.

We asked Tom Gattuso, SEMA vice president of events, for strategies to help first-time exhibitors achieve their goals. In addition, two rookie exhibitors from the 2021 SEMA Show—Greg McGuinness, executive vice president, AirSept, and Kyle Fischer, director of branding and promotions, Lubrication Specialties Inc.—shared their experiences and how having a booth at the Show benefitted their business.

Why Exhibit?

Companies that have never before exhibited at the SEMA Show should consider participating so they can introduce new products to an entire global marketplace that consists of automotive professionals from more than 130 countries around the world, according to Gattuso.

“Exhibiting with us exposes the brand to a global audience,” Gattuso said. “That differentiates us from some of the regional shows around the country. With unmatched media coverage and industry attendance, the SEMA Show has the ability to take new companies and transform their business just by participating in our event.”

AirSept entered the performance/racing market with one of its popular automotive repair products in 2021 and decided to exhibit at the SEMA Show to establish visibility in the marketplace. McGuinness was pleased with the amount of foot traffic at their booth in the LVCC North Hall and said his team was busy all four days of the Show.

“Our goal was to establish a presence in a new industry segment, garner potential customer leads and draw interest to our new-product introduction, and we were pleased with our results,” McGuinness said.

According to Fischer, Lubrication Specialties hesitated to exhibit in previous years while its Hot Shot’s Secret brand was growing, so the primary goal last year was to bring awareness to the brand and introduce new customers to its products. They also wanted to reach out to potential new dealers and product distributors.

Throughout the Show, Lubrication Specialties interacted with customers, both old and new. The Show also proved to be an excellent venue to meet with marketing partners to further advance the company’s promotional initiatives.

“We were happy to exceed expectations with a heavily trafficked booth in the Racing & Performance section of the Central Hall and sign up multiple new partners,” Fischer said. “In hindsight, we should have started exhibiting at the SEMA Show many years ago. It turned out to be the perfect event to put our brand on the map and proved to be an excellent venue to further push the brand growth and recognition that we have been building upon.”

Strategies to Attract Buyers

To achieve success at the Show, exhibitors should develop a plan centered around a determined goal that involves pre-Show marketing, on-site activation and post-Show follow up. According to Gattuso, 80% of buyers do their research and come to Las Vegas already knowing what companies they want to visit. To put yourself on their radar, reach out to them beforehand and let them know that you’re going to be there.

Additional suggestions include entering a product in the New Products Showcase and ensuring your company information is updated for the SEMA Show Directory, mobile app and website because those are the tools that buyers use to perform their research.

“On-site, take every opportunity to give a short pitch about what your company is doing that is new and distinctively different,” Gattuso advised. “Buyers are looking for new products, trends, ideas and companies to do business with. Once you establish a relationship based on your new products, you can provide them a better idea of the depth of your product offering.”


At the 2021 SEMA Show, AirSept President Aaron Becker demonstrated how to quickly make a metal-to-metal line repair using AirSept’s Smart Splice system.

Products were on display in the AirSept booth to attract interest from passersby. McGuinness plans to take the experience they gained last year and use it as a learning opportunity to help the company better understand the market and craft more effective strategies for the future.

“Participating in the Show expanded our understanding of the clients that are attracted to SEMA and what is needed to earn a place in the market,” McGuinness said.

Lubrication Specialties’ main strategy was to show off its title-sponsored race truck—the world’s fastest diesel, according to Fischer. It’s difficult to stand out in a sea of automotive works of art, but displaying a unique diesel application that holds the world record turned out to be a smart move for Lubrication Specialties.

“This unique truck with a one-of-a-kind racing engine was the perfect eye candy to draw people into our booth,” Fischer said.

The company also scheduled autograph signings with some of its top-sponsored racers, which also helped to drive traffic to its booth.

According to Gattuso, it’s not common for a new exhibitor to enter a product in the New Products Showcase and win an award. This can be a gamechanger for their business.

“We hear a lot about first-time companies that come to the Show, and if they have a good plan and talk to a lot of people, they can successfully infiltrate themselves into the specialty-equipment marketplace,” Gattuso said.

For more information about the SEMA Show, visit