SEMA News—September 2012

By Steve Campbell

Helpful Hints, Tips and Guidelines for First-Time Exhibitors and Old Hands Alike

Show Exhibiting Strategies and Tactics

  The Exhibitor Manual is the encyclopedia of SEMA Show advice.

Yikes! There’s so much to do, so much to see, so much to set up for exhibitors at the SEMA Show—especially if it’s your first time! Fortunately, SEMA and ConvExx have an abundance of tools to help you get the most out of your investment.

Exhibiting for the first time at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas may seem daunting, but the association and ConvExx, the Show’s organizers, provide a wealth of information about how to prepare, get set up and ensure the best return on investment. From learning the lingo to keeping track of sales leads, there are plenty of resources that will help first-timers—and seasoned veterans—connect with the right buyers for the best partnerships. It all begins with a visit to the official Show website and the Exhibitor Manual.

The Exhibitor Manual is the encyclopedia of SEMA Show advice. It has been developed and refined over the years to answer virtually every imaginable question an exhibitor might have, regardless of whether the 2012 event will be a first foray or the 20th time.

Every exhibitor’s first step should be to read the Exhibitor Manual. Read it all, and refer to it often. It almost certainly contains the information you’re looking for. The best places to start might be with the “Glossary of Terms” and “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).”

From “Advance Orders” to “Waste Removal” the glossary will get first-timers up-to-speed on the who and what of Show jargon. And the FAQ section includes information on questions that the Show organizers have been answering for literally decades, ranging from freight tips to signage rules.

If you still have questions after reading the complete Exhibitor Manual, go to the “Contact Information” link to find telephone and e-mail listings for the folks who know.


  The Exhibitor Manual is the encyclopedia of SEMA Show advice.

The first stop should be the online Exhibitor Services Manual. It contains listings, advice and sources that provide solutions for virtually any problem or question a first-timer or even a 20-year veteran might have.

The online Exhibitor Manual also contains a number of handy checklists that may prove invaluable as you prep for the Show. A “Budget Checklist” helps you determine where to best allocate your funds and can spark ideas about necessary design, service and promotional sources. The “Deadline Checklist” ensures that you’ve picked the best time to take advantage of every opportunity to draw buyers and present your products efficiently and effectively.

Another useful checklist is “Frequently Rented Items,” which is also called the “First-Timer Cheat Sheet.” It includes not only a priced menu of items that many exhibitors choose to include in their booths (such as tables, chairs and lead-retrieval systems), but also freight-handling information. This list details the deadline dates for obtaining the best pricing for each item or service.

Registration and badges for your company’s booth personnel are obviously critical items. You’ll find information about them under the “Badges, Registration & Special Events” heading. A PDF titled “Exhibit Booth Personnel” provides details about how to register for the SEMA Show as well as how many badges are allotted for given booth sizes. (For instance, a 100- to 150-sq.-ft. booth includes four badges; a 900- to 1,150-sq.-ft. booth receives an allotment of 25 badges.) Additional badges above the booth-size allotment are $25 each. The deadline to receive badges in the mail for international exhibitors is September 21, and the deadline for U.S. exhibitors is October 12. After those dates, badges must be picked up in the registration area at the Show.

Hotel reservations and parking arrangements should also be made well in advance of the SEMA Show. With more than 100,000 people in attendance, including exhibitor personnel, buyers and the media, rooms will become difficult to find within Las Vegas proper as the October 30 Show opening approaches. The “Hotels” link under the “Hotels, Parking & Travel” tab provides the lowest rates available, including discounted resort fees and no booking or service fees. The “Parking at the Show” link provides information about car, truck, trailer and rig parking, including low-cost rig and trailer parking in the KOA Las Vegas at the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino.

Be sure to also read through the “Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts” under the “Guidelines & Policies” tab. It is a list of the most common issues that can lead to problems at the Show, and it can save you major headaches, which is the last thing you need when you’re trying to promote your products.

Your Booth

A booth space at the SEMA Show is not just a section of floor. In “What Comes With a Booth” under the “About the Show” tab on, you’ll find that a booth also includes drapes, identification signage, one SEMA Industry Awards Banquet ticket for every 100 sq. ft. of space, company listings in the official SEMA Show Directory as well as the SEMA Show Pocket Guide, access to the Education Days seminars and one free product placement in the Ideas Alive: Featuring the New Products Showcase or the Featured Product Showcase.

Also be sure to check out the free programs under the “Freight/Material Handling” tab. For instance, if the freight your company is shipping to the SEMA Show weighs less than 1,000 lbs. and arrives in a private vehicle driven by a company employee, the SEMA Show’s services contractor, Freeman, will unload and deliver the freight to your booth from the Convention Center door nearest your booth at no charge. A company employee may also hand carry or use a small, two-wheel dolly to transfer freight without charge, so long as the item(s) can be managed by one person and an additional person can stay with the vehicle while it is being unloaded.

If your company would like to display a vehicle, either within the booth or elsewhere, check out the “Booth Vehicle” and “Feature Vehicle” links under the “Vehicles/Car Display” tab. The information provided in those two documents includes not only restrictions, but also instructions for preparing the vehicle, where it may be displayed and the process for placing the vehicle in the appropriate location.

One highly recommended piece of booth gear is a Lead-Retrieval Scanner, which may be rented from CompuSystems, the SEMA Show’s official registration provider. You can scan the badge of each buyer who visits your booth with this system, creating a digital list of leads. Then you may use the BuyerConnect service when the Show ends to view and download your leads, allowing you to print mailing labels or send a broadcast e-mail to your list. More information and an order form are available through the “Lead Retrieval” link under the “Booth Services” tab.

You might also wish to give consideration to the other amenities available under “Booth Services.” For instance, professional photography, audio/visual equipment, floral displays, signs and graphics are all available from SEMA Show contractors.


  The Exhibitor Manual is the encyclopedia of SEMA Show advice.

Participation in the Ideas Alive: Featuring the New Products Showcase is an absolute must for all exhibitors. They receive lists of everyone who inquired about their new-product entries after the Show, adding to their lead retrievals.

With more than 60,000 buyers expected at the 2012 SEMA Show, it is imperative that exhibitors—particularly first-timers—do all they can to ensure that they get plenty of traffic into their booths. SEMA offers a number of promotional programs that can help with that task. For additional information regarding any of the programs listed below, e-mail SEMAShow@

  • Mailing labels of buyers are available to use in contacting buyers for pre-Show promotions. You might also want to consider extending your company’s on-site visibility with banners and/or kiosks, and be sure to update your free SEMA Show Directory listing.
  • Attendees will be using the SEMA Show Directory to find your booth at the Show, so make sure your company information is correct by visiting
  • Exhibitors are encouraged to provide press kits for display in the Media Center at no charge.
  • Members of the press from every type of outlet and from all over the world converge every year in Las Vegas to cover the SEMA Show, and that equates to terrific opportunities to promote your products. The association itself produces multiple publications that are distributed to industry professionals, including SEMA News magazine, the SEMA eNews electronic newsletter and the SEMA Show Daily, which is produced on-site in Las Vegas throughout the Show. Each of these outlets is designed to help you distribute information about your company’s 2012 SEMA Show activities, so be sure to send information about new-product launches, project-vehicle premieres and special events to Carr Winn at
  • Send submissions related to feature vehicles—including press releases and photos—to Steve Campbell. Feature vehicle photos received before September 10 may be included in the November issue of SEMA News.
  • Consider the first-time exhibitor sponsorship program. This package of promotional items provides an effective, affordable way to enhance a company’s prominence at the Show. Each first-time sponsorship includes an aisle sign, a single-sided billboard kiosk panel, a half-page black-and-white ad in the SEMA Show Directory, a half-page black-and-white ad in the SEMA Show Pocket Guide and inclusion in a sponsor-acknowledgement ad in the SEMA Show Directory. Take advantage of this program by contacting Joe Sebergandio at Motor Media Inc. (818-248-4900; by September 28.
  • Participation in the Ideas Alive: Featuring the New Products Showcase is an absolute must for all exhibitors. Nearly every attendee at the 2012 SEMA Show will spend time viewing the product displays within the showcase, including buyers and media. And the electronic scanning feature makes it quick and easy for them to collect product and contact information and high-resolution images of the selected products. New Products Showcase exhibitors receive lists of everyone who inquired about their new-product entries after the Show, adding to their lead retrievals.

Ideas Alive: Featuring the New Products Showcase provides exhibitors with an easy and affordable way to gain added product exposure, and with the addition of the featured products option for items that have been previously introduced, every exhibitor is eligible to participate. All products in the displays are also professionally photographed and featured in SEMA’s publications, and they are used throughout the year via the website, where media and buyers can access information and high-resolution images for display and publication.

To feature your product in the showcase, click on the “New Products Showcase Application” link under the “Marketing, Advertising & Sponsorships” tab.

The SEMA Show is the world’s premier trade event for automotive specialty-equipment companies as well as the broader automotive aftermarket. Exhibiting there is one of the most effective ways for manufacturers to get their products into the hands of the retailers who service automotive customers. It only makes sense to seek the greatest return possible on your investment.

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