SEMA News—September 2019


Six Exhibitor Tips

Steps You Can Take Now to Attract Buyers

By Mike Imlay

Show floor
With more than 60,000 buyers set to flood the SEMA Show floor in Las Vegas, November 5–8, now is the time for exhibitors to focus on a few simple but effective tips to help ensure success.

The good news for 2019 SEMA Show exhibitors is that the trade-only event is on track to draw more than 60,000 buyers, a large percentage of whom are already deciding which companies they will see. With the Show’s opening just weeks away on Tuesday, November 5, this is the critical point for first-time and veteran exhibitors alike to make sure that their booths and Show strategies are ready to go.

“The one thing you don’t want to do is arrive unprepared,” advised SEMA Vice President of Events Tom Gattuso. “Don’t fall for the myth that simply having a booth will guarantee success in a sea of buyers. In other words, you don’t want to just stand in your booth each day like a fisherman hoping to snag passing buyers into your boat. Rather, you want to devise a plan to connect with them starting now—and that plan should include predetermined goals against which you’ll measure your success. For some companies, it will be increasing brand awareness. For others, it might be attracting a specific number of buyers or generating a certain number of leads and converting a given percentage after the Show.

“The most successful strategies, however, will be built around the fact that buyers principally come to the SEMA Show to discover new and innovative products, so structuring your goals, booth and activities around that concept will reap the greatest rewards. Fortunately, SEMA’s Show department has developed some tried-and-true tools and tips that exhibitors can implement during this lead-up period to the Show.”

Show floor
Knowing that new products grab buyer attention, it’s best to orient your booth around one fresh centerpiece item or a few bestsellers. Free from the clutter, these products will serve as “conversation starters.”

1. The Exhibitor Services Manual Is Your Friend

When it comes to return on investment, staying on top of booth logistics, hitting deadlines on time and knowing “where to go for what” are all basic to controlling Show costs. Even more importantly, having your booth up, ready and operating efficiently each day frees you and your staff to spend more time with buyers in a less-frenzied professional atmosphere. To help exhibitors with all the Show-planning particulars, SEMA makes a complete (and free) Exhibitor Services Manual (ESM) available online at

“The ESM is an invaluable resource, especially for first-time exhibitors,” Gattuso explained. “It’s the first place to look for answers to every conceivable question about exhibiting. It contains comprehensive information about services and related resources, along with our timeline of price incentives designed to save exhibitors significant money. Our Show staff updates the manual constantly, and you can often simply Google your question for a link to the appropriate ESM section.”

2. Entice Buyers With Some Pre-Show Marketing

“Our buyer surveys indicate that more than two-thirds of them come to the Show already armed with a list of exhibitors they want to see, so reaching out early is another key to success,” Gattuso advised. “Make sure that your information is up-to-date in the online floorplan, and email your buyers where they can find you at the Show along with announcements of what you plan to showcase. Maybe put a sticker on your invoices or anything else you can think of to let them know.

“One free and especially powerful strategy for attracting buyers is to leverage the SEMA Show Online Media Center. Each year, more than 3,000 media representatives attend the Show in search of product and trend stories, and connecting with them will also connect you with buyers. Use the Online Media Center to announce your booth location, what products you’ll be releasing or displaying, any booth vehicles, demonstrations or promotions you have planned, or anything else newsworthy. In fact, some of the most successful exhibitors put out six to a dozen different media alerts and then reinforce those messages through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media.”

Upload your latest news, media tip-offs and product releases now and throughout the Show at

New Products
Entering at least one new or featured product into the New Products Showcase is possibly the single best way to lead buyers directly to your booth. Yet too many businesses make the mistake of neglecting this valuable tool. 

3. Enter the New Products Showcase

“The New Products Showcase is among the top marketing freebies the SEMA Show offers, and it’s the number-one destination for buyers and media,” Gattuso said. “Yet a surprising number of exhibitors fail to consider this simple but highly effective tool for attracting qualified buyers. We view the Showcase as a sort of Show within the Show. Buyers like seeing things up close, and this is the one stop where they can quickly discover your products, scan them using an app, and get an instant map to your booth. In fact, more than half of SEMA Show buyers report making their product discoveries through the Showcase.”

The first product entry to the Showcase is free, with additional entries costing just $75 each when submitted before Friday, October 11, and $150 each thereafter. There’s no limit to how many products a company can display, and even if your company doesn’t have a new product, you can enter one or more featured products as well.

“Those might be your bestsellers or products that are especially attractive for buyers,” Gattuso explained. “Tracking our buyers each year, we’ve found that such products are just as popular as new items, so there’s really no excuse not to enter at least one product for buyers to see.”

Moreover, the Showcase has long-term advantages, since every product is photographed and featured in SEMA publications later and made available to media year-round via the SEMA Show website. The high-quality images are also available for use in your own company media and advertising. For additional entry information and display guidelines, go to

Show floor
Buyers don’t spend money on the Show floor. They spend time. Make it count with a quick, memorable pitch about your company and what your products can do for them and end users.

4. Review Your Booth Layout

The few remaining weeks before the SEMA Show are also a good time to review your booth plan.

“The Show floor can become a confusion of people, so preparation is essential,” Gattuso said. “I always recommend prototyping your booth beforehand at your place of business. At a minimum, map everything out with masking tape on the floor. Make sure that everyone and everything in your booth has a specific reason to be there, and rehearse who will stand where and what they will do. Statistically, booth dimensions don’t correlate to sales. Properly utilized, smaller spaces are just as effective as larger ones.

“Look at everything through a buyer’s eyes. The keyword is ‘discoverability.’ We know that 80% of buyers are drawn to a product display. Show vehicles, demonstrations and well-known industry personalities are also attention-grabbers. Even if you make 100 different items, the best strategy is to build your booth around just one centerpiece product, or at most a few bestsellers. Whatever’s on display should serve as a conversation starter to then expand on everything else you do. The point is to set up your booth so that someone immediately sees and gets it. That’s how you catch them during a one-minute stop-and-stare. It gives them that nudge to come talk to you.”

Key Exhibitor Resources at a Glance

Exhibitor Services Manual (ESM)

New Products Showcase

SEMA Show Online Media Center

During the Show

  • Exhibitors’ Show Floor Managers are issued on-site.
  • The SEMA Show Management is available in the Show Office for any on-site questions or concerns. Telephone 702-943-3505 (Show hours only). That number is found on the back of every exhibitor badge. Your account representative as well as an intellectual property attorney can also be reached on-site through the Show Office.

5. Know Your Customer, Practice Your Pitch

Along with finalizing your booth design, now is the time to determine who your customer is and how you will prioritize leads. Create a customer description and develop one-, three- and five-minute versions of your basic sales pitch to appeal to them. Each version of your pitch should quickly outline what your company does, where it fits in the larger industry, and how your products or services benefit the buyer. Practice them in your mock setting until they become rote.

“If you look at each Show day as a series of five-minute conversations with buyers, that means 93 conversations a day for a total of 372 conversations by the end of week—and that’s without breaks,” Gattuso explained. “Obviously, meeting your goal means maximizing those conversations, making every minute count. You can’t afford to be winging your talking points there on the SEMA Show floor. You want your pitch to be as good Tuesday morning when the Show opens as Friday afternoon when the Show ends.

“Succinctly telling your story, sharing your vision and summing up what makes your products discernibly different from those of the competition makes you memorable to buyers. That is important, since 84% of buyers plan to buy up to 12 months after the Show from the exhibitors that have impressed them. They may not buy on the spot, but if you make an immediate impact and follow through, you dramatically increase your chances of a conversion. That said, you’ll still want to benchmark your progress toward your goals at the end of each Show day. If you find that you need to rearrange your booth displays or hone your pitch, by all means do so.”

6. SEMA Is Here to Help

“The SEMA Show can at times feel overwhelming, especially for first-time exhibitors,” Gattuso said. “Realize that our entire SEMA staff is invested in your business. We really do see ourselves as your support network before, during and after the Show. That network includes people such as your SEMA account representative, our SEMA Show sales operations and registration experts, an on-site intellectual property rights attorney, your floor manager, and our Show department staff both on-site and at our headquarters in Diamond Bar, California. Don’t hesitate to turn to us for advice, explanations and assistance in solving problems or addressing concerns. A lot of exhibitors fall prey to the myth that they’ll get thrown into the Show and have to figure it all out themselves, but the truth is that you are not alone. We are here to help you be successful.”

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