SEMA News—October 2019


What to Know Before You Go

SEMA’s Vice President of Events Offers SEMA Show Attendees Tips for Success

By Chad Simon

More than 170,000 specialty-equipment professionals from all over the world are expected to attend the 2019 SEMA Show in Las Vegas.

More than 170,000 automotive specialty-equipment professionals from all over the world—including 60,000 buyers—are expected to attend the 2019 SEMA Show, November 5–8, in Las Vegas. This year’s Show promises to deliver several new features and opportunities for exhibitors and buyers to connect across the more than 1 million sq. ft. of exhibit space inside and around the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC). SEMA Vice President of Events Tom Gattuso offered attendees a preview of what to expect this year as well as tips on how they can make the most efficient use of their time on the Show floor.

SEMA News: What are some significant changes to this year’s SEMA Show?

Tom Gattuso: This year’s Show is going to be dressed in innovation. We have numerous reports of companies bringing more new products and diverse offerings than ever before. We’ve added some new features, including the SEMA Overlanding Experience, which will be located inside the Performance Pavilion just south of the LVCC South Hall.

This new feature will include rugged vehicles that are purpose-built for long-term expeditions and camping. This is a growing segment of our industry and has good support with both our buyer audience and exhibitor base, so we decided to bring it in and highlight it more than we’ve done in years past.

Another element we’ve added is SEMA Electrified, which showcases the trend of companies doing electric conversions to vehicles in our industry. We want to not only showcase that trend but also some of the companies that produce the related component parts.

For the first time ever, we will have education tracks on the Show floor. A stage will be set up in the lower South Hall, and we will provide headphones to drown out the ambient noise so you can focus on what the speakers are saying. We are also emphasizing a brand experience in SEMA Central. We invite you to visit and celebrate the industry with us.

Some of the more robust outdoor features we are bringing back include the Continental Extreme Driving Experience, Ford Out Front and Hoonigan’s “The SEMA of Shred.” The New Products Breakfast will still be held on Tuesday, which is the official kick-off to the SEMA Show. Buyers can also take part in our SEMA Banquet, which takes place on Thursday night of the Show, where we celebrate our leaders and the legends of the industry.

Tom Gattuso
SEMA Vice President of Events Tom Gattuso.

SN: What is your strategy for organizing the Show?

TG: We are generally five years out at any given time for long-term planning. From a shorter-term vision, we are focused on three years and the current year. We average 18 months out when we are planning the Show. With a convention center expansion on the horizon, we’ve focused more on our long-term strategy than we have in the past, but we are anticipating a lot of great things that are part of the LVCC expansion and renovation. The expansion in the Gold Lot will be done in 2021, but then they will immediately renovate the existing building, which will be a process that goes through 2023. So, we are looking at scenario planning for use of the available halls and how we will fit the Show into an ever-changing campus.

SN: What steps can buyers take now to prepare for the Show?

TG: Start to target companies you want to visit. About 78% of buyers come to the Show with a list of companies they want to see. Use and the floorplan to view the companies that will exhibit at the Show and put your list together of who you want to meet with. As the Show gets closer, key in on the mobile app as well as SEMA eNews and SEMA News for updates and more pertinent information.

The bottom line is to come to the Show with a plan. You can never start too early to establish that plan so that you can make the most efficient use of your time at the Show.

Also, register for the Show before the mailing deadlines (October 11 for domestic attendees and September 13 for international) and ensure that you have a place to stay. We have a robust room block and recommend that you book through our housing partner, onPeak. More information can be found on

Parking will be extremely impacted due to the LVCC’s ongoing renovation. Alternative transportation methods, including the monorail, are advised.

SN: How can buyers make the most of their time and meet with everyone they plan to meet with at the Show?

TG: The SEMA Show boils down to a multitude of five-minute conversations between buyers and exhibitors. Everything we build is to foster this connection between buyer and seller, so I recommend that you have as many of those conversations as you can and look at every opportunity as a chance to connect, a chance to grow and be a part of this awesome industry. How many of those connections can you have and how many do you want? You have to answer those questions first, then come to the Show and make it happen.

SN: Are there any changes to the SEMA Show mobile app this year?

TG: The app is a comprehensive tool that you can hold in the palm of your hand. It gets smarter and grows along with our Show. For instance, we are going to add a feature this year that allows buyers to scan new products to find exhibitors and also scan feature vehicles to find information about a company’s products. You can also connect to social media through the app, and it’s a great resource for notes so you have points you can follow up with as soon as you arrive to the Show. In addition, the app will store information from previous Shows, so you won’t lose information from last year’s Show. It’s a good reference tool to see what you did last year as you build for what you want to do this year, including who you saw, what products you saw, any place you want to return, what you missed last year, etc.

The Show is big, so using the map feature can help greatly. People don’t realize that they are so close to an access point to the second floor of the South Hall and they’ll walk to the front of the building, get on an escalator and go to the back of the hall, not even realizing that what could have been a five-minute journey turned into almost a half-hour.

New Products Showcase
The New Products Showcase—the number-one destination for buyers—will feature more products this year than ever before.

SN: What do buyers need to know about transportation at the Show?

TG: With the expansion and renovation project the LVCC is going through, parking is extremely impacted. Research in advance how you will get on and off campus. We suggest using our shuttle buses, taxis, ride-share vehicles and the monorail instead of driving to the Show. We’ve set up these services to drop off in convenient locations so that everyone has an efficient way to get on and off campus.

SN: What should media attendees know about covering the Show?

TG: First and foremost, we have a world-class media center that includes everything you will need to research, write and
produce content. We staff it prior to the Show opening each day and past Show close so you have a space to be able to work and resources to supplement your research. We also suggest the New Products Showcase (directly adjacent to the Media Center) as the first place to visit before heading out to the Show floor. Get a jumpstart on the Show with our Monday Night Reveal, where we highlight some of the more prominent builds that will be seen at the Show. Finally, wrap up the week with the SEMA Cruise and SEMA Ignited, taking place Friday afternoon.

SN: How do you ensure that only approved, credentialed buyers are allowed on the Show floor?

TG: We have a team of qualifiers who review every application for its relevance in the automotive industry. We do that because we want to make sure that the connections we make on the Show floor are with qualified buyers and manufacturers. The process is simple: Just fill out an application and provide documentation that proves your connection to the industry, and from there, our qualifiers will send you either an approval or a request for more information.

SEMA Education
For the first time ever, education tracks will be held on the Show floor in the lower South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

SN: Are there any changes to SEMA Ignited this year?

TG: There will be some changes in terms of layout, but we will still be able to feature some of the great things we have in the past, including drifting, demonstrations, a celebration of the industry, and an awesome parade of the industry’s leading vehicles via the SEMA Cruise, which takes place immediately following the closing of the Show floor on Friday.

SN: How can buyers make sure to keep the momentum of the SEMA Show going even after they head home?

TG: Use our resources (website, mobile app, etc.), but learn more about SEMA as an association and how we can serve you throughout the year. Recently, we’ve started to emphasize more valuable programs for both manufacturers and retail members. We work hard to offer support programming the other 361 days of the year.

SN: How do you use information from previous Shows to improve succeeding Shows?

TG: We closely watch the connections that are happening in and around our Show and are constantly making improvements to foster better-quality conversations. We also are constantly evolving our Show so that it mirrors the industry we represent. Where changes are necessary, we are proactive to be on the leading edge as evidenced by our two newest features: the SEMA Overlanding Experience and SEMA Electrified. At the end of the day, we want our exhibitors to be the stars of the Show, and everything we build is to support that buyer connection.

SN: How is this year’s Show poised to be even better than last year’s Show?

TG: Hands down, the number of new products will be greater than we’ve ever seen. We are excited because that tells us the industry is very healthy and continues to innovate in a constantly changing landscape. We’ve also found that we will have more new buyers than we’ve ever had, which will give optimal exposure for our exhibitor base but also spur new business for the industry for months and years to come.

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