The 2021 SEMA Show Guide for Attendees
10 Essential Strategies to Maximize Your Return on Investment
By Mike Imlay
The final countdown to the 2021 SEMA Show has begun, and expectations couldn’t be higher. With the last live Show having taken place a full two years ago, the aftermarket is roaring back to do business November 2–5 in a greatly expanded Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC). If you’re a Show attendee, there will be much to see and experience that’s entirely new, updated or enhanced in some way, and while getting lost in all the booths, demonstrations and automotive eye candy might be fun, you don’t want to lose your business focus.
“As an attendee or buyer, your goal is obviously going to be maximizing your return on investment, especially after the many transformations our industry experienced since the last live SEMA Show,” said SEMA Vice President of Events Tom Gattuso. “Exhibitors and attendees alike have made a substantial commitment to our 2021 Show, and we’re 100% committed to their success. We’re on track to deliver an exciting, forward-looking Show that will reconnect the industry. If you’re an attendee, efficiently allocating your time and energy at the Show—and leveraging many of the special features we’ve created to help enhance business—can pay dividends in 2022 and beyond.”
With that in mind, the following are some proven attendee strategies for staying on track to get the most from the trade event (while still maintaining the fun
1. Arrive With a Game Plan
Not surprisingly, SEMA Show surveys continually confirm that the most successful buyers are those who arrive at the Show with a game plan. Perhaps the single best step you can take right now is to download the 2021 SEMA Show mobile app.
Although the SEMA Show floor is organized by category and numbered to improve navigation, the app contains detailed exhibitor information, interactive floorplans, daily event information, updates and news—all accessible from your mobile device. In addition, it features a scanning function that allows attendees to capture product and exhibitor information from feature vehicles on display as well as from the New Products Showcase. Show organizers like to say that the app “puts the entire SEMA Show in your pocket,” and it’s available as a free download from your mobile device’s native app store or by logging on to www.SEMAShow.com/app.
You can also get a jump on Show Week by reviewing the Show website
(www.SEMAShow.com) and various SEMA publications, including SEMA eNews, SEMA News and Show Preview magazines. The publications can be especially valuable in highlighting the latest market research and industry trends you’ll want to explore more deeply at the Show.
“The SEMA Show app and SEMA publications are specifically designed to assist with planning before the Show and help with your Show itinerary while you are there,” Gattuso said. “Many of those resources also live past the Show in some form, because an important part of every Show plan is a good post-Show follow-up strategy and analysis.”
In building your Show game plan, you’ll first want to consider what your current customer base looks like and expects in the way of products and services. Next, you’ll want to evaluate your business and its strengths along with the ways you’d like to improve or expand it.
After that, the key is to identify the Show sections and features that not only reflect your current business interests but also potential growth areas. Then, using those resources in combination with the SEMA Show online floorplan
(www.SEMAShow.com/floorplan) or app, map out a rough itinerary of the exhibitors and features you most want to visit once on-site.
2. Choose Your Transportation Options Ahead of Time
Las Vegas is a bustling city, with exciting new building projects cropping up constantly. That can impact travel times to and from the convention center, but there are many ways to make your commute a breeze. Again, it just takes a little advanced planning.
First there’s the Monorail, which stops right in front of the LVCC. Trams run from seven stations serving the Las Vegas Strip every four to eight minutes throughout the day. Run times start as early as 6:00 a.m. and continue until 2:00 a.m. on Show days (3:00 a.m. on Friday). Allow ample time to board during peak hours.
Another option is the free shuttle bus service available each Show day from most major hotels. The buses run every 20–30 min. to and from partner hotels.
In addition, taxi and ride-sharing services also operate from three designated transportation hubs where taxis and services such as Uber and Lyft can drop off and pick up quickly and easily.
Finally, registered buyers (retailers, warehouse distributors and jobbers) who are SEMA members can also utilize the express taxi lines from the LVCC on Tuesday through Thursday, 2:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m., and Friday, 2:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m. (For details regarding the express taxi lines for member buyers, visit Member Central upstairs in the LVCC Grand Lobby.)
Note that parking for personal vehicles is limited due to ongoing LVCC expansion, making the above transportation choices even more attractive. After all, your goal is to spend your valuable time at the Show, not in traffic.
For complete details about all of the above, including timetables, hubs and stops, see p. 276 of this issue or visit www.SEMAShow.com as well as the SEMA Show app.
3. Attend Tuesday Morning’s New Products Awards Breakfast
Since finding new products is a high priority for buyers, you won’t want to miss the SEMA Show’s annual New Products Awards Breakfast, which takes place Tuesday, November 2, from 7:30 a.m.-9:00 a.m. in the Westgate Las Vegas Casino & Hotel’s Paradise Event Center. The breakfast features awards for outstanding achievements in the development of products being introduced to the automotive specialty-equipment market at the Show.
Products are judged in 16 award categories, and each category recognizes one winner and two runners-up. That makes it a unique opportunity for trendspotting and surveying all the top innovations across a broad range of industry segments. It’s also a great opportunity for networking (see below) and an ideal way to get a jump on the Show as it kicks off the industry’s most important week of business.
4. Explore the New Products Showcase
This year, the New Products Showcase is moving to the Upper South Hall, booth #31255. Experienced attendees know that this is a must-see Show feature, and many make it their very first stop on opening day. The showcase puts thousands of new products on display each year from manufacturers representing every industry segment. Occupying 30,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space for 2021, it’s not only a window into what we can expect in the year ahead but also a look at the accumulated innovation that has taken place over the past two years while the SEMA Show was on hiatus.
The New Products Showcase helps buyers focus their efforts on the companies they want to see to appeal to consumers and keep inventories fresh. Likewise, media attendees get a glimpse of the latest trends emerging from the specialty-
equipment realm. Additionally, complimentary on-site scanning tools enable communications between buyers and exhibiting companies to generate leads and drive future sales. Attendees can also use the provided information to build their week’s itinerary using the SEMA Show app.
5. Leave Plenty of Time to Investigate the Show Floor
With your game plan in hand, it’s time to hit the Show floor. Seek out your priority exhibitors for meaningful conversations about their new products and visions for 2022 and beyond, but also carve out plenty of time to simply walk the Show without a specific agenda.
“View it as a serendipitous exploration of what’s happening in the industry,” Gattuso said. “You’ll likely find new companies that you didn’t know of before, with products or services that can help your business evolve.”
To that end, the Show also presents numerous features and demonstrations geared toward a variety of industry trends and interests. For 2021, make sure to include the following on your must-see list:
- Feature Vehicle Displays (Various Locations)
The SEMA Show is renowned for the innovative parts and accessories displayed on Show vehicles representing every industry niche, from cars and trucks to powersports. Much more than rolling works of art, the vehicles offer an in-person look at real-life applications of the aftermarket’s latest and most impressive products. Located throughout the LVCC, the displays connect with Showgoers as an extension to the exhibit booths of the product creators.
- The Chip Foose Experience (North Hall)
For the first time ever, SEMA Show attendees can experience Chip Foose’s many one-of-a-kind automotive designs and renderings presented all in one place. In fact, 60 of his most famous designs and sketches featuring 20 of his most famous builds will be on display, including Ridler Winners and “Overhaulin’” builds. Foose will also demonstrate a live drawing/design on the stage—with projection onto big screens—creating a new set of custom wheels. You’ll then be able to observe the Wheel Pros team employ a CNC machine to cut out Foose’s custom wheel design live in the Wheel Pros Garage.
- SEMA Electrified (North Hall)
As a trade association, SEMA looks down the road for emerging trends in performance and hot rodding, and it views vehicle electrification as a modern-day expression of those enthusiast pursuits. SEMA Electrified is designed to showcase where this growing electrified vehicle (EV) segment might take us in the next five years and into the future. Attendees will see some incredible custom EV conversions and the parts, products and surprising technologies that are currently driving the market.
- SEMA Overland Experience (West Hall, Booth #62234)
Buyers at the 2021 SEMA Show will discover products and vehicles specifically dedicated to overlanding in the all-new SEMA Overland Experience area. Moving to the West Hall, the special exhibit will include dozens of customized vehicles with fully popped-out tents, sunshades outfitted for survival, and portable kitchen systems—all displayed courtesy of exhibitors supporting the growing overlanding market. With many similarities and crossovers to off-roading, overlanding has strong roots in Australia, South Africa and certain parts of South America, and it has taken off in the United States during the past decade.
- The Boring Company Tunnel
Traversing the entire 2021 SEMA Show will be quicker and easier than ever thanks to Elon Musk’s new Boring Company Tunnel. The recently completed project actually consists of two parallel tunnels 40 ft. below the LVCC. Dubbed the Convention Center Loop, the free system features three stations and a fleet of Teslas to run the 4,475-ft. distance between the South Hall and the new West Hall. It can whisk 4,400 attendees per hour across the 200-acre LVCC campus in under 2 min. (On foot, the walk would take half an hour.)
6. Recharge Your Enthusiasm With the Show’s Outdoor Activities
With an expanded LVCC floorplan, the 2021 SEMA Show is now able to stretch out, greatly expanding breathing room and improving traffic flow. In the process, the Show’s outdoor features will get even more shine. Designed to demonstrate industry products in action, the features reflect the industry’s passion and excitement (plus yet more feature vehicles loaded with industry products to see). Getting outside can be a powerful reminder of what draws you to this industry in the first place. Key stops include:
- Hoonigan (Silver Lot 3)
A hit with Showgoers when they debuted at the 2018 SEMA Show, the Hoonigan gang returns for 2021 with an exhibition that transforms the Silver Lot into a faithful recreation of Hoonigan’s iconic Compton “Burnyard.” The outdoor exhibit will encompass celebrity influencers from the automotive realm and beyond as well as the brand’s signature antics, consisting of burnouts, donuts, wall taps, massive hucks and more. After the SEMA Show, attendees can also re-experience all the action on Hoonigan’s YouTube channel through an hour-long special.
- Ford Out Front (Silver Lot)
Visit Ford Out Front to see customization and capability. Located in front of the Central Hall, Ford Out Front provides SEMA attendees the opportunity to experience the power and performance of Ford vehicles by taking a ride with a professional driver. Whether you like to burn rubber or hear the call of the wild, the vehicles at Ford Out Front put on quite a show. Make sure you stop by the Ford Performance Parts trailer to see what’s new in parts and accessories. Don’t miss the action-packed drifting by SEMA’s ultimate fun-haver, Vaughn Gittin Jr., and stay to watch the newest addition to Ford Out Front, the Bronco family.
7. Take Advantage of Networking Events
Trade shows are all about forging business connections. In addition to connecting you with exhibitors on the Show floor, the SEMA Show also affords networking opportunities to further the interpersonal connections that can enrich you and your business.
Throughout Show Week, SEMA councils and networks will host numerous activities in and out of the LVCC (see p. 270).These especially offer a once-a-year chance to link up with like-minded professionals, celebrate the achievements of industry leaders, expand knowledge, and explore ways to get involved in year-round SEMA activities. (For further information about SEMA council and network activities, consult the SEMA Show Pocket Guide and/or the Show app, or visit SEMA Central.) Two of the Show’s biggest networking opportunities are:
- The International Happy Hour (Wednesday, November 3, 5:00 p.m.–6:30 p.m., LVCC West Hall, Room W233)
The International Happy Hour is the SEMA Show’s largest annual international specialty-equipment trade gathering. Attendees can join the event, have a drink on SEMA, and meet top international buyers and a panel of distinguished international journalists who serve as SEMA Global Media Award judges.
- The SEMA Industry Awards Banquet (Thursday, November 4, 6:00 p.m.–11:00 p.m., Westgate Garden Patio and Paradise Event Center)
The SEMA Industry Awards Banquet is the automotive specialty-equipment market’s premier awards ceremony, where industry excellence and achievements are celebrated. Held annually, the event is the industry’s single largest gala, attended by more than 2,500 automotive icons, professionals, supporters and celebrities.
This year’s event will feature a networking cocktail hour, dinner and special entertainment, including the finale of the SEMA Launch Pad competition. The program also includes the announcement of the SEMA Person of the Year, Manufacturer of the Year, WD of the Year, Rep Agency of the Year, Gen-III Innovator of the Year and tributes to this year’s SEMA Hall of Fame inductees: Jessi Combs, Rick Love, Bob Moore and Carl Schiefer.
8. Advance Your Professional Education
Featuring industry icons, celebrities and top subject-matter experts, the SEMA Show Education Program makes it easy for you to take advantage of learning opportunities and still have time to see new products and connect on the Show floor. Sessions begin on November 1, the day before the SEMA Show officially opens, and include offerings through Friday, November 5.
“Over the past year, SEMA turned to virtual education to provide members and the industry with world-class learning opportunities, and now we’re excited to build on that program again to deliver a newly expanded in-person experience at the 2021 SEMA Show,” said Gary Vigil, SEMA senior manager of professional development.
In fact, SEMA and its partners—the Society of Collision Repair Specialists, the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair, and the Tire Industry Association—are set to deliver their most comprehensive and relevant education program ever, homing in on subject matter that excites passion and that the aftermarket industry cares about. This year’s topic list includes seminars on automotive electronics, aftermarket updates and future trends, digital marketing, legal and regulatory issues, small-business strategies, vehicle electrification, and emerging vehicle technologies.
Especially new for 2021 is a leadership track sponsored by the world-renowned Dale Carnegie Program. There will also be a fresh batch of Brew Talks, a “Builders Talk Business” panel, and a CEO series. For details about Show education, consult the SEMA Show Pocket Guide, the Show app, or visit www.SEMAShow.com/
education for quick and easy registration.
9. Keep at It Through Friday
Years ago, Friday was considered a “wind-down” day at the SEMA Show, but that’s not the case nowadays. Business continues to get done on the Show floor right up to the event’s closing at 4:00 p.m. Show features and demonstrations also continue at full speed, making Friday an excellent day to catch up on activities you may have missed earlier in the week. In addition, two special post-Show events make staying at it through Friday especially worthwhile:
- The SEMA Cruise (Silver Drive)
Vehicles from the 2021 SEMA Show begin parading out of the Convention Center at Show close—4:00 p.m., November 5—to the delight of thousands of fans in grandstands along the route. Each year an impressive contingent of vehicles takes part in the Cruise, which for 2021 winds its way toward the West Hall parking lot and SEMA Ignited, the Show’s official after-party. Open to the public, the festivities include prize giveaways and entertainment. For attendees and crowds alike, the Cruise has become one of the Show’s most anticipated events and a perfect place to see how the industry resonates with enthusiast
- SEMA Ignited (West Hall Parking Lot)
The 2021 SEMA Show culminates at SEMA Ignited, the official after-party that gets hopping immediately after the Show ends. The event takes place in the LVCC West Hall Parking Lot—just a short walk away—and is free to all credentialed Show attendees.
Introduced in 2014, the annual event is also open to the general public, giving consumers the chance to glimpse some of the vehicles and excitement from the world-famous, trade-only SEMA Show. The party is a great way for Showgoers to unwind from the week while enjoying a night of food, entertainment, drifting demonstrations and more. Gates open at 3:00 p.m., and your SEMA Show badge serves as your free ticket. For more information, visit www.SEMAignited.com.
10. Top It All Off With a Post-Show Follow-Up Plan
As much as pre-event planning and execution are crucial for a successful SEMA Show, so is a post-event follow-up strategy. You’ll likely return home with a host of leads that you’ll want to pursue immediately.
“The weeks directly after the Show are a crucial period to speak with the exhibitors you met,” Gattuso observed.
If you utilized the SEMA Show app, you’ll be able to retrieve your leads as well as any vehicle, company and product information you scanned throughout the Show. Plan to reconnect with your leads as soon as possible as well as over the next six months, 12 months and three years. Make it an ongoing dialogue. In the end, those continued industry connections are what the Show is all about.
Get the Official Updates
Note that www.SEMAShow.com, SEMA eNews and www.sema.org are the official and trusted sources for SEMA Show news and announcements. Please consult SEMA websites for the most up-to-date and accurate Show information.
Plan Now to Attend the Show
If you haven’t yet registered to attend the 2021 SEMA Show, taking place Tuesday–Friday, November 2–5, there’s still time. Visit www.SEMAShow.com/attendee to register.
Attendees can also see who’s exhibiting through the updated floorplan at www.SEMAShow.com/floorplan.
To register for SEMA Education tracks, go to www.SEMAShow.com/education.
The Show’s a Go! Health and Safety Measures for 2021
SEMA is 100% committed to holding the 2021 SEMA Show to present two years’ worth of specialty product innovations, vehicle trends and industry-leading education. As always, attendee health and safety will be a priority. Here are some things to know:
- SEMA Will Follow State and Local Requirements: The COVID-19 landscape and state and local requirements are changing week to week. With this rapid pace of change, SEMA will stay on top of the specific measures that will be required right up to and throughout Show Week.
- The SEMA Show Is Hosted in a Clean Facility: The LVCC has been awarded the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR certification, which demonstrates the highest standards for daily cleaning, air filtration and sanitization. It is the gold standard for safe facilities and includes:
- Deep cleaning the campus prior to the Show.
- Implementing enhanced sanitation with a focus on high-touch areas such as door handles, escalator handrails and seating areas.
- Utilizing electrostatic sprayers containing approved disinfectant on high-touch surfaces during off-peak hours.
- Adding UV lights to disinfect select areas.
- Sanitizing restrooms on an hourly basis.
- Increasing back-of-house cleaning frequency.
- Sanitizing all audio-visual equipment between uses.
- Increasing frequency of waste removal.
- The LVCC Maintains Clean Air: The LVCC has invested in HVAC upgrades to allow for greater ventilation. Filters have a quality rating of MERV 14, which is the same as a hospital-grade filtration system. The frequency of the filter changes and the outdoor air exchange rate have both been increased.
- There Are Provisions for Clean Hands: Keeping hands clean helps prevent the spread of germs, such as COVID-19. Hand-sanitizer stations will be placed in all public spaces, meeting room corridors, Show floor areas and food and beverage areas. Participants are encouraged to regularly wash and disinfect their hands.
- The 2021 Show Floor Is 25% Bigger: With the additional 600,000 sq. ft. of West Hall exhibit space, the overall SEMA Show floorplan has grown, providing more room to spread out.
- Select aisles have been widened for enhanced attendee flow.
- Show navigation is improved, allowing for optimal placement of new and returning event features.
- More meeting rooms are available than ever before to privately conduct important business conversations.
- 30% of the SEMA Show takes place outdoors.
- AAPEX Requirements Differ From the SEMA Show: While the SEMA Show and AAPEX are held in tandem, AAPEX requirements apply only to the AAPEX event and not to the SEMA Show.
- As of press time, the co-owners of AAPEX—the Auto Care Association and the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association—announced that they will require proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID PCR test be administered prior to arrival in order to attend their 2021 event at the Sands Expo Center.
- AAPEX co-owners are also evaluating the potential for on-site testing for those unable to be vaccinated or to obtain a negative PCR test prior to the show. These measures will be administered through a third-party verification platform and on-site screening. Additionally, while subject to change, as of July 30, Nevada was requiring masks for all indoor events in Las Vegas. AAPEX will announce more details as they become available.
As noted above, the SEMA Show takes place at the LVCC, a separate location recently awarded the GBAC Star Facility Accreditation in recognition of superior health and safety measures. In addition, SEMA is implementing its own measures in keeping with state and local guidelines.