SEMA News—July 2012
By Mike Imlay
Key Services and Suppliers for a Successful Trade-Show Booth
The 2012 SEMA Show hits the Las Vegas Convention Center from October 30 through November 2. Smart exhibitors know that now is the time to arrange the basic fixtures and services that will make their booths stand out in the crowd.
With the 2012 SEMA Show mere months away, smart exhibitors are already contemplating their booth spaces. They know that a booth’s branding, contents and arrangement all contribute massively to their ability to attract buyers, acquire new leads and have a successful Show. However, first-time exhibitors (and maybe a few returnees, as well) may be scratching their heads over booth essentials—the fixtures and services that can make or break their return on investment.
The following are examples of the basics an exhibitor would be wise to consider for any trade event. For the annual SEMA Show, the task of contracting them is made easier and more cost-effective by the use of exclusive or preferred vendors, all of whom offer a wide range of special packages to Show participants.
Fixtures and Furnishings
First and foremost to a successful trade show is an appealing booth that attracts buyers.
“The most common mistakes that are made by first-time exhibitors involve misusing your space,” said Eric Hoffend, vice president of business development for Freeman, the exhibit-services company that many SEMA Show exhibitors turn to for turnkey booth rental packages. “It’s hard to get attendees to actually step into your booth.”
The type and precise arrangement of fixtures, graphics and lighting play a role in pulling traffic, Hoffend said, and Freeman has put together what it calls Exhibitor Value Packages (EVPs) specifically for the SEMA Show to help exhibitors with all of these basics. Starting at just under $2,000, these rental packages offer three to four different exhibit options for booths ranging from 10x10 to 20x30 ft. They include carpeting, electrical, lighting, material handling, exhibit display structures and furniture, signage, daily cleaning and vacuuming, labor, handling and storage—“everything that you need to get your booth up and running,” said Hoffend.
The EVPs are anything but cookie cutter, however. In fact, they offer a high degree of flexibility in tailoring a booth that’s distinct from others and reflective of a company’s unique brand.
“We have all different types of rental products,” explained Hoffend. “We have three or four different kinds and grades of carpet. We have chairs that are out-of-the-box standard economical, or we can go new-wave modern with cosmopolitan-style chairs and furnishings. We have the ability to print basically anything from a postage stamp to a billboard. The industry is constantly evolving, and we keep track of it.”
Whether through EVPs or a la carte options, Freeman can also outfit an exhibitor with all of the audio-visual items a booth might need, from a laptop and a projector to plasma televisions and touch-screen interactive displays. Hoffend pointed out that renting such items can frequently be more cost-effective than purchasing them, shipping them and trying to set them up oneself.
“When you’re at a show like the SEMA Show or any other trade event, your time spent networking begins when you step off the airplane,” Hoffend observed, noting that Freeman’s EVPs let exhibitors immediately pay attention to their business. “That turnkey package allows exhibitors to come in, have a beautiful graphic header, electrical that’s paid for, everything that they may require. It’s walk in, drop your brochures or park your vehicle in your exhibit space and go. People who have used them have said what a breeze it is not to ship anything, not to worry about anything.”
Moreover, Freeman has made every effort to keep its costs competitive.
“Everyone is cost-conscious these days,” Hoffend said. “The best thing an exhibitor can do is to call one of the experts at Freeman. We are very available, very accessible. We have lots of ideas to help them be economical.”
Greenery and Photography
A little greenery can go a long way toward making an exhibit space more inviting to passersby. Expo Ease offers plant and floral arrangements that are enticing to the eye and easy on the budget, for booths of every size.
When drawing buyers to your booth, atmosphere is everything. Yet exhibitors frequently overlook the subtle touches that can make them stand out in a crowd. One example is greenery.
“There are over 2,000 exhibitors at the SEMA Show,” said Peter Frigeri, president of Expo Ease, a Las Vegas-based specialty service provider for trade shows and special events focusing on plant, floral, photography and staffing. “With smaller exhibits like a 10x10 or a 10x20, people can walk right by them. Hour after hour, they start to blur together. If you can add something pretty reasonable, like plant or floral, something colorful or a little eye-catching, it can make all the difference to someone walking by your booth.”
A plant or floral addition can set a mood and say something about the exhibitor.
“It can add a touch of class in a booth; it can also enhance a message or work with a theme,” Frigeri explained. “With trucks, for instance, you can do a desert theme. We can provide that kind of décor. Or, if it’s woodsy, we can work with that. We’ve decorated around trucks to make them look like they’re in off-road races. It just enhances the ambiance and makes a booth more inviting and professional looking.”
Expo Ease strives to make such plant and floral arrangements easy on an exhibitor’s budget, as well. Basic assortment packages start at as little as $140. In addition, the company also supplies another often-overlooked service: photography.
“Exhibitors spend a lot of money on their exhibits and then don’t take advantage of the moment, with their products set up nicely and lit,” said Frigeri. He added that Expo Ease will take professional photos of product, customers and salespeople in the booth for later use on a company’s website, Facebook pages or in other promotional materials for prices starting at $165.
“We want exhibitors to think in terms of new media—extending their trade-show floor to customers who may not have been at the show or customers who may be at the show but are very busy,” he said. “Getting these images from us very quickly, tweeting them out, putting them on Facebook or on a website can generate excitement off the Show floor to bring people into their booths or let their customers who aren’t there see the exciting things they’re doing, especially for product launches. It’s really priceless. It’s an implied endorsement when a customer’s holding the product.”
Computer and Audio-Visual
In today’s high-tech environment, it’s impossible to imagine a SEMA Show booth without some sort of computer presence. Several preferred SEMA Show vendors can help with equipment and technical support.
Whether simply displaying a company’s logo or attracting buyers with pertinent video, audio-visual displays offer a powerful improvement to a booth’s ambiance and marketing.
In today’s high-tech world it’s hard to imagine a booth without quality computer support and a good audio-visual display.
“The more stimulating and exciting you can make your booth, the better chances you have of attracting people into it,” said Al Dyess, chief sales officer for Production Resource Group (PRG), a vendor whose core offerings include audio, video, lighting and computer equipment. “Clearly, exhibitors spend a good deal of time, money and other resources to exhibit at the SEMA Show, so they need to get the most they can out of those investments. We believe audio-visual—including lighting—is one of the ways you really enhance your presence on the Show floor and attract potential buyers into
A global company focused on entertainment technology for trade shows, events and major broadcast endeavors, PRG has a division based in Detroit that does nothing but auto shows, both in the U.S. and throughout Europe. Consequently, smaller exhibitors looking at the PRG website could easily become intimidated by the company’s size and scope, Dyess conceded. However, PRG truly does offer cost-effective equipment rentals and services aimed at exhibitors of every size.
“We can serve exhibitors in two ways,” Dyess said. “We have a standard offering that comes out in the exhibitor kit and is also available online. Through that, we’ve put together some packages, such as a 42-in. plasma screen, a DVD player and stand. You order those services, we deliver them to your booth, we set them up, make sure they’re running like you want them to, and then we’re there throughout the show, open to close, every day, with onsite technical support, whatever the problem may be. We also have single one-off items. Maybe you have a computer, and you just want to rent a monitor and want us to hang it in your booth. We do that, too.”
PRG offers special packages and rates for the SEMA Show. Computer packages start at just under $200, while display packages begin at $1,092. Equipment rentals also encompass laptops and accessories, projectors and screens, microphones and sound systems, and video displays and accessories, including high-definition systems.
“In addition to that, if someone has a more elaborate idea or they’d like some help with a more elaborate idea, we can certainly use those standard offerings and configure them differently and maybe add some customized lighting to the booth,” Dyess said.
Phone and Internet
Naturally, phone and Internet access are also staples of any well-equipped booth. SmartCity Networks is the technology provider of phone and Internet services for the Las Vegas Convention Center and therefore a principal supplier to SEMA Show exhibitors.
“We hold the exclusive contract with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to provide all the technology services on behalf of the convention center,” explained Laureen Boykin, a SmartCity spokesperson.
In fact, SmartCity is the exclusive phone and Internet vendor for 36 facilities across the nation, including convention centers in such major cities as Orlando, Florida; Washington, D.C.; Houston and Dallas, Texas; Pittsburg, Pennsylvania; and five centers in Southern California.
“The question is do you need Internet services?” Boykin asked. “Are you running a point-of-sale machine? Do you need connectivity for some reason? Are you running credit cards? Do you need to access your website to show people? We have a whole range of products that fit just about any budget.”
No matter your booth size, you’ll want to carefully plan the look and feel of fixtures, furnishings and lighting to project your brand.
Even though the company is an exclusive provider by contract, SmartCity regularly reviews its pricing and makes every attempt to maintain rates that are competitive with other convention centers and vendors offering similar services.
“We have very simple, lower-priced, shared-Internet services, and we go all the way up to dedicated services if you need significant bandwidth or you’re doing a video stream or something because you don’t want a shared service for that,” Boykin said. “We also have a $99-per-day wireless service on the trade-show floor for exhibitor Internet. It’s different from the WiFi that you get in the public spaces in that the exhibitor WiFi is more robust—there’s more bandwidth, speed, and we support it onsite, whereas the WiFi in public spaces, you have to dial an 800 number if you have issues or difficulties.”
For wired services, pricing starts at a $590 flat rate for the entire Show period.
“That’s one IP address for one device,” Boykin explained. “If you want more than one device, the next service starts at $795. Then the next one is at $995, and it’s a matted shared service—in other words, you don’t get a static IP address. You get an open IP address, and you’re allowed to add up to 10 devices. Then we have the most popular item, which is the shared Ethernet service, which is priced at $1,095. Again, that allows up to 10 IP addresses but comes with a static IP address.”
In addition, exhibitors who are concerned that their own cell carrier may not reach inside the convention center or may otherwise lack reliability during the SEMA Show can order phones and service from Smart-City at equally competitive rates. In all cases, the company will work closely with exhibitors to help them determine the appropriate service package for their needs and budget.
Ultimately, a successful SEMA Show is all about acquiring business through leads. To that end, CompuSystems—the SEMA Show’s official registration provider—strives to make lead gathering, retrieval and management a snap before, during and after the Show.
Founded in 1976, CompuSystems processes approximately 1.5 million registrations per year for more than 200 events worldwide while renting lead-recording systems to exhibitors. These systems read two-dimensional bar and smart codes embedded in the attendee badges created during the registration process. The code reading is performed either through a specialized desktop or handheld device or, increasingly, through a smart-phone app now offered by CompuSystems that runs on iPhone, iPad and Android platforms. (The app is free, but users pay for an authorization code in order to access the recorded data.) CompuSystems offers exhibitors its BuyerConnect program to access the leads they collect through their retrieval devices.
For the exhibitor, lead generation is everything. CompuSystems, the SEMA Show’s official registration provider, also makes lead management easy before, during and after the Show.
“BuyerConnect is something that happens for the most part post-event,” explained Paul McCaffray, CompuSystems executive vice president and COO. “It’s a system that, once the event is over with, we send an e-mail to every exhibitor who participated with one of our lead-retrieval systems, and we essentially give back to them a list of the leads that they took so they can take some action at that point.
“They can send out a broadcast e-mail. They can send out individual e-mails. They can download the list. But really what we’re trying to do is remind them of the people who came to their booth, the leads and opportunities to continue the booth experience beyond the last day of the Show. As a complement to that, we send a BuyerConnect to every attendee who had his or her badge scanned by at least one of our systems to say here are the exhibitors that you visited.”
For pre-Show lead generation, the company also offers a program called TrafficMax. First deployed in 2000, TrafficMax allows exhibitors to go into a self-serve system and essentially mine the Show registration database and visitor profiles gathered by CompuSystems during the registration process.
“What is their principle business?” McCaffray asked. “What are their registration categories? Are they a buyer? The exhibitor can go through there and pinpoint the people they want to communicate with [and] can then send a broadcast e-mail or download a contact list. TrafficMax enables an exhibitor to take a little more control of their destiny and reach out to the people who are registered and say come to my booth and see me.”
Of course, getting buyers to come to your booth and see you is the bottom line. Admittedly, exhibiting at the SEMA Show is quite an investment, but it’s well worth the time and money when done right.
From furnishings to technology, photography to lead management, now is the time to get your planning started—and covering the above basics will put you well on the road toward a successful Show.