SEMA News—October 2013
By Steve Campbell
A Few Words With Tom Gattuso
The SEMA Show Director Provides Tips for Exhibitors, Buyers and Media
Tom Gattuso is the director of the SEMA Show. With more than 18 years in the field of automotive-event production—both consumer and trade—he is well versed in ensuring that attendees and exhibitors of every stripe receive the greatest return on their investments. The 2013 SEMA Show will be his third as director, and SEMA News was pleased to talk with him about his insights.
SEMA News: What are the top opportunities and challenges that exhibitors should consider as they prepare for the 2013 SEMA Show?
Tom Gattuso: The SEMA Show has a lot of moving parts, and it takes some finesse to make the most of your participation. Exhibitors should develop and activate plans that involve all three phases of the Show—pre-Show, post-Show and at Show. I would recommend that they start early and be thorough. We have developed a comprehensive Exhibitor Services Manual that organizes the resources and opportunities available to them, and I can’t stress enough how important is it to get familiar with this and leverage it to your advantage. It is available on the Show website and it is easily the best resource we have for exhibitors.
SN: Why should exhibitors use the vendors and suppliers recommended by the SEMA Show rather than others?
TG: You are certainly free to get the best deals you can, but we select our vendors carefully and work with them to offer pre-negotiated pricing. We also work hard to eliminate hidden fees. We find that other vendors sometimes advertise low prices but tack on additional charges to the point where their prices are actually higher than those of our approved Show vendors. My advice when researching Show services is to be aware of those hidden fees and upcharges. For example, if you find carpet for your booth for a lower price than you can obtain from our official flooring vendor, take into account that there may be labor and drayage fees to get that carpet to your booth. That will eventually make the price higher than it would’ve been from our vendor and, in the end, be much less convenient.
SN: What is the most often missed opportunity for SEMA Show exhibitors?
TG: Believe it or not, participation in the New Products Showcase. Every exhibitor should take advantage of that opportunity. Statistically, 90% of the buyers who come to the SEMA Show are looking for new products. Those display cases are the number-one destination for both buyers and the media, so it’s the single most important feature for exhibitors to use. They should also be aware that they may place a “featured product” in the Showcase. It can be a product that was previously introduced but which the exhibitor wants to put added emphasis on. In either case—new product or featured product—the first entry into the Showcase is free. When you consider the amount of foot traffic the New Products Showcase gets, it becomes the most efficient way to reach both buyers and media and put your company in the mix of what is new at the Show.
SN: What is the hottest new program for exhibitors at the 2013 SEMA Show?
TG: We’ve worked with our general-services contractor, Freeman, to come up with a couple of exhibitor incentives. For those with booths of 400 sq. ft. or less of exhibit space, the first 500 lbs. of freight they ship to the Show will be delivered to their booth at no charge, regardless of how the freight was shipped to the Show. For exhibitors that are larger than that, we have a carpet incentive in which the exhibitor can save up to 30% off published carpet rates.
Our previous freight incentive had several specific qualifiers and, in the end, only benefited about 20% of our exhibitors. With this new program, we estimate that between 80%–90% of our companies will see savings.
SN: What are the most important sources of information for exhibitors at the 2013 SEMA Show besides the Exhibitor Services Manual?
TG: SEMAShow.com and the Exhibitor Services Manual are number-one on the list, so I have to mention them again. But SEMA eNews—the association’s electronic newsletter—and SEMA Show e-mails are close seconds. I joke that if you’re ever going to read e-mails that come from SEMA, the ones that come during the two months leading up to the SEMA Show are the ones you need to open. That’s when we’re telling you everything you need to know about what’s happening at the Show. Subscriptions to SEMA eNews are available through a link on the SEMA website.
SN: How can buyers make the most out of their limited time with so many exhibitors to see?
TG: Buyers should make it part of their plans to visit the New Products Showcase. We’ve organized everything there to make it easy to see what’s new, allowing buyers to compile a list of the booths they want to visit. I also recommend studying the floorplan. We’ve made it easy to use the floorplan to research exhibitors by category and market segment, so it’s a great tool to narrow down the specific companies a buyer may wish to see. We have a feature on the floorplan where you can click a market segment and the pertinent booths are highlighted. You can see where they are in the hall, and when you click on the booth, you receive further information about the company.
Buyers should also look at the press releases that are available on SEMAShow.com so that they can track new offerings that companies will be displaying. They may find something that sparks their interest and causes them to follow up with an exhibitor on-site and learn more.
SN: What is the best new program for buyers at the 2013 SEMA Show?
TG: SEMA has a new program called SEMA MBR (Member Buyer Rewards) that we think will add a lot of value to the total Show experience. SEMA-member buyers will have access to exclusive benefits and amenities, such as priority access lines, preferred seating at events and enhanced services in the Members Lounge. Pre-registered member buyers will receive program details and a special SEMA MBR Rewards Pass in October just prior to the Show. A non-member buyer who wants to become a SEMA MBR can visit our on-site Association Center located in the Grand Lobby.
SN: Where can buyers find information about the SEMA Show, such as exhibitor locations, educational opportunities and the answers to frequently asked questions?
TG: SEMAShow.com is the key for all the information that a buyer needs to be efficient, effective and successful at the SEMA Show. We update the site frequently. We know that people use it as a resource, so we treat it as such. Buyer information is located under the Attendee tab on the site.
SN: What is the most important thing that media attendees should know about covering the SEMA Show?
TG: The Media Center is once again being sponsored by Continental Tires, but we have changed its location to N110, an area off the Grand Lobby between the North and Central Halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center. It used to be located on the Skybridge between Central and South Halls, but the Show has grown so large that we needed to convert that area into exhibit space. We have gone to great lengths to ensure that the new Media Center will have all the amenities it has always had and that it is centrally located so that members of the media can cover the Show as effectively as they have in the past.
SN: What sources should the media turn to when they have questions or needs that aren’t covered on SEMAShow.com?
TG: Our public-relations department is here to make the media’s life easy. Della Domingo (firstname.lastname@example.org), our PR director, and Monika Earle (email@example.com), our PR coordinator, can answer any questions the media might have. They are readily available before the SEMA Show via e-mail as well as on-site in the Media Center to help facilitate media participation in the Show.
SN: Are there any post-Show programs that exhibitors, buyers or the media should be aware of?
TG: There are several. First, we put a lot of information on www.semaphotos.com that includes photos of all of the cars at the Show as well as all of the products from the New Products Showcase. Secondly, the lead-retrieval and product-information reports that link buyers to the participants in the New Products Showcase are made available in the weeks after the Show. For buyers and the media, these reports will organize all of the products you scanned in the showcase and wanted information about. And for exhibitors, they show you the attendees and media that expressed an interest in your products. Finally, SEMA eNews and SEMA News are incredible resources for post-Show information. We will include wrap-up information and analytics about the 2013 Show but also give you a head start in your planning for 2014.
The industry gets stronger with each passing Show, and we are always trying to add programs and services which help in that process.