First-Time Exhibitor Prepping

 
EVENTS
 

First-Time Exhibitor Prepping

Making the Most of the 2015 SEMA Show
  SEMA Show Floor
The 2015 SEMA Show is on track to draw more than 2,400 exhibitors and more than 60,000 buyers. Last year, nearly 90% of buyers who attended the SEMA Show said that they planned to purchase products from exhibitors. With a little preparation, even first-time exhibitors can take full advantage of those sales opportunities at what has become the largest annual gathering of small businesses in the United States.
   

The 2015 SEMA Show, to be held November 3–6 at the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), is on track to draw more than 2,400 exhibitors and more than 60,000 buyers. Those buyers will be in search of the newest automotive specialty-equipment products to sell to consumers during the coming year, and additional thousands of media representatives will be looking for innovative products to publicize. Last year, nearly 90% of buyers who attended the SEMA Show said that they planned to purchase products from exhibitors. With a little preparation, even first-time exhibitors can take full advantage of those sales opportunities at what has become the largest annual gathering of small businesses in the United States.

First-time exhibitors—and all exhibitors, really—should begin their 2015 SEMA Show preparations by reading the Exhibitor Services Manual (ESM), which is available online at www.SEMAShow.com/esm. The ESM is the SEMA Show bible for exhibiting companies. It contains information about virtually every item any exhibitor needs in order to set a budget, acquire booth space, set up and coordinate displays and garner sales leads.

The manual offers information on programs and provides advice on everything from pre-Show promotion and use of the online media center to sponsorship and advertising opportunities that attract maximum attention.

Exhibitor Services Manual
The Exhibitor Services Manual contains information about virtually every item any exhibitor needs in order to set a budget, acquire booth space, set up and coordinate displays and garner sales leads.
 
   

The first stop in the ESM should be the “About the Show” section, which is the top tab in the online manual’s navigation menu. This section is designed to provide a comprehensive planning strategy for a successful exhibit, including checklists for budgets and deadlines and where to find expert resources for every need and contingency. One of the most important first contacts at the SEMA Show is the exhibitor’s floor manager, who assists exhibitors as a liaison to all the services they need to assure a smooth move in and move out.

The floor managers are listed in the ESM by Show section, and they have desks in each hall of the Show. They will be touring the Show floor and introducing themselves on-site, and exhibitors should additionally connect with their SEMA sales representatives, also listed in the ESM, who can help them acclimate to the LVCC and SEMA Show setup.

The deadline checklist is particularly important. It can help exhibitors stay organized and is also tied to discounts. What’s startling is how many exhibitors overlook the available savings. Last year, 47% of exhibitors took advantage of early-order discounts—which means that 53% missed the deadline dates and paid premium prices! Every exhibitor can—and should—save big by paying attention to the deadline checklist, and it should be reviewed on a weekly basis in the months preceding the SEMA Show.

The ESM also includes lists, links and contact information for official event service providers. These approved vendors have been vetted for ethical business practices, and they offer the best value through pre-negotiated rates. Beware of unofficial vendors offering deals that appear too good to be true, because they may be neither good nor valid. SEMA-approved vendors provide high levels of customer service and the confidence that they will deliver the services exhibitors need. Especially pertinent is securing hotel rooms early and through the official housing provider, Travel Planners, to avoid losing your hotel room and your money at the last minute.

The 2015 SEMA Show will also include a new expansion area adjacent to the South Hall. This new location for first-time and featured exhibitors is known as the Performance Pavilion and will be located near shuttle bus, taxi and limo drop-off and pickup points, making it a primary thoroughfare into the SEMA Show.

New Products Showcase

  New Products Showcase
An estimated 80% of buyers find out about new companies by visiting the New Products Showcase. It is one of the best bang-for-the-buck exposure opportunities for first-time exhibitors at the SEMA Show.
   

The New Products Showcase is the number-one buyer and media destination at the SEMA Show, and a majority of buyers find out about new companies by visiting the Showcase. First-time exhibitors often get caught up in preparations for the SEMA Show and discount the value of putting a product into the Showcase, but it is one of the best bang-for-the-buck exposure opportunities at the Show.

Every exhibitor is entitled to place one item into the Showcase free (subsequent entries are $75 each), which provides a unique opportunity to increase exposure and gain additional publicity. The Showcase includes programs for exhibitors with all-new products as well as those who are promoting previously introduced products.

For 2015, the New Products Showcase will be housed directly between South Hall and Central Hall in an area known as the Skybridge—one of the highest-traffic areas in the LVCC. Buyers and media can use ultra-convenient electronic scanners to select products in the Showcase that they want more information about, so it’s imperative that all exhibitors, but especially first-timers, utilize the showcase to bring traffic to their booths and help generate leads.

In addition to the exposure benefits of the New Products Showcase, displaying there also qualifies new products for an award as a Best New Product of the SEMA Show. The awards are announced at the New Products Breakfast, held Tuesday morning, 7:30 a.m.–9:00 a.m., at the Westgate Las Vegas Casino & Hotel, Event Center South. Products are judged in 16 award categories, and each category will have one winner and two runners-up. For more information about entering the New Products Showcase, visit www.SEMAShow.com/new-products.

All of the new products will also be featured on the latest SEMA Show mobile app. Each will include a photo, a product description and information about the exhibitor who entered the product. The products will be searchable by company and by product. The mobile app has become a yearlong tool for both buyers and exhibitors. The app is available free of charge through iTunes and Android stores (search 2015 SEMA Show). Those who downloaded previous SEMA Show apps will need to download the new one for this year. Exhibitors should also publicize their participation in the Show by engaging in social media, using the hashtag #sema2015.

Press Releases

Another prime publicity opportunity is submitting a press release to the online media center. Such releases typically reveal new products being introduced at the Show, including a description and photo of the product. They may also announce Show specials that the exhibitor may offer in its booth (75% of buyers indicated that they took advantage of a special offer during the 2014 Show), new programs or other company developments. Visit www.SEMAShow.com/node/add/press to post a release, and post early so that you meet editors’ deadlines.

Hard copy or digital releases in the form of flash drives or DVDs may also be distributed at the on-site SEMA Show Media Center, which is available exclusively to credentialed media. Editors and reporters use the center as a workspace that features computers, dedicated WiFi, lounge areas, exhibitor press materials and more. The Media Center will be housed in Room S220 on the Skybridge, immediately adjacent to the New Products Showcase. Exhibitors may bring copies of their press releases for distribution to the Media Center during the hours of operation detailed at www.SEMAShow.com/media.

Generating and Following Up on Buyer Leads

SEMA Show Floor
Allowing exhibitors to gather contact information from buyers interested in products is one of the SEMA Show’s primary functions. Countertop lead-retrieval devices can be used to scan each buyer’s badge to electronically capture business and contact data.
 
   

Business is the name of the game at the SEMA Show, and gathering contact information for buyers interested in exhibitors’ products is one of the event’s primary functions. Some exhibitors rely on writing the information down or collecting business cards, but the ESM contains instructions for renting countertop lead-retrieval devices that can be used to scan each buyer’s badge to electronically record business and contact data. There is now even a smartphone app that uses the phone’s camera function to read the barcode on the buyer’s SEMA Show badge. A description in the ESM shows how to download the app.

The app and other devices available from CompuSystems, SEMA’s official registration provider, are part of a suite of products designed to help exhibitors convert booth visits into sales. The lead-retrieval products help capture and qualify leads on the Show floor, and exhibitors who have used the devices also have access to the myLeads follow-up service when the Show ends.

Buyers report that they are expecting to be followed up with in the weeks after the SEMA Show, and it is more important than ever in this technology age to do so in a timely manner so that you are top of mind for buyers who’ve shown interest in your products. To learn more, visit www.SEMAShow.com/sites/default/files/pdfs/lead-retrieval.pdf.

Displaying a Vehicle

In addition to its business value, the SEMA Show is also one of the world’s most exclusive car shows. It is open only to industry professionals and houses some of the world’s most innovative vehicles. Exhibitors should take care that the vehicles they either display in a booth or endorse as a feature vehicle are treated as extensions of their exhibit space. A vehicle that wouldn’t be representative of the exhibitor’s company in the booth likely shouldn’t be showcased as a feature vehicle either.

Just putting a sticker of the exhibiting company’s logo in a window is not representative of the company’s brand. But a vehicle that is outfitted with appropriate product can help showcase the company and attract interested buyers. There are strict rules regarding the branding of non-exhibiting manufacturers on these vehicles. (See the Vehicles/Car Display Opportunities tab in the online ESM, where you’ll also find a feature-vehicle application form as well as a booth-vehicle application form.)

SEMA exhibitors and car builders should also consider entering their vehicles in the 2015 Battle of the Builders competition. Last year, more than 125 vehicles took part. They were pared down to the top 10 finalists by the editors of three leading automotive magazines, and then the finalists themselves judged each others’ vehicles to determine the ultimate winner.

SEMA Cruise and SEMA Ignited

  SEMA Cruise, SEMA Ignited
The SEMA Ignited post-SEMA Show extravaganza includes food, music, celebrities, iconic builders and displays. The event gives exhibitors a chance to show off their vehicles—and thus their products—to the public after four days of trade-only exposure.
   

The top vehicles in the Battle of the Builders competition will be on display at SEMA Ignited and will be filmed by the Velocity Network for repeated broadcasts throughout 2016.

At the close of the SEMA Show on Friday afternoon, hundreds of cars and trucks pour out the doors of the LVCC to join the SEMA Cruise, a procession of the world’s most innovative vehicles that draws thousands of spectators and provides yet another benefit to brand awareness for exhibitors. The cruise route this year will terminate at the Gold Lot across the street from the LVCC and will lead up to the second annual SEMA Ignited after party.

The SEMA Ignited post-SEMA Show extravaganza includes food, music, celebrities, iconic builders and displays. The event gives exhibitors a chance to show off their vehicles—and thus their products—to the public after four days of trade-only exposure.

New Information Weekly

The weeks leading up to the SEMA Show are crucial for gathering information and honing exhibitor preparations. It’s the most critical time to watch for announcements from the SEMA Show via e-mail, the association’s SEMA eNews newsletter and SEMA News magazine. All contain money-saving announcements pertinent to the Show along with direct messages from the Show organizers to provide participants with pertinent deadline information, special programs and unique opportunities that will help exhibitors succeed.

Also watch those sources for announcements about this year’s SEMA Show Industry Awards Banquet, to be held on Thursday evening. Past headline attractions at the banquet have included Jay Leno, Sinbad and George Carlin. Tickets are free to exhibitors based on booth size and include dinner and great networking opportunities. Also keep an eye out for the 2015 educational sessions, which cover everything from optimizing retail operations to social-media marketing and advancements in technology. Many of the sessions are conveniently scheduled Monday before the SEMA Show opens and/or early in the mornings so that exhibitors may attend.

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