Exhibit Like a Pro

SEMA SHOW crowd and exhibitors
››› The SEMA Show draws more than 130,000 attendees each year. The Show arms exhibitors with many cost-effective tools for connecting with the buyers they want to see.

FIVE Tried-and-True SEMA Show Best Practices to Save Money and Boost Your ROI

››› By Mike Imlay

With the countdown on to the 2023 SEMA Show, industry manufacturers and suppliers are busily working on their exhibition strategies for the annual trade event, set for October 31–November 3 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. At press time, the Show was on track to top 2,000 exhibitors eager to launch their latest innovations, highlight existing products and strengthen business connections at the industry's premier trade gathering.

"The SEMA Show is one of the highest attended trade shows in the United States each year," said SEMA Trade Show Director Andy Tompkins, explaining the enthusiasm. "If you as an exhibitor are absent, then the narrative and perception of your business within the industry is out of your control, and possibly worse, it gives your competition the chance to tell a better story."

But more than just being there, experienced exhibitors know that ultimate return on investment (ROI) rests on solid pre-Show planning. The event attracts more than 130,000 attendees, including more than 70,000 buyers and decision-makers from around the world each year. That presents a massive potential audience, and there are tried and true ways for exhibitors to leverage it.

"The size of your exhibit is less important than the fact that you are at the Show, executing a game plan and following through on the business connections you make. That's the recipe for success," noted Tompkins. "Companies that approach SEMA Week passively can easily miss out on customers and prospects. Fortunately, the Show has many built-in features to help businesses of all sizes minimize overall costs while effectively amplifying their presence."

With that in mind, the following are some expert tips that will have your company exhibiting like a seasoned pro.

1. Take Advantage of Value-Added SEMA Show Programs

Of all the Show features that can boost traffic to your booth, the New Products Showcase remains in a class by itself. Year after year, surveys confirm that it is the No. 1 buyer destination—and often their first stop—at the Show.

"We promote the Showcase aggressively," explained Tompkins. "It highlights your new products and creates what we refer to as 'breadcrumbs' right to your booth." That's because each product gets a scannable code that links buyers to your place on the show floor via the SEMA Show app. Plus, Tompkins adds, "the first product you enter is free, with additional products costing $95 before October 6 and $150 after that. So it's a great opportunity to generate leads and exposure for very little cost, especially if you take advantage of early deadlines."

Beyond the Showcase, exhibitors can leverage other publicity tools. "When you purchase booth space, you automatically get a listing in the print and online Show directories, plus the mobile app. So make sure your company name, product categories, contact information and other data is up to date and correct," advised Tompkins.

Exhibitors can also submit free press releases to the SEMA Show Online Media Center in advance of SEMA Week to help build buzz.

"You can also increase your lead capture and the Show with our CSI lead retrieval program. It's an app-based tool that lets you scan a contact's badge to store and access their info. It's a great advantage for exhibitors," said Tompkins.

2. Use Proven Strategies to Pull Buyers to Your Booth

The key to attracting buyers at the Show is to actually start inviting them to your booth before the Show. "You really want to think about a 30-day plan leading up to the Show," recommended Tompkins. When exhibitors register for the Show, they gain access to tools allowing them to send alerts and registration links to customers. Any pre-Show publicity should include your booth number, new and featured products you plan to exhibit, and demonstrations or opportunities they'll encounter in your exhibit.

"Think deeply about the 'why' of visiting your booth," added Tompkins. "Will you have a show special? Anything unique that you're offering? An event that you're planning or celebrity signing or meet and greet? You want to differentiate yourself from the competition and neighboring booths."

Of course, at the SEMA Show, a vehicle display can speak volumes. "A vehicle in your booth will certainly draw attention. But even if you can't do that, you can feature or sponsor a vehicle elsewhere at the Show," Tompkins noted. Like products displayed in the New Products Showcase, feature vehicles have scannable codes that link to all the products and brands used in the vehicle build, along with the booth locations of the product suppliers.

››› Placing one or more new or feature products into the New Products Showcase is among the most successful strategies for luring attendees to a booth. Don't miss taking advantage of it.

3. Plan, Budget and Leverage Resources to Control Show Costs

Lowering the costs associated with exhibiting begins with watching deadlines. "The most tangible opportunity is to make sure you order all your Freeman services before their September 28 discount deadline," Tompkins emphasized. "That actually delivers a 40% savings on basically any service you order, from material handling to having a sign hung over your booth—the whole host of services that Freeman offers."

"We also have material handling built into booth purchases. For example, if you have 400 sq. ft. or less of exhibit space, you get up to 500 lbs. of material handling at no extra cost. That means you can get most of your freight into the building for no additional cost."

Regularly consulting the SEMA Show Exhibitor Services Manual (ESM) will also help you stay on top of deadlines—and save you time and money in other ways.

Meanwhile, thinking carefully about your exhibit space can further control costs. Make a realistic appraisal of the staffing and display-related items you'll require. Assess your electrical, lighting and internet needs, along with any necessary signage, graphics, furnishings, literature and collateral or promotional items. Try to anticipate the booth traffic flow. Mock out your booth design well in advance of the Show to help brainstorm what you really need and eliminate waste.

"You can maximize savings by really streamlining things," underscored Tompkins. "Consider your goals: Do you need to accommodate multiple appointments at once? Do you need multiple sales stations? Would you like somebody to meet and greet your customers so they can make sure they're connecting with the right employee?"

The SEMA Show ESM also features a Budget Checklist to further help exhibitors control costs. "You really want to utilize our Budget Checklist because it's going to walk you through a whole series of ways you can plan and save money and time at the Show," said Tompkins. "One example is the different opportunities you have to ship your freight to the Show. If you utilize our advanced warehouse or ship to Show site, that can not only help you with setup, but maximize your time. With the advance warehouse, Freeman can guarantee the day your freight will arrive on the Show floor. You'll be ready to go. That's just one
money-saving tip."

Of course, exhibiting at the SEMA Show also involves transportation and accommodation expenses. Here again, Show management has worked to help exhibitors control their costs by negotiating discounted transportation and lodging packages with major airlines and key Las Vegas hotels. Alaska, Delta and United are among the airlines offering the discounted, round-trip airfares to Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, making hotel reservations in the "SEMA Show block" provides exhibitors with the most affordable and convenient options for a wide range of hotels located on and off the Strip while locking in guaranteed lowest rates. Many of the hotels offer easy access to the Las Vegas monorail system, further saving on commuting costs to and from the convention center and other city destinations. All these travel and lodging options can be found at

››› Booth demonstrations are a key advantage of face-to-face trade shows, and a prime way to pique buyer interest. Think carefully about the feng shui of your booth.

4. Work With Show Experts to Maximize Your ROI

"One often overlooked resource is our SEMA Show sales reps," said Tompkins. "I really want to emphasize turning to them because I don't think many exhibitors realize that they can just pick up the phone and call their rep at any time. Our reps are well-trained to help them through every phase of exhibiting and answer any questions or concerns."

Exhibitors can connect with their SEMA Show representatives through the SEMA website (www.SEMAShow.com/contact), its general phone number at 909-610-2030 by email at semashow@sema.org. No question or concern is too big or trivial for your rep to help with.

"We're always happy to answer any questions and help make sure you maximize your ROI on-site at the Show," Tompkins emphasized. "Plus, there's a Freeman concierge service that can answer questions and provide on-site tips to help save on setup costs. SEMA also shares tips through emails and regular SEMA News digital content leading up to the Show, so you'll want to tap in to those
resources too."

5. Explore Promotional Opportunities

It's a simple fact: booth promotion boosts traffic. A good exhibiting strategy will embrace pre-Show, on-site and post-Show follow-up, and sponsorships can play a important role.

"From a sponsorship perspective, SEMA offers a variety of opportunities," said Tompkins. "Whether through SEMA News, both the printed and digital versions, through the SEMA Show mobile app, or through a variety of other pre-Show communications, we can help you reach your audience before they arrive in Vegas."

"Once they're on-site, there's a whole other variety of potential touchpoints, including banners, aisle signs, billboards, carpet decals or meter boards—just all sorts of ways to reinforce your brand and booth location as people walk around
the Show."

Whether or not exhibitors take advantage of official SEMA Show programs, they should pay close attention to augmenting their promotional materials with digital assets like QR codes, which can help immerse their audience in a marketing experience. Pens, lanyards, tote bags and other keepsakes can also extend that brand messaging beyond the Show.

"When it comes to promotions or sponsorships, think about where you most need to engage your audience, where you need the most support," advised Tompkins. "I'd also stress that your SEMA Show rep can be your liaison here. They're adept at helping you customize your experience and choose the right sponsorship. Some opportunities can be bundled—things like aisle signs and being in the SEMA Show Directory and having a page in SEMA News or the SEMA Show Pocket Guide."

Moreover, there are SEMA Show promo packages tailored to any exhibitor size. One online promo tool costs just $545, and there are ways to get ads into SEMA News properties for less than $1,000. "For a relatively low investment, you're going to gain a much more visible presence," Tompkins explained.

››› Carefully watching deadlines and taking advantage of the Show's built-in discounts can save you time, money and effort on your move-in day, increasing your ROI.

Bonus Tip: Enhance Your Show Experience

Beyond the show floor, the SEMA Show offers countless networking opportunities,
demonstrations, vehicle displays and live-action features to keep you abreast of where the industry is headed. More than that, it offers world-class speaker presentations and educational seminars that can help advance your personal, business and employee-development goals. Best of all, most of them are free.

"Our educational opportunities embrace a lot of different ideas and practical instruction to become more successful in your business, learn digital marketing techniques, and advance a variety of other skills. And if you have people you're trying to grow, nurture and mentor, these are great tools that you can take advantage of," Tompkins pointed out.


When leveraged properly, a live trade event offers unmatched opportunity for face-to-face connections with existing and potential new business customers. Time and again—in both bullish and bearish markets—exhibiting at the SEMA Show has proven a sound investment for business growth.

"Sometimes in an uncertain economy, your reaction can be to make drastic cuts, sit things out, or avoid the additional investment it can take to reach out to customers before, during or after the Show," conceded Tompkins. "But consider that your customers are going to be looking for confidence from you as a brand. They want to know that you're going to be there for them, that you're there to answer questions, that you're going to be shipping the product that they need and rely on. So really, being at the SEMA Show offers a great return on investment. All it takes is the right strategy."

The SEMA Show Exhibitor Services Manual (ESM)

The ESM is a vital online information tool assembled by SEMA Show management to assist exhibitors with every phase of their Show experience. Consulting the manual early and often can help exhibitors save money, time and effort while maximizing return on investment. Organized for convenience, the ESM contains the following detailed categories of information:

  • Show Guidelines and Policies
  • Deadline Dates
  • Marketing Opportunities
  • Meeting-Room Applications
  • Vehicle/Car Display Opportunities
  • Target Times—When Your Freight Must Be at Your Booth
  • General Service Contractor Information
  • Shipping Information

"For exhibitors, the ESM is a one-stop guide to leveraging the Show," said SEMA Trade Show Director Andy Tompkins. "It includes a deadline checklist, which is a great way to make sure you're not missing any discount deadlines and other cost-saving opportunities."

To access this valuable planning resource, go to www.SEMAShow.com/ESM.


Industry Exhibitors and Buyers Geared Up for the 2023 SEMA Show

Eager to connect with buyers and media in person, introduce new products, develop relationships and tell their company stories, the 2023 SEMA Show was on track to exceed 2,000 exhibiting companies at this article's press time.

An up-to-date exhibitor list of the major automakers, iconic aftermarket brands, and new, first-time exhibitors confirmed for the Show can be viewed at www.SEMAshow.com/floorplan (below, left). Meanwhile, key buying organizations attending the Show can be found at www.SEMAshow.com/buyer-highlights.

Exhibiting at the SEMA Show puts your latest products in front of tens of thousands of qualified buyers from every segment of the specialty-equipment industry. If you haven't yet added your company to the roster, there's still time. Go to www.SEMAShow.com.