SEMA Show Supercharges with Record Number of Exhibitors

November 1, 2012

Burning rubber, work-of-art rides and a Hackathon were just part of the action at the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association (SEMA) Show that took place Oct. 30-Nov. 2 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The anchor of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week, this more of an immersive automotive experience than just a trade show attracted  130,000-plus attendees, spanned just over a million net square feet and set a record with 2,257 exhibitors,  about a 100 more than the best show in 2007.

"This a blockbuster show," said Peter MacGillivray, SEMA vice president of events and communications.

Hurricane Sandy, which hit the East Coast a day before the show opened and caused thousands of flight cancellations, didn't seem to have significantly affected attendance at SEMA, MacGillivray said.

"We are lucky that the airlines and hotels have been very flexible to accommodate people,” he added. “Also, many attendees came early. With a catastrophic storm, there's that much more relief that people see value in our show and are finding ways to get here."

Even with all the hot rods and muscles cars in the limelight, much of the attention went to mobile electronics and vehicle technology.

"Automobiles now are rolling computers," MacGillivray said. "As an industry, we need to be able to demonstrate that we can do for consumers who are trying to modify their vehicles. We currently have 10 automakers at the show. Some mobile electronics exhibitors have more launches here than at other shows."

The new SEMA Vehicle Technology Center in the middle of the Central Hall offered attendees educational sessions about what's hot on the tech front as well as ways to leverage new technologies and business opportunities in integrating consumer and automotive electronics.  

Google, for example, presented a keynote on Self-Driving Car Technology, highlighting the company's pilot project with self-driving cars cruising the streets of San Francisco. It also is preparing to launch a new project in Ann Arbor, Mich., with vehicles being able to sense each other wirelessly and warn drivers about potential collisions.

Back at SEMA, super geeks could show off their mobile app programming skills in Pioneer's Hackathon geared at promoting integrating between mobile apps and vehicle technology, with more than $50,000 in prizes at stake.

Steady recovery also seemed to be the buzz on the packed showfloor lined with shiny rims, wild custom machinery and revved-up concept rides.

Exhibitor Mike Galvin with Featherline Inc. is planning to bring a 53-foot semitrailer to their space next year to better compete amid the sensory overload.

"It draws more people in," said Galvin, a 20-year show veteran. "The quality of the traffic is still up there but the amount has been less. If it wasn't a good show, I wouldn't have been coming back all these years."

Canadian attendee Mark Drinkwalter, with Marken Performance and Restoration, has been attending the show since 1995.

"I come to get new catalogues, see new products and reconnecting with the vendors," he said. "It seems busier than last year. There's so much to take everything in."

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Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.