Last week’s SEMA Show is the crown jewel of the automotive aftermarket industry. The annual four-day event brings thousands of exhibitors and attendees from all over the world to the Las Vegas Convention Center.
From the moment the show opens its doors, there is a constant flow of people making their way through the halls and adjacent parking lots. Many stop to take photos of unique custom vehicles, or to check out the latest products. Most attendees walk the show with bags full of free swag they pick up. Everything from posters and t-shirts to pens and decals.
The event is a vehicle for exhibitors to introduce new products and announce partnerships. They drive traffic to their booths with celebrity signings and contests or giveaways. The first three days are trade only, and are not open to the public until the last day. However, the grounds surrounding the convention center can be accessed by anyone, so many exhibitors have a second presence outside.
One day at AAPEX
I spent a day at the AAPEX show at the Sands Convention Center. Regarded as the “boring” show, AAPEX is less glitz and glamour, but it’s where business gets done. I was fortunate to have a handful of good meetings, and I capped off my day by attending the Women in Auto Care awards.
In a predominately male industry, it is great that there is an organization that supports women at all levels within the market. With a strong scholarship program, many members become leaders and mentors to generations who will continue the work of women in the industry. I also was able to catch up with a friend and industry colleague Lauren Fix aka The Car Coach.
The best place to network in the industry
I’ve blogged about the importance of networking before. SEMA is a once-a-year opportunity to maintain already established connections and make new ones. Everywhere you turn, you are literally surrounded by the best in the industry. Thought leaders, influencers, inventors, owners, marketers and media. There are many official networking events, but the best moments usually happen by chance, and sometimes even in passing. A quick “Hi, how’s it going?” and then you’re off to the next meeting or booth.
I left this year’s SEMA/AAPEX Shows with over 70,000 steps logged and 31.46 miles. Unfortunately I didn’t get to connect with everyone on my list, but I did have a SEMA first. I did not take one photo of a car, truck or anything on wheels this year. Yes I was at the biggest car show of the year, but this time was about seeing people and taking it all in.