2014 Sema Show overview plus 5 tips for attendees

by Tom Zoebelein - Tue, Nov 4, 2014 2:59 PM

SEMA 2014 overview

What’s new at SEMA this year? That is the question that everybody wants to discover as they head into the halls of the 2014 SEMA tradeshow.

The answer is: EVERYTHING is new at SEMA. This is the place for all vendors of the automotive industry to showcase their products and services, including any new ones that have been developed in the last year.

SEMA is broken down into groups with certain ‘Industry Segments’ being assigned to each hall.


In the pavilion, you will find first-time exhibitors. Booth size is limited in this hall, making it is a quick one to walk, but don’t let the size fool you. This hall is very worthwhile to visit, as these exhibitors are new to SEMA and they ALL have new things to showcase.

North Hall

As you work your way from right to left at the SEMA show, the North Hall is the first one you come to. This hall holds all tools and equipment, restyling, and most importantly for us: collision repair and refinishing. Each year, our segment grows in footprint and this year is no exception.

What is new for Auto Body shops at the North Hall?
For collision repairers, the new FORD F-150 is all the talk right now due to its new all aluminum construction. Even though aluminum use is specific to this vehicle for the Ford line up, you can bet that more manufacturers will begin using this material in the very near future. Also, if you are a collision repairer, I-Car is offering a complete suite of 2015 Ford F-150 presentations, discussions and training at the 2014 SEMA Show.

2015 Ford F150 at the 2014 SEMA trade show

In these courses, members of Ford’s Service Engineering team will present their 2015 F-150 Collision Repair Program, which will cover training, equipment and tooling recommendations to properly repair aluminum on the 2015 Ford F-150. The presentation will take place at the SEMA Collision Repair & Refinish stage in the North Hall. No additional registration is required to attend the Ford presentations.

The 2015 F-150 Collision Repair Program Presentation Schedule is as follows:

    Tuesday, Nov. 4 from 12:30-1 p.m.

    Wednesday, Nov. 5 from 9:30-10 a.m.

    Thursday, Nov. 6 from 10-10:45 a.m. (hosted by SCRS)

    Friday, Nov. 7 from 1:30-2 p.m.

Additionally, I-CAR will host its popular six-credit hour course: 2015 Ford F-150 Structural Repair (FOR06), This course satisfies training for I-CAR collision repair and insurance roles, including aluminum structural technician. Students will learn material-specific training that highlights the unique processes associated with aluminum repair of the Ford F-150. The course will be offered over two half-days on Nov. 4 at 1 p.m., and Nov. 5 at 8 a.m. Those interested in attending can register by contacting I-CAR Customer Care directly at (800) 422-7872. SEMA 2014 registration is not required to register for the course.

Central Hall
I’m a hot rod guy, and this hall makes me giddy just writing about it. Here is where all the hot rod parts vendors are, where the celebrities are, and where all the amazing show cars are that you have likely read about in magazines, or will read about over the course of the year. Here is your chance to see them, smell them (there is nothing like the smell of a fresh build), and photograph them form any angle you choose.

Central Hall is also where you will find all your OEM manufacturers displays such as Ford, GM, Toyota and so on. You could spend two days in Central hall easily.

custom Chevy C10 truck at the 2014 Sema trade show

South Hall Lower
The extreme right hand side of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) is the South Hall, and it is the only two-floor hall in the convention center. In the lower section, you are going to find your wheel and tire manufactures, and everybody from the OEM suppliers to the aftermarket manufacturers.

South Hall Upper
This is the off-roader section. Here you will find accessories for SUV’s trucks and “powersport utility vehicles”. This is also where you want to go if you need help from the SEMA show business services people (if you are an exhibitor).

Navigating Your Way Through SEMA

Now that you know your way around the show, remember that the average attendee walks around 8-10 miles a day and you need a PLAN if you want to make sure you get everything done while you are at SEMA.

exterior shot of the 2014 SEMA tradeshow

As I mentioned last week, I am a SEMA show veteran of about 14 years. I have been going to SEMA since the late 1990’s and I know how hard it can be on your body, as well as on your schedule.  As day one of SEMA unfolds, here are some quick and early tips to help you survive the SEMA show 2014.

Bonus: Here are my top five tips on how to survive the SEMA show:

Tip #1. Maps are your friends at SEMA

Get a map. Even if you have been to this show as many times as I have, you will notice that SEMA management has a tendency to move things around. Some exhibitors come and go, economic conditions can adjust exhibitor booth floor plans, and hot trends can often dictate how large of a space is allotted to a particular subject matter.

I remember when the larger than life rims and spinners started appearing on cars and at the SEMA show. The first year, it filled half of the first floor of the North Hall. The next year, it was easily ¾ of the upper South Hall. This year, you can find the wheel and tire guys in the bottom of the South Hall. So, as I said, things move around, and you will need a map. You can pick one up anywhere. They are near every single hall entrance, and at Registration.

Tip #2 Look up for navigation

This might seem a bit obvious, but if you are looking for a particular booth number, don’t forget to look up. There are signs hanging from the ceiling that show the floor numbers of the booths, which will also help you if you have a map.

I was in the tradeshow business for nearly two decades and I can tell you that the aisle signage is sometimes even better than a map. Why? Because if you know roughly what booth numbers you are looking for, when using the overhead signage as your “north star” of sorts, you can cut out a ton of walking by cutting through booths in as straight of a line as possible.

Tip#3 Look down to fine tune your direction.

There are stickers on the floor in front of every booth, which show that booth's own number. Remember that these booth numbers are not exactly consecutive. A tradeshow divides spaces up in 10’x10’ sections. So a booth with a 50’ length will gobble up five of the digits in a booth number. Even with all the years in the business that I have, I still have a hard time judging booth sizes by sight, so just know that if you are booth 12500, and you need to get to 12580, it could literally be one or two booths over.

Tip#4 Listen to your body.

If you live in another time zone, especially you East Coasters, like me, your body doesn’t know that you are in Las Vegas until you have been there a few days. I find myself waking very early in the first days of SEMA, well before the show opens. I usually go ahead and get dressed, eat breakfast and spend the extra hours getting work done and planning my day.

The other thing that will happen is you will be hungry for lunch at weird times. First of all, don’t forget to eat during the day, but secondly, don’t wait to eat just because it isn’t lunchtime yet in Las Vegas. I find that I have more energy and feel better if I just listen to my body and not worry about what time it is in Las Vegas. As an added bonus, the lines won’t be as long wherever you decide to stop and refuel.

Tip#5. Before heading out for the day, look online.

It is so easy to loose track of time ate SEMA. You very rarely go outside during the day, and time can easily creep up on you. A quick search online of important times will help you fine-tune your schedule.

Set alarms on your phone for important meetings, allow yourself ample time to be there, and make sure that you are doing your walking in the same hall as your meeting. A quick trip online before you head out can really maximize your efficiency at the show.

So here is to day one of SEMA, we hope you are having a great time and are being very productive. Please be sure to stop by booth number 11247 and say hi to Curt, Greg, Andrew and Jennifer.