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Is SEMA Worth It? What About AAPEX?

If you work in the parts and accessories industry, you probably have mixed feelings about SEMA and AAPEX. Either:

  1. You’ve never been to SEMA or AAPEX and you really want to attend, or
  2. You pray that somehow the show is cancelled so you don’t have to go again

At Spork, we have nothing but love for the SEMA and AAPEX shows. Still, most of the people we know in the industry are over it.

Accessories manufacturer displays their products at SEMA

What Makes SEMA So Bad? Or AAPEX?

Short answer: It’s too much.

  • Too many exhibitors
  • Too many floors in too many buildings
  • Too many companies doing anything they can think of to get your attention
  • Too many people and too much walking
  • Too many vehicles to see, and too many customizers that don’t bother to list what parts they installed on their show vehicle
  • Too many people trying to stuff their goody bags with free tchotchkes
  • Too many media folks with too many cameras
  • Too many people in line for coffee whenever you need a pick-me-up
  • Too many low cost manufacturers from overseas selling garbage quality parts

And so on.

If you didn’t go to SEMA in 2021, you missed the Sno-Gremlin

Still, You Should Absolutely Go To SEMA and AAPEX

Despite the long list of negatives, if you’re an executive in the parts industry, you need to go to SEMA and AAPEX. If you’re just getting started in your career, it’s a great place to learn. And if you’ve been around long enough to know some people, it’s a great place to network, touch base, etc.

SEMA and AAPEX is where a lot of deals are made. Every year, I drag myself to SEMA and AAPEX, and every year I come back with new business. And I can’t list the number of Spork clients who have attended SEMA and landed new suppliers, dealers, better pricing, and other business-related benefits. Everyone in the industry (myself included) likes to complain, but SEMA and AAPEX are where a lot of business gets done.

And even companies that drop six figures on the show (booth + staffing + travel and meal expenses add up quick) often report great results and ROI when I ask them how they did.

SEMA and AAPEX Survival Tips

I’ve only been to SEMA and AAPEX about 10 times, so I’m by no means an expert. Still, I’ve learned a few things. Here are my tips for anyone who hasn’t been before:

  1. Forget that you’re in Vegas. Pretend you’re in Cleveland, and that you have to be in your hotel room by 10pm no matter what (you’ll thank me).
  2. Book your dinner reservations weeks in advance. It’s hard to get a table at a good place and reasonable time less than a month out.
  3. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes. If you can walk 10 miles a day in your suit and dress shoes for 3 days straight, good for you. Otherwise, you want to wear casual shoes and comfortable clothes.
  4. The AMEX Lounge is a great place to grab a coffee and sit down. It’s free if you have an AMEX gold card (or higher).
  5. Stay at the Westgate (SEMA) or The Venetian (AAPEX). Rooms go fast because it’s incredibly convenient compared to the monorail, taking the bus, or waiting in the taxi line or for a rideshare.
  6. Breakfast is a great business meal. Dinner is what everyone wants to do, but breakfast options are plentiful and most people are free then.
  7. Talk to people in line and be friendly. It’s surprisingly easy to bump into someone who knows someone, and if you’re always cordial it can pay off in surprising ways.
  8. I like Tuesday at AAPEX. It’s a smaller show, it’s the busiest day for AAPEX, and one day is usually enough.
  9. Friday at SEMA is open to the public. The last day of the SEMA show is open to the public (for a fee). I did one Friday a few years ago, and I haven’t needed to do another one.
  10. Start every day early. The show doesn’t open until 9am, so if you’re up early you can check email, get some coffee, etc. and be ready to hit the show right after it opens.
  11. There are free educational sessions. A lot of people don’t know it, but SEMA has free educational presentations. I’ve never been a fan personally, but SEMA isn’t all fancy cars and fancy booths.

Disclaimer: Spork Marketing is a SEMA member, but this is not a sponsored or coordinated blog post.

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