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Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist based in San Francisco. Ed enjoys sports of all kinds and is a part time stand-up comedian.

 

He can be reached at era39@aol.com.

Thursday, 08 October 2020 16:39

Online and Just in Time: SEMA 2020 Becomes SEMA360

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SEMA’s Vice President of Events Tom Gattuso and his team tried to make SEMA 2020 happen, but when it looked impossible, they started developing SEMA360, a 100% virtual trade show. SEMA’s Vice President of Events Tom Gattuso and his team tried to make SEMA 2020 happen, but when it looked impossible, they started developing SEMA360, a 100% virtual trade show.

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You can put your gambling money back in your pocket and take a deep breath because you won’t have to rush around trying to find hotel rooms and flights again this year.

SEMA 2020 changed to SEMA360 on Aug. 5, when it was announced COVID-19 and concerns over the availability of facilities and services would make an in-person show impossible.

 

Instead of logging countless miles walking throughout the Las Vegas Convention Center and putting in 15- to 20-hour days, SEMA360---Nov. 2-6---will allow you to participate in the annual show, but from the comfort of your office or living room.

 

Touted as a “100% online trade-only event that focuses on an ecommerce marketplace, new products, vehicle builds and education for the automotive specialty equipment industry,” SEMA360 is breaking ground and changing the trade show industry through innovation.

 

SEMA360 will feature a simplified platform for manufacturers to showcase their new products and innovations, as well as efficient interaction between manufacturers and resellers for quality business exchange.

 

In addition, SEMA vehicle reveals from world-class builders will take place virtually; industry-leading education focused on professional development and new strategies will be more robust than ever.

 

And as always, SEMA’s media contacts will report news, products and innovations to a world-wide audience, according to a SEMA press release.

 

SEMA has survived through the Great Recession of 2008, the shooting at the Mandalay in 2013 and 9/11, but this was all-new territory for SEMA’s Vice President of Events Tom Gattuso and his team.

 

Even while the COVID-19 pandemic stretched into late July, the people at SEMA were still hopeful they could pull off the show for its 53rd consecutive year.

 

But when major companies opted out and the reality began to set in, Gattuso started looking at Plan B, and the result is SEMA360, an unprecedented completely virtual trade show.


Gattuso has been with SEMA for nearly two decades, but these are uncharted waters for even an industry veteran. He knew if the show couldn’t happen the same way it has since 1967, there was a viable alternative, but they would have to move quickly.

 

“We knew that with 90 days left, we had to make hard decisions,” he said. “We looked at several approaches and even considered holding it completely outdoors. With health and safety as a top priority, we studied several preventive measures to minimize risks for all those at the event, including required use of face coverings, addition of hand sanitizing stations, increased cleaning, one-way aisles and more. But in the end, it wasn’t going to happen, so we began pursuing Plan B.”

 

Gattuso knew that without SEMA, it would leave a void in the automotive industry that couldn’t be filled easily.

 

“Our role has always been to represent our membership the best way we can and help them to succeed in their businesses,” he said. “The SEMA show benefits the industry at large, and holding it every year in the fourth quarter is a major deal for body shops. They can stay ahead of trends and acquire new technology that can help them for the next three to five years and even longer.

 

"So, that’s why we came up with SEMA360 where attendees and exhibitors can do almost all of the same things they could at the actual show. SEMA360 addresses that need by leveraging SEMA’s exclusive buyer database to connect manufacturers with resellers.

 

“We are comfortable where we are with this new digital component,” Gattuso said. “Much of the work we’re doing now will be in place for many years to come and will continually bring value to the whole SEMA experience. We’re investing in our future and seeing some positive signs as a result. We will have many of the majors participating at SEMA360 and although our goals are modest, we are very pleased with the industry’s reaction to date.”

The SEMA360 Education Program will still feature more than 30 professional development seminars and candid conversations with industry-leading celebrities and personalities. Attendees will be able to sign up for an unlimited number of seminars at no additional cost, when registering to participate in SEMA360.


SEMA Senior Manager of Professional Development Gary Vigil said while circumstances will prevent in-person educational sessions, SEMA remains committed to helping our industry members succeed and prosper.

 

“Each educational session in SEMA360 was carefully crafted to help attendees make smarter business decisions, and offers the exciting opportunity to hear stories and advice from a diverse collection of highly successful, entrepreneurial leaders.”

 

Unlike the SEMA Show, where vehicle space is limited and vehicle applications must be submitted by a participating manufacturer, the SEMA360 Builder Showcase will enable vehicle builders the opportunity to enter vehicles directly into the program.

“We’re excited to open up the SEMA360 Builder Showcase to all the talented builders across our industry,” Gattuso said. “We wanted to put a spotlight on the trends and innovation that go into these vehicle builds every year while highlighting the people who bring the creations to life. This is truly a worldwide platform to show off the passion and creativity SEMA Week has become known for. The support we have had for SEMA360 has been tremendous, and we can’t wait to see what this new Showcase feature will bring.”

 

SEMA360 recently published a list of things to do during SEMA360 to get the most out of this completely virtual online event.


“Get your workspace ready for five days focused on new products and feature vehicles. Make sure you have a reliable computer. Prepare a spot on your hard drive to download brochures and sell sheets from manufacturers. Check your internet connection. Have a camera, microphone and speakers on your computer so you can participate in optional video chats.

 

"Consider getting blue light glasses to ease the strain on your eyes. A comfortable chair will make the experience much more enjoyable. Have a plan. Remember to schedule breaks when you get up and walk around and stretch your hands and fingers. Also, block times on your calendar to participate in the seminars you don’t want to miss, and for browsing the New Products Showcase, Builder Showcase and Manufacturer Showcase pages.”

 

No name badges, no Cirque de Soleil shows, no monster buffets and no industry cocktail parties until next year---hopefully. Say goodbye to SEMA 2020 and hello to SEMA360.

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