SEMA, part 3Written by Stephen Dunsford
SEMA is big. It fills the Las Vegas Convention Center- practically wall to wall. The center has 2 million square feet of exhibit space and a grand lobby with more than 225,000 square feet. All of this was used for SEMA. There were even booths outside! The parking lot had drifting at one end of the building and courses to drive new Chevy car lines at the other end. The sidewalks outside and the concourses inside were lined with show cars. The AAPEX show was much of the same but it has to be held at the Sands Expo Center which is 1.8 million square feet!
The schedule for all the different things going on read more like a novel. Just the celebrity appearance listing fills three pages- both sides with small print! Not only did businesses have their booths, but would use the meeting rooms at the center or have after hour dinners at other locations. All throughout the show the exhibitors had product demonstrations, hands-on activities, give-aways and a whole mess of things to entertain the visitors. There was never nothing to do for five days.
I missed a lot.
This is not to say I did not see a lot. It is virtually impossible to see everything. But I had made some mental notes while at the show and on the flight home on how to do more the next time.
Utilize the Show's Sites
SEMA, AAPEX and both Convention Centers have large websites chock full of helpful information. The folks of SEMA have an extensive website. There is almost as much stuff on the site as there is at the show. It could take many hours just to view all they have to offer. Here you can plan out and highlight all the exhibits and get their locations. You can prioritize which you would like to see first and go from there. The map of the show will help you orient yourself. (This is critical as you can easily get yourself turned around if you do not understand how everything is organized. I did. Many times.)
The Convention Centers supply quite a bit of services to help out the convention goer. They are no strangers to shows of this size and they have built up a list of services to make your visit as care free as it can be. Las Vegas is built upon the service industry [gambling and prostitution too] and they know how to take care of people!
Peruse the sites for SEMA, AAPEX, The Las Vegas Convention Center and the Sands Expo Center. It would not hurt to look around the website of the hotel you are staying. They may have a few perks there too. The hotels thrive on large conventions and they are eager to offer accoutrements to the show visitors to keep them coming back.
Use Your Time Wisely
If you are fortunate to be able to be there all five days of the event you just might be able to see everything. Not for long, mind you, but you can do it. If you are there to just grab the marketing materials and load up on give-aways this is an attainable goal. This is not what it is about though.
AAPEX is only the first three days. Do that first. For a media person, you will probably not find this too exciting. There are some cool cars and celebrities do make appearances there, but they are few and far between. However, it is all easily covered in one day if you hustle.
SEMA is essentially broken into five sections. There are three halls, north, central and south. The hallways that connect the halls is called the Concourse and it is filled with cars as well. (It is not fair to call these hallways. I've seen wedding receptions held in smaller spaces) The stuff outside is large enough to be considered its own section. There are booths and cars galore here. It is a large car show outside.
If you have a media pass take advantage of the hour before and hour after privilege. I have given this some thought. To begin the day, most might think heading off to find a secluded space with no other photographers around would be the best bet. I beg to differ. Start at the entrance and work your way to the far end. You may not get it all covered in that half hour, but you can continue shooting spectator free while the public slowly streams in. It will take them a while to reach where you are.
Ship your gear via FedEx to the convention center. This will allow you to check more luggage or even go without the fuss of checked luggage altogether.
You can use the coat and baggage check at the center. (It's not too far from FedEx) Grab your kit, stow your cases for the day. I am not sure, but they may even let you store it overnight!
This is something else I just recently discovered. On Friday, the last day they have a cruise. You can stand in one place, relax and let all the cars parade past.
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