Thursday, November 3, 2022

Don't Do What This Guy Did: Lessons from a SEMA Show Misadventure

Trivia: In the beginning, the SEMA Show was held
in the basement of Dodger Stadium.
The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) hosts an annual trade event  show the first week of November. For years is has been the 3rd largest annual trade show in Vegas each year. The auto aftermarket is huge. This year 2400 companies are exhibiting. 71,000 companies have sent buyers from all over the world to do business in Vegas this week. There are also more than 3000 journalists and members of the media here as well.

In addition to the exhibition halls, there are seemingly countless seminars and opportunities to schmooze. This is a story about one of the seminars I attended. It is a true story. 

I do not recall the title of the workshop or the derelict -- I mean fellow -- who led it. What I remember most is that it was 8:00 a.m. on Friday morning and I just wasn't sure I had time to catch the seminar and then catch my flight. Nevertheless, I the topic appeared to have value and rather than stay out late on my last day in Vegas I packed and knocked off early Thursday evening.

The seminar was designed to bring companies together with racers and racing teams for potential sponsorship deals. The speaker hailed from L.A. and the write-up of seminar's content seemed promising. 

Waking early was not hard to do because of the internal time mechanism in my brain that is set to CST, two hours earlier than Vegas time. I flipped through emails, scarfed down some food and made my way to the convention center to find the room. When I arrived, anally punctual as usual, I was not surprised to find the room one-fourth to one-third full. Most looked a little ragged, which a week in Vegas can do to a person.  

Around five after eight, a young man stepped into the room and announced that the speaker had been delayed but was on his way. No one seemed too distressed because he would be here "any minute." 

By twenty after eight this fellow had twice more announced that he was on his way and "please don't leave." A couple of folks did leave at that point, but I dutifully waited, striking up conversations with a couple guys in nearby seats. 

Sure enough, our speaker did indeed arrive. Clean-shaven, with black wavy hair, solidly built, average height, he walked briskly to the front of the room where there was a TV with a VHS tape player. (This took place around twenty years ago.) Facing us now he opened his seminar with this statement. 

"I apologize for not having any handouts. My girlfriend and I were partying till four in the morning and the handouts were in the car, which she drove back to Los Angeles."

OK, so there are no handouts. And what? Did you just tell us that your partying was more important than this seminar?

Well, it gets worse. 

The speaker then asked us to watch a portion of a video on the topic he was going to address. When he slid the tape into the slot, however, it was not cued to the spot it was supposed to be. This set his teeth on edge as he tried fast-forwarding, then reversing, searching for the segment he wished to show. 

After an eternity of back and forth he ejected the tape and threw it across the front of the room against the wall while muttering expletives. 

Yes, this really happened. 

* * * *

Lesson: If you are going to make an important presentation, treat it like it is something important. Be prepared. Otherwise you are wasting people's time. People don't like it when you waste their time. It is disrespectful. 

* * * *

As I slipped out of the room I new that I'd have little trouble catching my plane. I was on my way.


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