The SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Show was held again this year at the Las Vegas Convention Center from October 31 through November 3. According to the show’s website, this year’s attendance was in excess of 70,000 with 2,400 exhibitors filling over 2 million square feet of show floor. Exhibits and demonstrations spilled out into the quarter-million square foot lobby and the adjacent parking lot in front of the convention center as well. It is in the top 10 of the world’s conventions.

Again this year, automotive detailing, reconditioning, and restyling exhibitors were concentrated in one area of the convention center’s north hall, making it convenient for those in our industry to check out the industry’s latest offerings and catch up with fellow detailers, suppliers, and manufacturers. And, if you had time, there were 11 other automotive-related areas available to peruse, from mechanical repair to racing.

The business-minded operator could take advantage of dozens of free educational sessions with a full range of business-administrative as well as technical topics. Another benefit of attendance is the numerous live product demonstrations, flashy special events, and celebrity appearances that occur throughout the various exhibit halls during the entire show.


With focusing detailing-related vendors in one area, as well as the buzz about SEMA created on social media, there was a marked increase in the presence of auto detailing operators. It was great to exchange handshakes and embraces with detailers from around the country and several from around the world, including many old friends as well as new acquaintances. We gathered in the various supplier booths to share “war stories” and catch up on family.

We were able to see our favorite heroes and celebrities in the industry, mingle at the various meet-and-greet events, make new friends, and achieve certified detailer status through the International Detailing Association.

Once again, we had our Tuesday night detailers’ meet-and-greet. In attendance were twice as many folks as last year — well over 85. Detailers from all corners of the United States, including Washington, California, Florida, and Maine, as well as Hawaii and Alaska. The international presence was amazing as well, with industry representatives from Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Australia, England, Russia, the Middle East, and many others that I am probably forgetting or didn’t meet.


As the liaison for the International Detailing Association, I had the privilege of presenting IDA welcome kits to IDA member suppliers who were exhibiting at the show. The IDA currently has about 50 supplier members. About 17 of them were exhibiting on the tradeshow floor. This is an impressive count and shows the level of commitment that our suppliers have to the industry. Several non-members expressed interest in joining and were presented with applications.

Among the most sought-after items on the show floor was the “IDA Member” badge ribbon, which exhibitors and attendees proudly attached to bottom of their SEMA badges. I handed out easily 100 of these ribbons but unfortunately ran out. Demand was high, which indicates the growing attendance at SEMA by IDA members.


The IDA again showed up at SEMA this year in the form of an IDA detailers’ meet-and-greet, a certification event, and the support of IDA suppliers at the show.

As mentioned earlier, on Tuesday evening, IDA member ShowFleet, Inc. sponsored the third annual IDA detailers’ meet-and-greet in one of the seminar rooms in the North Hall. It was exciting to see a room full of enthusiastic operators and suppliers, mostly IDA members but others who later signed up as brand new members. We enjoyed beverages, food, and camaraderie for a couple of hours. Our thanks to additional sponsorsBob Phillips and Mike Dickson and their companies for providing the refreshments.

Yours truly conducted an IDA “Certification-in-a-Day” event on Wednesday morning during the show. (Thanks again to IDA member ShowFleet Inc. for sponsoring the seminar room.) I was proudly able to certify six detailers, including attendees from Russia, Ecuador, and Australia.

IDA Certification-in-a-Day events provide a valuable opportunity to take all 10 certified detailer exams in one place at one time. The event includes a comprehensive seminar that provides all of the information necessary to virtually guarantee passing the exams. These events happen at different locations across the country or they can be scheduled in a specific area, given enough attendees. Contact me or check out for more information.

As mentioned earlier, there were at least 17 IDA supplier members exhibiting on the SEMA trade show floor, including several prestigious IDA “Founder’s Club” members. All were quite excited about the IDA and what it is doing for the auto detailing industry.

As this year’s chair of the IDA tradeshow and education committee, I am proud of how far the IDA has come in its presence at the various tradeshows around the world. As of the writing of this column, committee member (and board member) Keith Duplessie is representing the IDA at the Gulf Car Wash Car Care Expo on the other side of the world at the Dubai World Trade Centre. The IDA is increasingly living up to its “International” name, with members in over 33 countries and now also actual events happening in other parts of the world.


Fret not if you missed SEMA, as you have a wonderful opportunity to attend the next big event for detailers — Mobile Tech Expo, which takes place in Orlando, FL on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, January 26-28, 2018 at the Caribe Royale Hotel and Convention Center. Along with the great seminars and events occurring at the event, the IDA will be hosting a number of events for IDA members and all detailers.

For example, we will have two full days of IDA-sponsored educational seminars on Friday and Saturday, including a “Certification-in-a-Day” event on Saturday. There will also be a two-hour-long detailers’ forum on Friday afternoon where a group discussion among attendees will occur with a panel of experts offering advice and solutions on topics chosen by the membership.

On Saturday evening, the IDA will have its annual business meeting and awards presentation. This is a must-attend event for all detailers and affiliates, regardless of IDA membership. Each year, the size of attendance at this event seems to double. Come and celebrate the recognition of your peers who have earned IDA and MTE awards for their efforts in the industry throughout 2017 — not to mention the free food and no-host bar. You will also hear short presentations on the state of the detailing industry.

Of course, all throughout the expo, you can visit the IDA booth to meet staff from IDA headquarters, discuss issues with members of the IDA board of directors, and mingle with other IDA members. Make sure to visit IDA supplier members on the tradeshow floor as well and thank them for their support of our industry.

On Sunday, the IDA will host a rare opportunity for certified detailers to earn their “skills validated” designation. Detailers already holding the IDA-CD certification can sign up at for the limited number of slots available on Saturday to be SV-tested.

Mobile Tech Expo, aside from all the opportunities mentioned above, allows attendees to network and problem-solve with hundreds of detailers from around the world. It is one of the premier networking events for our industry. The detailing operator also has the chance to see new products and old stand-bys on the tradeshow floor. Moreover, there are typically dozens of representatives from affiliated reconditioning industries, like paintless dent removal, paint touch-up and panel blending, interior surface repair, windshield repair, and many others.


SEMA is a relatively big time commitment, but if you are really passionate about your industry and want to find out how to do better, plan on going next year. The IDA tradeshow and education committee is in preliminary discussions with SEMA staff to increase the presence of IDA at next year’s show.

In the meantime, Mobile Tech Expo is coming up and is quite a bit less expensive and time-consuming than SEMA, but actually offers more educational and networking opportunities for the professional detailer than does SEMA. Finally, if you haven’t already done so, check out this IDA “thing” — it’s a phenomenon.

Prentice St. Clair is an International Detailing Association Recognized Trainer and Certified Detailer. As the president of Detail in Progress Inc., he has been providing training and consulting to car washes and detail shops since 1999.
He is available at (619) 701-1100 or