From Cleanrooms to Candy Stores: The Most Engaging Exhibit Designs at RSA 2024

Industry Insights & Trends, Industry Insights and Trends

RSA Conference 2024 drew over 41,000 attendees to San Francisco’s Moscone Center in May, transforming the venue into a wonderland for cybersecurity enthusiasts. Imagine a space teeming with security experts who revel in picking locks, assembling 7,000-piece Lego sets, and playing Atari-style video games.

Exhibitors showed they truly understood their audience, delivering a delightful mix of analog activations and whimsical designs amidst serious discussions on security, privacy, AI ethics, and international policy. Out of the 600+ exhibitors, we selected the five that stood out, whether through stellar design, engaging storytelling, meticulous attention to detail, or sheer fun.

What You'll Find in this Edition

  • Superb Storytelling: Microsoft’s Alien Invasion (Is that AI?)
  • Exclusive Charm: Rubrik’s Speakeasy
  • Playful Allure: Pentera’s Sweet Solution
  • Immersive Experience: Commvault’s Cleanroom
  • Meticulous Detail: WizMart

Storytelling: Microsoft

Even though AI is a reality, its roots are in the lore of science fiction — a genre Microsoft enthusiastically leaned into to demonstrate how its Copilot AI platform can help thwart cybersecurity threats. While the outer perimeter of the circular exhibit featured demos of Microsoft’s offerings, the real excitement was inside, where visitors entered a command center of a spaceship under alien attack — symbolizing a cyber threat.

Working with Microsoft’s Copilot, visitors had to complete three tasks throughout the command center to fend off the attack. At the first two stations, Copilot assessed the threat and recommended actions, such as memorizing a short code, to move to the next station and neutralize the threat. At the final station, fearless attendees climbed into a rumble seat on a space capsule and sped away from the defeated hostiles.

This gamified experience brilliantly showcased how AI can collaborate with human input to solve complex threats, proving that sometimes, defending the galaxy is just another day at the office.

Exclusivity: Rubrik

Exhibiting 101 warns that walled and gated exhibits can turn attendees sour, making them feel excluded from the fun inside. However, if executed perfectly, such booths can create an air of exclusivity that has everyone wanting to join the cool club. Rubrik’s speakeasy nailed this execution.

The exterior of the exhibit featured brick fabric-printed walls adorned with heavy curtains, evoking a sense of mystery and allure. Inside, high-class hospitality awaited with a long bar, cushioned couches, and chairs straight out of a Prohibition-era speakeasy—missing only the fog of cigar smoke. To ensure outside attendees knew what was happening inside, the exhibit’s corners featured gold-beaded curtains through which they could peek and see others engaged in relaxing conversations.

Eager attendees circled the booth until they found the narrow telephone booth door that granted secret access. Rubrik’s speakeasy demonstrated that with the right blend of exclusivity and charm, even a cybersecurity booth can transport attendees back to the Roaring ’20s while making them feel like they’re part of something special. In the end, Rubrik showed us that sometimes, the best way to stand out is to let people sneak in.

Playfulness: Pentera

“Do you know why we marshmallows use a firewall? Because we don’t want to get toasted by hackers.” Pentera used this clever quip in a promo video for its RSA booth, where cybersecurity met a candy-themed wonderland reminiscent of Candy Land. The exhibit’s colorful flooring featured a winding path to strong security, and a giant gumball machine invited attendees to guess the number of gumballs.

Candy-striped stools and bins filled with treats made the booth a sugary delight. The playful design, complete with candy canes and video screens, offered a lighthearted approach to the often-serious world of cybersecurity. While the candy theme might have seemed unexpected at a cybersecurity conference, it proved that a healthy dose of whimsy can be the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.

Immersive Experience: Commvault

Commvault unveiled its Cloud Cleanroom Recovery, promising rapid and clean recovery of stolen data in a sterile environment, safe from the prying eyes and keystrokes of hackers. To drive this message home, Commvault built an actual cleanroom. The stark white exhibit had a single entrance, guarded by mannequins in bunny suits (cleanroom suits). A staff member, dressed similarly, handed visitors a pair of glasses (like 3D glasses) upon entry.

Inside, a robotic voice alerted attendees to security scans every 15 minutes, accompanied by a scanning soundscape and cycling purple lights. When attendees donned the special glasses and toured the interior perimeter, hidden messages appeared on seemingly blank screens, showcasing a creative use of simple screen privacy technology. Adding a touch of humor to the serious subject of data recovery, the company looped videos of bunny-suit-clad lab techs performing yoga and martial arts.

For those seeking a deeper dive into the technology, Commvault’s setup funneled visitors to a second location for detailed demos. Commvault’s cleanroom wasn’t just a booth — it was a spotless, high-tech oasis that made data recovery look downright fun. And with their seamless blend of innovation and whimsy, they proved that even in cybersecurity, you can keep it clean and still have a good time.

Detailed Design: Wiz

Wiz aimed to position itself as a one-stop shop for cybersecurity, so it created a grocery store-themed booth called WizMart. Grocery aisles were lined with shelves of chips, candy, and cereal, complete with a cooler of drinks. Staffers, easy to spot in blue work vests with name badges, added to the authentic feel.

A high-energy Guy Fieri impersonator rounded out the booth by inviting attendees to play Grocery Games. While the booth earned high marks for creativity, it was the attention to detail that set it apart. Every food item had a playful cybersecurity twist: cereals were named AWS Crunch and Google Cloud Puffs, Pringles cans became Riskless with flavors like BBQ Identity and Cheesy Network, and macaroni and cheese snacks were dubbed Mac & Wiz and Wiz & Cheese.

The nutrition labels featured clever ingredients such as Low Salt, High Encryption and Vitamin CI/CD: 100% of Daily DevOps. If Wiz’s meticulous booth design is any indication of its approach to cybersecurity, attendees knew they found the right place to shop.

The takeaway for exhibit managers? Transforming an imaginative theme into an immersive experience, down to the smallest detail, can make your booth a standout success.

The Takeaway

 

These five booths exemplified the power of creativity and innovation across the trade show industry. Each exhibit captured the imagination and interest of attendees through:

  • Immersive design: From the pristine, sterile environment of a cleanroom.
  • Playful allure: The sweet, whimsical setup of a candy store.
  • Superb Storytelling: A command center that drew attendees into a narrative.
  • Exclusive charm: The intriguing and nostalgic feel of a speakeasy.
  • Meticulous Design: The clever incorporation of cybersecurity into everyday items.

These standout booths highlighted diverse approaches to engaging visitors and set a high bar for future trade shows. We can’t wait to see how exhibitors will outdo themselves next year — maybe with a cybersecurity petting zoo or a firewall-themed escape room!

Until next time, keep innovating, keep engaging, and keep shining!

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