How Sparks Created The HUMAN Security Exhibit And Lounge at Black Hat USA

October 11, 2023
human exhibit

How did HUMAN Security stand out from the crowd of 342 exhibitors at Black Hat USA, held Aug. 9-10 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas?

Amid the shimmer of modern tech exhibits at Black Hat USA, the HUMAN Security exhibit unfurled a page from the past, invoking a nostalgic ambiance that was impossible to overlook. 

To design and construct its exhibit and lounge at the 26th annual cybersecurity trade show, HUMAN Security partnered with Sparks, a Freeman Company. 

Produced by Informa, Black Hat attracted 15,000 attendees. HUMAN Security, a company that safeguards organizations from bots, fraud and digital abuse, had a 30x50-foot custom 1,500 square-foot lounge at BlackHat. HUMAN Security is also planning to repurpose part of the exhibit for 20x30-foot space at the RSA Conference, which will be held May 6-9 at Moscone Center in San Francisco.

We caught up with Sparks Account Director/Executive Producer Chris Thornton to find out more about the exhibit design and construction. Check out a video of the exhibit here

How was the exhibit constructed and what materials were used?

Our exhibit for HUMAN Security was meticulously designed with a blend of functionality and aesthetic appeal. Here’s a detailed breakdown:

  • Back Wall: The foundation of this wall was a robust aluminum frame. Adorning this was a realistic printed brick detail, offering an authentic touch. Highlighting this backdrop were custom-designed comic image frames, each uniquely crafted to capture attention. For a touch of modern elegance, we incorporated a custom LED neon-inspired sign with the impactful “Know Who’s Real” tagline.
  • Flooring: We opted for vinyl flooring but with a twist. It was custom printed to resemble raw cement, aligning with the exhibit's urban loft-like theme.
  • Coffee Bar: A testament to both style and substance, the coffee bar was built from laminated wood, showcasing both durability and sophistication.
  • Bookshelves and Ladder: These weren’t mere props. The shelves and ladder were fully functional, ready to be used and added an authentic touch to the exhibit space.
  • Hanging Structure: Anchoring the exhibit space was a truss system. This wasn't any ordinary truss. It was shrouded in a custom printed cover, complemented by fabric hang signs. To illuminate the area and create a captivating ambiance, LED lighting accents were strategically affixed.




Tell us about the setup. 

The exhibit was set up over three days at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. It took six laborers: riggers for the hang sign, electricians and exhibit installers. 


What methods were used for lead capture and what was the primary objective?

The HUMAN team employed badge scanning as their lead-capture technique. However, it's essential to understand that the primary objective of this exhibit wasn't solely product display or conventional lead generation. Instead, our focus was on brand awareness and fostering genuine connections.

We had two dedicated stations for product demos, allowing attendees to get hands-on experience with what HUMAN offers. Yet, the heart of the space was the expansive lounge area. This space wasn't just about showcasing products; it was about fostering conversations and relationship-building. We wanted to create an inviting atmosphere where attendees could step in, work, recharge or simply relax in the lounge.

In line with HUMAN’s preferences, we're respecting their confidentiality request and will not disclose specific sales goals or statistics. What's evident, however, is that the design was crafted with a deeper intention of community and connection, rather than just transactional interactions.



How was the exhibit marketed?

Ahead of the show, HUMAN proactively leveraged their social media platforms for pre-show marketing. Through targeted posts and stories, they engaged their audience and created anticipation around their exhibit. This digital buzz ensured that attendees were eager to visit the space, already familiar with the brand's presence at the event.




Who was responsible for staffing the exhibit on-site?

HUMAN strategically staffed their exhibit with members from their in-house sales and marketing teams. These individuals, deeply familiar with the brand's ethos and offerings, were perfectly positioned to engage with attendees, answer questions and foster genuine relationships on the exhibition floor. Their presence ensured that visitors received authentic and knowledgeable interactions, representing HUMAN's commitment to both their products and their audience.




What were HUMAN’s specific objectives for Sparks/3D Exhibits/Plexus in terms of design, content and digital elements?

HUMAN had a distinct vision for its presence at the show. Rather than aligning with the contemporary trend of relying heavily on digital elements like LED screens and digital walls, which is commonplace at events like Black Hat, they opted for a more traditional exhibit approach. Their objective was clear: they wanted to stand out but in a unique and memorable way.

With this in mind, we crafted an exhibit that harked back to a traditional design, yet with a twist: an authentic sci-fi bookstore theme. This design choice not only encapsulated HUMAN's brand essence but also set them apart from the sea of digital-heavy booths, ensuring attendees took note of their distinct presence. In an environment dominated by modern digital displays, HUMAN's choice to embrace the traditional with a thematic flair showcased their commitment to authenticity and innovation. 




Back story

Here’s a summary of the exhibit provided by Sparks: “Over a decade ago, HUMAN Security sprouted from the unlikely milieu of a sci-fi bookstore in the heart of Brooklyn. In 2023, seeking to rekindle that spirit and craft a distinctive presence at Black Hat, HUMAN partnered with Sparks to bring that foundational narrative to life.

Stepping into the HUMAN exhibit, attendees were transported to a space that was reminiscent of that original sci-fi bookstore. Vintage-style posters, tailored around HUMAN’s contemporary use cases, adorned the walls, merging the old-world charm with their current cybersecurity prowess. 

Delving further into their story, the first edition of the HUMAN comic book made its debut. This edition, starring HUMAN’s Satori Threat Intelligence & Research team, was a masterstroke, fusing their technological advancements with their origin's cultural tapestry.

But the pièce de résistance was the actual bookstore shelving. Attendees were encouraged to partake in a unique book exchange — leave a cherished sci-fi tome behind and pick another to journey onward with. It wasn’t just a gimmick; it was a heartfelt interaction, reminding everyone of the literary sanctuary from which HUMAN had emerged.

While the industry standard at such events, especially at Black Hat and RSA, gravitated towards tech-heavy exhibits laden with LED walls, backlit signs and a plethora of demo stations, HUMAN chose the path less trodden. Their exhibit was an oasis amid a digital desert. It was warm, inviting and brimming with authenticity. 

The ambiance, however, wasn't the only thing that set HUMAN apart. Their staff, passionately versed in their mission and products, engaged attendees with knowledge and enthusiasm. Unlike the more transactional booths, HUMAN's space was a haven for genuine interactions and discussions.

It was a bold move to step away from the modern tech-heavy approach prevalent at such events, but the gamble paid off spectacularly. Attendees, intrigued by the design and the deep-rooted story, flocked to the booth. Many stopped just to snap pictures; others ventured in, drawn by the allure of the literary world juxtaposed with cutting-edge cybersecurity.

The decision to utilize the same exhibit components in a compact 20x30-ft. space for HUMAN at RSA further demonstrated the versatility and appeal of this design. It wasn’t merely an exhibit — it was an experience. One where attendees didn't just learn about a product but connected with a brand's journey, ethos, and evolution.

At a trade show dominated by the future's neon glows, HUMAN's throwback to their roots was both a breath of fresh air and a masterclass in authentic brand storytelling.”


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