Shell Scheme vs. Space Only: Choosing the Right Exhibition Stand Setup

Whether you’re organising a trade show or have been offered the choice of a shell scheme or space-only exhibition space, one of the first things to decide is whether or not to use a shell scheme. There are many benefits to each option, so whether you provide walled or open spaces is up to you. In this article, we compare shell scheme vs space-only exhibitions to help organisers and exhibitors make an informed decision.

What is a Shell Scheme Exhibition Stand?

3x2-Shell Scheme

Shell scheme is an exhibition stand system that provides a walled structure to create zones for exhibitors to use. Made up of one-metre breaks or modules, the panels are interchangeable and quick to assemble to any layout or specifications.

Benefits of Shell Schemes

Many event organisers find shell schemes highly user-friendly and flexible for their exhibition. The structure is easily arranged in any layout, creating stands or booths of varying sizes to make the most of the available space. There is no need to provide additional structures for exhibitors, as a shell scheme creates walled areas and a level playing field. They are quick to set up and take down and are often available in a cost-effective package deal with lighting, graphics and other extras.

For exhibitors, it is immediately clear where the allocated space begins and ends, providing clear lines of responsibility and boundaries between neighbouring brands. With shell schemes, you’ll often have the opportunity to create custom panels. It is easy to apply graphics to shell scheme panelling, turning the walls of your allocated space into an eye-catching billboard or information display.

  • Flexible
  • Package deal
  • No structure necessary
  • User-friendly
  • Clear lines of responsibility
  • Easy to apply graphics
  • Cost-effective

What is a Space Only Exhibition Stand?

Rather than a walled booth, each exhibitor is afforded an empty floor space to use as they wish. This can lead to a much more varied and visually interesting exhibition overall but can be difficult to manage for exhibitors with a smaller budget.

Benefits of Space-Only Exhibitions

A space-only exhibition is great for larger companies that want to use custom-built exhibition stands to create a high-end, professional image. Dressing a space in this kind of exhibition layout requires more planning, preparation and budget, but the clean slate can offer greater scope for creativity than the more prescriptive shell scheme allows.

Space-only stands allow exhibitors to design their display from scratch, with complete control over materials, props and furniture. They are excellent for displaying larger products such as vehicles, machinery or heavy equipment, which would feel cramped in a walled shell scheme. Without walls, is easy for visitors to walk into your space and stop to look at information on their way to other parts of the event, so you can make the most of foot traffic.

  • Room for bespoke design
  • Consistent stand design at every event
  • Display larger products
  • Easy access

Given the choice, large companies in any industry are more likely to choose space-only exhibition stands. With a large budget, the ability to create stand-alone exhibits ensures their displays are eye-catching and memorable, with enough brand ambassadors on hand to turn high footfall into an impressive ROI. Choosing space only positions your brand as a competitor to be taken seriously.

Shell Scheme Extras

While those with large, well-managed marketing budgets can make space-only exhibitions work, the benefits of a shell scheme lie in security and clarity. You get a standardised framework to work within and plenty of extras to create a unique and eye-catching display.

Lighting and Electrics

Alongside a shell scheme, exhibition organisers can integrate low-voltage lighting, spotlighting and electrical outlets across the space. Rather than hiring a separate company, your shell scheme and exhibition electrics can be installed at once by the same provider. This saves money and hassle, as well as providing exhibitors a straightforward way to install AV on their stand.

Shell Scheme Graphics

With interchangeable panels, it is simple to dial up the impact of your exhibition stand. Exhibitors can have shell scheme graphics professionally printed directly onto the panels, which will be sorted and installed as the stand is erected.

Exhibition Furniture

From desks and seating to display shelving, exhibitors can kit out a shell scheme space as part of a package deal. Exhibition furniture is available in a wide range of styles, delivered in pristine condition. As an exhibition organiser, a shell scheme for your event allows you to offer your exhibitors plenty of additional services to transform their stands, as part of a package deal.

Deciding Factors for Exhibitors: What’s Right for You

As an exhibitor, deciding between a shell scheme and space-only exhibition stands comes down to a few factors:

  • Budget
  • Purpose
  • Product and Stand Needs
  • Budget

With a tight budget and small space requirements, a shell scheme is the best option. With a level playing field and a solid base framework, your only additional expenses will be furniture and graphics. Extras like those listed above can come in packages that offer great value for money, using off-the-shelf stock that’s easy for contractors to put together.

Exhibition Purpose


The reason you are bringing your brand to a trade show can help direct your decision. For lead generation and new business, a stand that grabs attention is crucial. This is possible in a shell scheme stand, but requires good budget management and forward planning to make the most of your graphics, furnishing and props.

If your main focus is on reinforcing brand associations and developing existing relationships further, a shell scheme stand is a good way to conserve resources for future shows. Launching a new product may call for something more bespoke. Consider what would be the best use of your marketing budget for the position your business is in, and plan accordingly.

How LION Can Help

As preferred contractors for many UK trade show venues, LION Exhibition Services can provide shell scheme systems, furnishing, flooring and electronics to a high standard. We plan layouts with exhibition organisers, creating the perfect balance of shell scheme and space-only stands to support your event. With quick and efficient installation, our shell scheme systems will support your event and exhibitors to have a successful show. LION also provides space-only stands, as well as modular/enhanced shell scheme stands. If you’re an exhibitor, feel free to reach out to us to explore these options. We’ll be more than happy to guide you towards the solution that best suits your requirements.


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