What is the best exhibition space?

Exhibiting at a trade show is a great marketing strategy. If you haven’t discovered that yet then click here to see nine reasons why you should exhibit. But there are a lot of important decisions to be made when it comes to representing at a trade show.

Firstly you have to choose the right exhibition to attend (we can help you with that if you click here). Then, before you’ve thought about your stand design, you have to invest in your floor space. Even the most lascivious stand in the world will go unnoticed in a bad location.

The right floor space can be the difference between a good and a bad exhibition. The more people that interact with your stand, the more successful you’re likely to be.

There are five things to consider when choosing a floor space at an exhibition:

  • Shell Scheme or Space Only?
  • Size
  • Orientation
  • Traffic Flow
  • Competition

Floor spaces are usually offered on a first come first serve basis. Once you know what you want you should put your name down immediately. This guide will give you all the information you need to choose the right space for your exhibition stand.

1. Shell Scheme vs. Space Only

First and foremost, you have to decide whether you want a shell scheme or space only. Most exhibitions have both types of floor space on offer, but remember that they are distributed on a first come first serve basis.

A shell scheme is a prefabricated partition system used by event organisers to segment and separate floor space. Space only is exactly what it says on the tin, a section of space marked out with tape or chalked lines. Depending on your business and exhibition aims, you are likely to find one option more desirable than the other.

Shell Scheme Pros

If you’re a first-time exhibitor then you’re likely to use a shell scheme because it has many benefits for newbies. A shell scheme is the equivalent of an all-inclusive holiday package.

Organisers offer the shell scheme space with basic lighting, flooring, walls, furniture and power. This is more cost-effective and can make it a better option for budget-bound businesses.

Shell Scheme Cons

Using a shell scheme makes it difficult to stand out. Shell scheme stands are built in blocks, meaning you are surrounded by several businesses competing for a few seconds of someone’s attention. You can find yourself fairly limited by design.

Essentially you are inside a shell. Fascia panels often obscure your visibility and ugly grid systems don’t lure in the crowds. Many people are unaware that you can ask for the fascia panels and the grid scheme to be removed. This leaves you with a basic shell scheme structure (just the walls) but opens up your stand.

Essentially this con is less of a con and more of an industry secret. If you have booked a shell scheme you aren’t tied to using the graphic panels, pop-ups or banners. You aren’t even tied to the grid scheme or the fascia panels. Here at Quadrant2Design we regularly design and install fully-fledged exhibition stands that fit beautifully into a shell scheme system. Between 30% and 40% of our exhibition stands are used in a shell scheme and judging by what over 700 of our clients have said they’ve always worked brilliantly.

Space Only Pros

Space only is great for regular exhibitors or businesses that want more bespoke design. Having no limitation in terms of how you can use a space means you can add more ‘personal flair’. The design element’s only limitation is your imagination…

As you can imagine, with this freedom to design whatever you want it is much easier to stand out from the competition and get your business noticed.

Space Only Cons

An obvious disadvantage of space only is the added expense and time needed to make it work. The space itself costs the same, but you have to factor in the additional cost of flooring, lighting, power, furniture – as well as the cost of a modular or custom-built stand.

The big difference between a shell scheme or space only floor space is that you are obliged to build a structure if you choose space only. This structure has to be at least 2.5 metres tall and cover all of the closed sides of your space. This heavily influences the overall cost of the stand.

Should You Choose A Shell Scheme Or Space Only For Your Exhibition Stand?

Now that you know the advantages and disadvantages, you should be able to decide whether you’d like to choose between space only and a shell scheme. Budget, experience and time management all play a role in this decision but you should also consider your exhibition goals.

If you are a first-time exhibitor, shell schemes may appeal to you because the cost includes the additional features (lighting, power etc.) and makes the process easier and less time consuming. Space only does require a larger investment however, it gives you a real opportunity to stand out from the crowd and make your exhibition a success.

It’s a good idea to think about your requirements for future shows. If you are looking for a cost-effective solution but can’t decide between a shell scheme and space only then you could look for modular exhibition stands. Our custom modular stands change from show to show, giving you the flexibility to redesign and reconfigure your exhibit (for shell scheme and space only) without the expense of two different exhibition solutions.

2. Size

The size of the floor space you choose to book is a crucial factor. Too small and you could go unnoticed, too large and you might overstretch your budget. There are loads of ways to maximise space on your exhibition stand so aim to priorities budget over the space size.

With space only locations, you have to budget for the cost of a modular or custom-built stand as well as flooring, lights and power. The larger the space, the bigger this cost will be.

UK venues usually charge between £300 and £350 per square meter. This cost is sometimes negotiable but is the same for both shell scheme and space only locations.

The size of space that you need will need to display the product or service you are exhibiting. Merlo attended Lamma 2020 and needed two spaces to display their products. A business with smaller products or that offers a service wouldn’t need as much floor space.

A general rule of thumb for exhibitors is to spend one-third of their budget on the space. This leaves two thirds to cover your exhibition stand, staffing, and additional costs. Spending too much money on the space can stretch your budget and force you to opt for a low-cost exhibit. It is often better to choose a smaller alternative, and wow the attendees with an amazing stand.

3. Space Orientation

Once you have decided what size the floor space you want is, you need to decide the layout and orientation. The orientation of your exhibit could make the difference between a high footfall and going unseen.

When talking about orientation, we look at side spaces, corner spaces, peninsular and island spaces. Each of which have unique benefits that could make your show a success.

Should you choose a Side Exhibiting Space? (Open 1 Side)

The majority of spaces are found at the side of the aisles. These spaces give you a steady flow of footfall, but leaving just one side open could inevitably block the view.

Delegates moving down these aisles are bombarded with branding, sales pitches, giveaways and more so trying to stand out can be harder. Use eye-catching graphics and a strong pre-show marketing strategy to raise awareness of your exhibit and presence.

With only one side open, you have three sides in which you have to provide structure and graphics. This gives you an excellent opportunity to get your message across but can heavily impact the overall cost.

Should you choose a Corner Exhibiting Space? (Open 2 Sides)

Corner spaces are located on the corner of aisles, giving you twice the amount of passing traffic. These spaces tend to be open on two sides, leaving you positioned between the horizontal and vertical aisle to gain maximum exposure.

Corner spaces can encourage visitors directly to your stand. The delegates who walk along the sides pause when taking corners more often than not. This gives your exhibit and your team more time to talk business.

Having two sides open means you also have two walls to cover. This gives you a great balance between wall space to convey your message and open sides to entice and communicate with visitors.

Should you choose a Peninsula Exhibiting Space? (Open 3 Sides)

A peninsula space is open three sides and can be created:

  • at the end of an aisle
  • splitting an island space in half

Having three sides open gives you more visibility because you are open to three flows of traffic. There are fewer design restrictions at peninsula and island spaces, giving you flexibility and freedom to create something spectacular.

Even with only one wall to cover, there are opportunities to create uniquely branded experiences with design features like photo-flooring and hanging signage.

Should you choose an Island Exhibiting Space? (Open 4 Sides)

Island stands appear to have an obvious advantage because they are open at all sides and usually positioned within the middle of an exhibition. They have proven effective at delivering footfall as well as a strong brand presence at a trade show.

Although you are not obligated to fill the space, be prepared with a higher cost as island spaces tend to be larger. Like with the size, there is no point investing too much of your budget in an island space then not having any money left to create an impactful structure.

If you choose an island space, make sure you identify the main entry points. Your exhibition stands branding and design elements need to be angled towards new visitors to maximise an island spaces efficiency.

4. Traffic

Flow of Traffic

If you have a general understanding of traffic flow you will have a better idea of where the people will be. Several studies aim to map human traffic flow at events. They show that people are more likely to turn left upon entering an exhibition hall. The findings can help you choose the right space.

Main aisles have a higher footfall than perimeter aisles (obviously). However, more traffic isn’t always better. More people means more competition between exhibitors. The traffic will be drawn to the most compelling and visually engaging stand.

Perimeter aisles don’t attract the same sized crowds but could still be the right location for your stand. With less competition, it is easier to capture the attention of delegates. To encourage people over to your stand you can run competitions, giveaways and product demonstrations that you can promote during your pre-show marketing.

Entrances and Exits

Positioning your exhibition stand by the main entrance or exit may seem like a good idea however often it can hinder your success at a show. If it is a large exhibition then the entrance area is likely to be highly populated and attendees aim to get away from that as quickly as possible.

Throughout the show, they find what they’re looking for and make a swift exit without stopping at the final stands. Positioning yourself too close to the entrance and exit could cause delegates to avoid you but still guarantees footfall. The trick to maximising your footfall is being close, but never too close, to the door.

Food Court

If the event has a rest area it’s a good idea to choose a space close by, within eyesight. If people are stopping, sitting down for a while with a drink, and they can see your branding you’ve already increased brand exposure. Having a captive audience gives you more opportunity to demonstrate products and build excitement about what you’re offering.


The toilets are guaranteed to receive footfall throughout the show. Although people won’t hang around if you are directly outside of the loo, choosing a space that sits on route to the toilets can increase exposure and footfall on your stand

5. Competition

Unfortunately not everyone attending and exhibition is there to see you and your neighbours could have a huge role to play in terms of your show success. Once you know the size, style, orientation and traffic flow it’s time to consider the nearby competition.

Depending on when you book, event organisers are likely to have a provisional floor plan scheduled in. Although this is open to change, it is often a good guide to get you started and can help you form a strategy when it comes to neighbouring stands.

Complementary Neighbours

At a trade show, you’ll get businesses with very different products targeting the same audience. This gives you a great opportunity to network and promote each other.

For example, if you sell printers and your neighbouring stand sells ink you could easily refer visitors to each other’s stand. Word of mouth is a successful strategy as consumes trust it. Having those kinds of relationships in place can make both your shows more successful.

Industry Leaders

Positioning a stand close to an industry leader has proven to be an effective technique. This sort of placement has a subtle psychological effect on making the two companies seem associated with one another.

You’ll also find more visitors that are interested in your business coming to that area to see the industry leader. It gives you more chance to pitch your business to a niche targeted audience.

Industry ‘Swamp’

An industry swap occurs when several competing brands are exhibiting close to one another. Depending on what industry you operate in this could help or hinder your exhibition success.

If you compete directly, in terms of pricing or product offering, then positioning yourself in an industry swamp could boost lead generation. On the other hand, all the noise could detract visitors from your stand causing them to look elsewhere. This is the kind of judgement you need to make based on your industry knowledge and is one of the reasons we recommend attending the show as a guest before exhibiting there.

Five things to consider when choosing your exhibition space:

Hosting a successful exhibition doesn’t just come down to having the best exhibit on the floor. The location of your stand in a busy venue can play a huge factor in the success of your show as well.

There are five things that you should always consider before contacting an event organiser and requesting a space:

  • Shell Scheme vs Space Only
  • Size
  • Orientation
  • Traffic
  • Competition

If you get this right you are well on your way to hosting a successful exhibition!