If you are new to exhibiting, the shell scheme vs space only debate might be something you have come across. Our customers often ask us which trade show is right for them or what they should do next in their exhibition organisation.

The most common thing that people ask us about is floor space. You want to surround yourself with complementary neighbours who could help you generate more leads. Then you have to consider the flow of traffic. Is being by the door a good idea? There is so much to think about when booking your exhibition space.

The first thing to consider is whether you want to go with a shell scheme stand or space only. So what is the difference? This guide will tell you 5 reasons to go for a shell scheme space and 5 reasons to go for space only.

Shell Scheme or Space Only?

Choosing between a Shell Scheme or Space only at an exhibition is highly dependent on your budget, business, and goals. There are pros and cons to both options, so it’s worth exploring these before you make your decision.

shell scheme or space only pros and cons table

What Is a Shell Scheme Stand?

A shell scheme space at an exhibition is a partition system that exhibition organisers use to segment the floor and divide out the space. They offer a basic structure, including walls, flooring, lighting and power.

They also generally include a fascia board with your company name on it. Popular with first-time exhibitors, shell schemes are standard on the trade show floor and generally provide a more economical solution to exhibiting.

Should you choose a shell scheme stand?

Five Reasons To Choose a Shell Scheme

Now that you know exactly what a shell scheme stand is, here are five reasons you might want to choose one.

 1. Clear Lines of Responsibility

The walls, fascia and grid systems of the shell scheme design clearly show the space that you, as an exhibitor, are responsible for. This means that you can keep everything neat and tidy, but also you don’t need to worry about any liability issues.  The walls are already there, so you don’t have to build them, which saves money.

2. Lighting and Electrics

Instead of searching the internet for lighting and power supplies, you can sit back as the event organisers have it installed in your shell scheme stand at no extra cost. This not only saves you money and hassle, but also makes it pretty straightforward to install AV on your shell exhibition stand.

3. No Structure Necessary

Choosing a shell scheme means that a very basic exhibition shell structure is already there. This means that you don’t have to worry about building a structure to hide your enclosed walls. The existing shell scheme structure even meets the enforced 2.5-metre height restriction.

 4. Easy to Apply Shell Scheme Graphics

Think of a shell scheme like a tent structure, with lots of interlocking poles, grid systems and fascia. The way that these structures are put together makes it easy to apply graphics yourself.

These shell scheme graphics might not be the most dynamic, usually consisting of pop-up banners, slide-in panels or posters. However, you aren’t tied to these shell scheme solutions. The Prestige Events System is reusable and reconfigurable (and it fits perfectly inside a shell scheme).

result of shell scheme graphics. Small 2 open sides corner stand.

5. Cost-Effective

A shell scheme stand is the more cost-effective option when it comes to floor space. Floor space is sold per m2, with both shell scheme and space only costing the same price. Shell scheme becomes more cost-effective because of the additional products and services that are included, such as flooring and electricity.

Disadvantages of Shell Scheme Stands

Shell schemes do have a number of disadvantages:

  • Your shell scheme stand will be the same shape and size as many other booths in the exhibition hall. This will make it difficult to stand out from your competitors.
  • The enclosed nature of these booths doesn’t encourage visitors to enter your stand.
  • You are limited in the type of exhibition stand you can fit into a shell scheme. Only modular or pop-ups are suitable unless you can have the grid removed, which means it is difficult to have something really eye-catching to enable you to stand out.
  • You are in an aisle location with other stands on either side of you, so catching visitors’ attention is not always easy.

small exhibition stand design. Simple, white with high-level branding

What Is Space Only?

Space only is exactly what it sounds like. An empty space, on the floor, marked out with tape or chalk. With this type of floor space, it is your responsibility to create a structure and build the walls. You also have to supply your own flooring, lighting and power to the stand.

Five Reasons to Choose a Space Only

Now that you know exactly what space only entails, here are five reasons you might want to choose one.

1. Bespoke Exhibition Experience

With an empty space to fill, the options are endless. Your exhibition stand design team can create something bespoke that will really grab visitors’ attention. You aren’t confined to the walls of a shell scheme. You can create any shape, and any design, but most importantly you can use space only to create a fully integrated brand storytelling experience.

2. Display Larger Products

You don’t have to fill your space with a make-shift branded solution. The space-only floor spaces tend to be larger than shell schemes, meaning you can display larger products. This is particularly effective for businesses that specialise in big products.

Merlo UK had a huge presence at Lamma 2019 and made the most of their space-only island by showcasing four of their tractors and combine harvesters.

3. Standalone Space

With a shell scheme stand, you will be positioned amongst many other exhibitors, which means fighting harder to stand out. This can work for or against you, depending on how effective your stand is, how good your booth staff are and who your neighbouring exhibitors are.

When you choose space only, you won’t have these worries, as these spaces tend to be positioned away from the shell schemes. Often, these spaces are positioned in prime locations where you are guaranteed a large flow of traffic.

4. Easy Access

A huge perk of exhibiting in a standalone space is the ease of access. The flow of traffic is more likely to interact with you if it is easier to get onto your booth and talk to your representatives. If you imagine a trade show floor, the aisles lined with shell schemes tend to adopt a single file traffic system. This can put visitors off stopping for you or make them miss you altogether.

5. Reputation

The big players in your industry are likely to choose space only. They have larger budgets and want to ensure they make a lasting impression with a stand-out custom modular or custom-built exhibition stand.

Plus, they want to ensure they get the footfall necessary to generate an impressive ROI. By choosing space only, you are positioning your brand as a serious competitor in your industry.

Disadvantages of space only stand:


You will need to pay for not only the space but a stand, power, lighting and flooring. You will generally need an exhibition stand contractor to build your stand for you too.


Having a bigger stand means you also need to establish how to transport it to the exhibition. Modular stands and pop-ups fold down quite small and can be moved in an estate car or small van.

However, custom-built stands often require lorries to get them to the site.  A good compromise is our custom modular stands which give you the appearance of a custom-built stand with the benefits of a modular – they will fold away so can be easily transported, stored and re-used.

Quadrant2Design Merlo Exhibition Stand


Now that you have five advantages for both floor spaces, you can make an informed decision on the shell scheme vs space-only debate, based on your budget and exhibition goals. You really can stand out and make a lasting impression at an exhibition with an eye-catching stand. That means that the floor space isn’t the be-all and end-all. Spaces are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, so you need to get in early.

The best thing to do is to fill your shell scheme or space only with an attention-grabbing exhibition stand. Draw in crowds with interactive AV, unique design features and dynamic design.

Give us a call at 01202 723 500 or email us at to find out how we can make that happen for you.

For more exhibiting hints and tips, take a read of our other guides to get the most out of your exhibition.