Shell Scheme Versus Space Only – What Does It All Mean And Which Is Best?

You’ve committed to exhibit at your industry exhibition and you think all your decisions have been made, and then the question from the organiser, “shell scheme or space only?” Let’s begin with the basics:


Shell is the basic package that comes from an exhibition organiser and is built by the main contractor for the event. What is included in the shell package is detailed within your sponsorship agreement. In general, it will be:

  • Carpet tiles or venue carpet
  • Standard power supply
  • Lighting
  • Walling
  • Fascia Signage

In some instances it may include a basic furniture package. At other events the “shell scheme” may be more elaborate with more inclusions.


An upgrade stand is usually a system-based design “off the shelf” that is either offered within the sponsorship package or as an option from the main contractor.

Upgrades are the next step up form shell scheme and will provide a greater presence at the event but are not bespoke or custom to your requirements.


Take the term literally. Space only is a footprint within the exhibition for you to build your custom exhibition stand.

In some cases your space may include basic power supply, and in carpeted venues you will have a floor, but in most cases you are starting with a slab of concrete in the middle of an exhibition hall.

You will need to engage an exhibition stand builder to design and build you a custom exhibition stand.

Below are a few items to consider when deciding what option is best for your business:


Let’s hope you haven’t got this far without considering the overall costs of exhibiting, as you’re not finished yet!

If your budget is tight and you only require a small space, it is best to run with shell scheme. It gives you a great base to build upon and limits your additional expenses in terms of the stand itself to furniture and graphics.

Stand Upgrades can provide value for money. Packages usually incorporate AV, furniture, flooring and graphics and are the next step up from shell. The value is usually in that the stock is off the shelf (not new) and it is not time consuming or difficult for the stand contractor to build.

Be aware, small changes to upgrade stands are usually accompanied by additional costs. The more changes you require, the more cost effective a Custom Exhibition Stand may be.

With a custom stand you will receive a custom design based on your brief and will pay more than the other options.

On a plus, you’re not obliged to use the organisers appointed contractor and can source a number of quotes and designs. You may also get a reduced rate from the organiser for your space, but this option will require a larger investment of time and money.


Take into consideration, your purpose for exhibiting, when deciding on the option best for you.

If you have a strong brand name, are focused on connecting with existing customers and do not have a new product or service to advertise, then it may best to scale your stand spend back until you do.

Remember, for lead generation and engagement you must attract people to your stand. A custom exhibition stand will be a point of difference in achieving this, however there are other ways this can be achieved beyond the design of your stand.


Some products are more suited to Custom Exhibition Stands than others – in fact, some demand a custom design.

If you are displaying items that need a large space I’d advise going to a space only. It will allow the product to be the hero of the stand, not the frame around it.

Multiple products or services within the one stand may also demand a larger space. As soon as your stand is over 3mx9m I would suggest it is better suited to space only as shell becomes prohibitive.

Map out what you need on the stand. Consider product display, graphics, storage, audio-visual and meeting spaces to start – can this be achieved with shell and furniture?


If you are attending multiple exhibitions in a financial year, or looking to attend an exhibition for several years, it becomes more cost effective to have a custom stand.

If your exhibition stand builder is creative with an initial design, it can be rebranded, resized and updated with minimal costs between events.

Owning, rather than hiring your stand elements, can save costs year on year. Hiring each year or build is quite expensive, particularly when it comes to AV, furniture and flooring.

Your exhibition stand builder should be able to store elements between your exhibitions or ship to your own warehouse.

Building your own stand at each event ensures a consistency of brand that may not be achievable with the shell scheme offered.


Consider the time and resources you have available to manage the process of exhibiting.

Whilst a great exhibition stand builder can manage a large amount of this, working with a space only is certainly going to be more demanding on time than either of the alternatives.

Before appointing an exhibition stand builder you’ll need to research your options, create a detailed brief and perhaps even go to tender. Then, evaluate concepts and once you have appointed a supplier most likely there will be a series of modifications and revisions. The process takes time and requires dedicated labour, particularly for your first build.

Shell scheme, Stand Upgrades and Custom Exhibition Stands all have their advantages and disadvantages. Ensuring you have a good understanding of your organisation, your space requirements, and the reason for exhibiting will place you in the best position to make a decision on the direction you take.

All the best with your next exhibition. Should you require any clarification, feel free to contact us at Custom Solutions Group today to ensure you “Stand out From the Crowd” with a stress free display experience.

We’re highly experienced & ready to help!

Whether you’re just starting to think about your project, or you’re ready to get started today – we’re here to help.

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