Trade Stand Guide: Different Types of Exhibition Stands

We give you the pros and cons of each stand type so you can make the right choice

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There are so many different types of exhibition stands; it can be hard to know which type of stand is right for you and your company. Our guide gives you the lowdown on the different types of stand, along with the pros and cons of each, so you can make an informed decision on what you are looking for. 

We’ve even included a link to a download guide on how to write a brief for an exhibition stand at the bottom of this guide which is also useful when making inhouse exhibition proposals.

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Trade Stand Guide: Different Types of Exhibition Stands


Quick summary: Main types of exhibition stand

Custom Booths

A purpose built exhibition stand customised to your exhibition space and target audience and totally unique to your brand.

Modular Exhibition Stand

Modular stands are a series of portable displays that are connected together to create one exhibition stand. The most versatile option⏤these can be reconfigured to suit the booked exhibition space.

Shell Scheme Stand

A shell scheme stand is the most common type of stand assigned to exhibitors when an exhibition space is booked. It is a predetermined uniform space ready to be dressed with graphics.

Pull up and Pop-up Displays

A cost effective, versatile option, pull-ups and pop-ups are great when you are short on space and not exhibiting for a long period of time. You’ll often see pop-ups at conferences and roadshows.

Read on for more detail about each type of exhibition stand

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Interactive Exhibition Stand Builders

Custom Booths

The bells and whistles of exhibition stands. With a custom booth, you can completely tailor the shape and size of the stand to your brand and/or specific product or service you are advertising. 

A totally bespoke stand is an ideal way to really create a buzz, for example if you are launching a new product. You have the flexibility to tailor the stand to your target audience and the exhibition space you have booked rather than fitting your graphics to the allocated space.

You also have the confidence that your stand will be totally different from the rest in the exhibition space, which is particularly important when you need to stand out from the competition.

It is the ideal way to really promote a brand not simply with graphics as it can allow you to demonstrate your ethos and the way you connect with your customers.


A totally bespoke approach that is completely unique to you and your brand. You can create exactly what you want from the outset – anything is possible!


Custom exhibition stands may require customisation to work for different exhibition stand sizes, unless this is factored into the brief from the outset. They also require storage.

Modular Exhibition stand

If you are looking to buy an exhibition stand and require more flexibility than a custom booth can offer then a modular exhibition stand is probably for you. Modular stands are the most adaptable solution for companies that regularly exhibit at trade shows as they can be reconfigured to just about any space and are no trouble to transport as they can be broken down easily. 

For companies who need a system that can be reconfigured for different teams/products/areas of the company, then these are ideal. With a modular exhibition stand system you can easily change the graphics required for different parts of the business and configure it to the available space depending on the exhibition venue.


If you require flexibility then modular exhibition stands are highly customisable to the exhibition space and the graphics. Plus you have the option to hire a modular exhibition system, giving you flexibility on stand design and budget. They are usually easier to store than custom booths as they can be broken down to be more compact.


You are working within the constraints of a modular system; if you want something completely unique and to an exact brief without compromise, then a custom build may be more suitable. They are more compact but you will still need space to store them in between trade shows and exhibitions.

Exhibition Fitter on Ladder

Shell Scheme

These are extremely popular and usually the cheapest option for exhibiting; with great graphics and a creative eye, these spaces can make a real statement. The real difference in a shell scheme is whether you choose to take the expertise and help of an exhibition company who can create a stand that will really pop and has the professional touches you only get using experts.

If you decide to take the cheapest space and create the graphics yourself then you might find this results in a poor prospect experience and a lot of expense. For a little more investment your returns could outweigh the initial outlay. 

No matter how interesting your product or service is to you, people will not have the inclination or time to stop and read reams of copy on walls of an exhibition. Less is more and creativity even better!


A shell stand is a great way to exhibit if you are making the ‘step up’ from pop-up graphics or this is your first foray into a large scale exhibition. The only limitation with this space is your imagination! Restricted by size but not creativity. 


Do it on a budget and you’ll disappear into a busy exhibition hall where everyone is out to get prospects interested in their products or services.

Pull up and Pop-up Displays

A cost effective, versatile option, pull-ups and pop-ups are great when you are short on space and not exhibiting for a long duration. 

These are popular with smaller organisations or as additions to larger exhibition stands for bigger companies. You’ll often see pop-ups at conferences and roadshows and with fantastic graphics, these can get your brand out there if you have a small budget but want to start connecting with your market. 

Pull-up graphics 


These are cheap to create and easy to transport and assemble.


Sizes are not standardised making inserting replacement graphics tricky, especially if mixing and matching suppliers. In addition, they can be easily damaged and if they are produced on a budget, they can look cheap. It would be unwise to use them for the main graphics on an exhibition stand.

Pop-up displays


A cost-effective option to create an exhibition stand that is easy to transport and assemble. 


Whilst they are a good way to easily create a large graphic, they can be tricky to match graphics up that flow across more than one drop. They can be easily damaged and will make a limited impact in a large-scale exhibition hall.

Pop Up Display Stand, Portable Display great for Events, Conferences and Pop Ups

Do you still need advice about different types of exhibition stands? 

We’re on hand and ready to help. If you’re new to exhibiting, we’ll support you through the entire process, from helping you choose the right stand to installing it at your exhibition venue. 

Download our guide: How to write an exhibition brief

Our guide on how to write an exhibition brief will give you all the pointers you need to create that perfect brief and get approval from internal stakeholders.

Read now


What types of exhibition space can I book?

Broadly speaking, there are three types of exhibition stand space you can book: Space only, Island or Shell Scheme.

Space only plots will allow you to book an area without any pre-existing structure. Most exhibition halls will have rows sectioned off and will sell space by the square meter. 

Island space works like space only as it will have no existing structure there already but as in the name, the space will be an island without neighbours. For custom made booths, you will need to book either space only or an island space, depending on your requirements and budget.

Shell schemes are a popular choice and you will book space with a pre-existing structure which will comprise either one, two or three walls.

For most exhibition halls, the space of each structure will be the same so you can book either one scheme plot or several adjacent plots to create one larger stand space. They are usually constructed out of rigid walls of foamex panels in rows or corridors. 

Can I hire an exhibition stand?

Hiring an exhibition stand is a really good option if you are new to exhibiting and wish to try out a modular system and/or if you are tight on space to store exhibition stands.

They are also useful if you aren’t a regular exhibitor but want to make the most out of infrequent exhibition opportunities.


At Motive, we hire out exhibition stands that can be customised with your own graphics and to the requirements of your exhibition space and needs. We can help you with creating graphics that can really stand out and connect your brand with your desired audience and we provide a bespoke service from design, set up, break down and transport. 

David Hennessy

David Hennessy

David Hennessy is our Managing Director and co-founder of Motive Exhibitions. Based in St Neots we help businesses across Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire exhibit across the UK and beyond.

Motive Exhibitions, 3 Orion Court, Ambuscade Road, Colmworth Business Park, Eaton Socon, St. Neots, PE19 8YX

01480 597 444  |

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