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Shell scheme stand for a shell scheme space

Are you poring over floor plans trying to work out what’s what after being schmoozed on a call with the exhibition sales team?

There are so many different types of exhibition stands; it can be hard to know which type of stand and size is right for you and your company.

What is a shell scheme?

A shell scheme refers to the exhibition stand space that will be assigned to you when you book an exhibition stand. Typically, these are advertised by the metre (3 x3m or 3x4m are common sizes) and are the most common form of exhibition stand. They are a uniform way in which exhibition organisers put together designated spaces for exhibitors. 

Constructed out of aluminium poles with walls, they offer a blank canvas ready to bring your brand to life. You can either attach graphics directly to the walls or look at other systems to make the space more personal to you.

It is worth noting that you cannot simply remove a wall to open up your space – your neighbouring exhibitor will not be impressed. Always ensure the space you book works for the ideas and budget you have in mind.

What’s the difference between a shell scheme and ‘space only’?

Shell schemes

You will book space with a pre-existing structure which will comprise either one, two or three walls. Your space will also come with carpet, lighting and electricity (500 watts).

Space only 

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 metre. 

Who is a shell scheme ideal for?

  • Start-ups and small businesses
  • Businesses looking to dip their toe into exhibiting before coming to a space-only stand
  • Businesses exhibiting on a tight budget

What’s the advantage?

Price! It is the cheapest way to get your brand into an exhibition hall. 

But, whilst it is possible to do it on a budget, get the design wrong and you’ll disappear into a busy exhibition hall where everyone is out to get prospects interested in their products or services.

What’s the space to book?

What are you selling? You need to book space that is the most suitable to show off your stand or service. Read on for what you can do with the different options available to you::

Small stands

A small shell scheme is likely to be 3mx2m or 2mx2m. These are small, so if you have a lot of products to showcase or need meeting space, we’d recommend that you hire a larger space to accommodate this.

Medium Stands

6mx2m would be considered a medium-sized stand. One thing we’d point out is that shell schemes are space-only stands, carved up into shell scheme space. This can make them quite narrow and shallow.

What can you do on a medium shell scheme that you can’t on a small one?

With a bit more space, you can introduce:

  • Freestanding graphics like backlit and video walls
  • Plinths for iPad demos or products
  • Product display shelves
  • Meeting areas
  • Games, like a batak machine or VR 

Large stands

This will give you the greatest flexibility and the ability to add more or all of the medium stand ideas. With more space comes more options on what you can do.


How do I make it look good?

Maximise your space.  Book a corner plot

It’s probably psychological, but a corner plot can feel far more spacious and to maximise this feeling, you can also:

  • Use floor graphics
  • Maximise your wow factor with a backlit panel
  • Have a branded counter at the front

If you have the tiniest shell scheme known to man, there are things you can do…

Secure your graphics directly to the shell scheme boards with velcro. Seamless graphics on eco-board or Foamex will ensure you don’t lose any space. Adding a lightwall, video screen or TV to your stand will eat away at valuable stand space. For smaller stands we recommend focusing on seamless, simple graphics attached to the wall.

Nothing screams unprofessional than visible shell scheme panels. Continuous graphics that hide the panels entirely create a seamless and slicker visual experience.

Take off fascia boards

Fascia boards are the bit of metal that runs around the top of your stand (usually with your company name and plot number on it) Removing ceiling grids and fascia boards can open up your space even and ensure your stand graphics are not obscured from different angles. 

Be warned though: the first thing an exhibition designer will request is their removal. If you’re the last person to request then you may not be able to, as they are integral to the structure of the shell scheme (a bit like Jenga). 

Keep it simple

Keep the visuals simple for maximum impact. You have seconds to capture people’s attention. We know you’re passionate about your brand or product, but putting all the information on the visuals that no one will read, will make it unnecessarily busy and confusing. 

Add TV screens to the outside panel to grab people’s attention.

Get an exhibition designer to do your graphics

We know exactly what can and can’t be done on an exhibition stand. We can make the most of the smallest exhibition stand and create serious traffic for you. We design and build hundreds of stands every year for companies who have never exhibited, to those who are seasoned ‘pros’. Avoid costly mistakes and make your life a whole lot easier by engaging with an exhibition designer. The biggest bonus? We will manage all that confusing paperwork for you!

Shell Scheme Exhibition Stand
shell scheme exhibition stand
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7 of the most common shell scheme mistakes

If you commit any of the following ‘crimes’ and we see it, you’ll know. We’ll be dropping by with a card…

Doing it yourself

Visitors to an exhibition will judge the quality of your product or service on what your stand looks like.

Doing your own graphics may be cost-effective on paper, but we know the tricks to deploy to make it look the part and attract a crowd. If you’re calculating your ROI on sales generated from your exhibition, then get an exhibition designer on board.


It’s an exhibition stand not a museum! People will not stand around reading the details. Overcomplicated stands with busy graphics, too many products on display for the stand size, free standing graphics that take up all the space (pop up banners are the biggest culprit for this) and too many people, is an exhibition stand killer. 

A stand designed by the owner

Stay in lane! If you’re a qualified expo stand designer – great! Design your graphics. If you’re the finance director who ‘has an eye’ for design, then get someone to design your graphics for you. Exhibition designers are brilliant at what they do, and make you look amazing by the time you step on your stand. Promise.

Shell scheme panels on show

Nothing kills a great design dead than 10cm of aluminium running through your logo on the back wall of your stand. Seamless graphics are key. Make sure there is no sign of the shell scheme panels on show.

Not realising there is a height restriction

Height on a shell scheme stand is a constraining issue. It is 2.4m and you can’t go any higher. If you’ve bought a model giraffe to put in the middle of your stand, you could be in trouble. And yes, that has happened!

A big pile of coats in the corner

We can’t tell you how many stands we’ve seen with coats piled up in the corner on top of 10 boxes of brochures. It’s easy to forget stand storage. We recommend a lockable front reception desk with your branding on the front to store giveaways and staff belongings. You’ll be able to hire one if you use an exhibition company.

Leaving fascia boards in place

A fantastic looking stand can be let down by fascia boards left up. They can obscure your branding and graphics from a distance. If everyone is taking their fascias down, you might not be able to take them down. This is one request stand builders will make to the organisers.

Read our A-Z on exhibition

If your head is swimming with questions with exhibition stand terminology, head to our A-Z where you’ll find every term unravelled for you.

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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  |

What is a Shell Scheme and how do you make it look good? 1