Shell-scheme is a modular pre-fabricated and reusable exhibition system used by professional conference organisers around the world.  This article explores some of the advantages and disadvantages of using such schemes.


What is shell-scheme?

For those of you that don’t know shell-scheme is pre-fabricated partition system used by many exhibition organisers for small to medium size exhibitors.  Larger exhibitors tend to have “space only” contracts for construction of their own installations.

Shell-scheme example

Shell-scheme example

The cost of a shell-scheme package is often included in a package price for exhibitors and typically includes basic lighting, furniture and power.

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Advantages of using shell-scheme

The biggest advantage to an organiser of using shell-scheme is the clear lines of responsibility, because walls and headers clearly show the space that the exhibitor is responsible for.  This is useful not only for neatness but also from a liability perspective.  Often exhibitors do not realise that an exhibition booth is an extension of their own business, with all the responsibility and potential liability that comes with that.

Shell-scheme is also useful when it comes to lighting and power because the sturdy construction allows for the safe positioning of lighting and hazard-free distribution of power.  It is important not to underestimate the importance of additional lighting for your stand.  Venue lighting is designed to provide a general flood of light therefore it can also cast shadows across shell-scheme.  This can leave some exhibitors in darkness.

The flat and clean surface provided by shell-scheme means the application of graphics is easy. Smaller exhibition stands can often appear cramped with the addition of bulky collateral. The use of graphics over pop-up/pull-up stands appears to becoming more popular due to it’s cost effectiveness and space saving.


Shell-schemes provide clarity to an exhibition but can also create barriers to engagement. Square stands located in between two others can often disappear as potential customers walk  past in a hurry.  Sometimes to combat this organisers will use rear walls only to crate a more open feeling (although ensure that your stand contractor takes this into account to ensure the wall is properly supported).

Exhibitions that use shell-scheme often pass these costs on to exhibitors. Organisers that do not risk running up a hefty bill.  Space-only stands are the most cost-effective way to sell exhibition space at a conference because all additional costs are paid by the exhibitor.  However, providing an “all-inclusive” option is often the best way to entice smaller exhibitors who are often budget-bound and need to cap their costs.

Once you bring shell-scheme into an exhibition it becomes a construction area.  Best practice dictates that members of the public and stand staff must be kept separate from the “build” element of the exhibition .  Subsequently this can increase both your venue hire time and your costs.  For more information about best practice for exhibitions you can visit the website of the Association of Event Organisers (AEO).


To pass on or not pass on costs is the question.  Some organisers absorb the cost of shell-scheme but this can create a massive difference to the break-even point for meetings.   For not-for-profits this can be hard to swallow.  As part of your sponsorship and exhibition sales process this can often be used as a negotiation tool.

By Rob Eveleigh.  First published 25th June 2018