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When custom build is the right display solution

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Posted by , 6th December 2016

Stand design: A custom built stand is personalised to represent your business to attendees at a trade show

The Mitsu stand at Ecobuild provides ultra-strong brand presence. The double-deck construction provides meeting & discussion space above the display area, making the best use of the available space.

Moving away from shell scheme or a modular stand to a custom build solution marks a big step-up in exhibiting strategy.

In this article, I outline some of the important reasons for choosing custom build as your stand option.

The biggest reason is to be set apart from your competitors

Bespoke exhibition stands grab your attention.

They are like top fashion designs. They are unique. No one is going to turn up looking as good as you or more importantly, wearing the same outfit.

But, it’s not just about looks. Results are what really count.

For the best possible results, visitors need to know what your business stands for.

A custom designed stand allows you the freedom to state this clearly and uniquely.

Personalised for your business

To make a big impact, to put the competition in the shade, you’ll need a stand that has that elusive “wow” factor.

At the same time, the stand has to represent your brand and display your products and services effectively.


Fabris stand at 100% Optical. An open design with strong branding plus lots of discussion seating space

A custom-build solution should instantly provide a unique and professional appearance.

Additionally, it should also provide brand credibility.

You get to work with design experts

Another big benefit of this option comes from working closely with a stand design agency. You are going to need one to design your stand.

Your chosen design partner will employ experts who can provide trade show know-how.

They will have the skills that can deliver an engaging exhibition stand from scratch.

They will also be focused on achieving the best possible results that your stand can deliver.

With custom-build stands, you get the opportunity to create a range of bespoke, modular elements.

These elements can be designed to work within a variety of stand sizes.

They are reusable and if you take part in multiple exhibitions, the cost of manufacture can be spread across them.

When should you move to a custom stand?

If you are already participating in multiple events or are planning to do so, then custom build is definitely an option to consider.

Bear in mind that an investment in your time at the front end of the project will be required.

This time will be handsomely repaid by savings in planning and thinking time, once your programme is underway.

When your thinking is complete, the next step will be to choose a design agency who can turn your ideas into reality.

Stand design and the correct process for engaging with stand designers

Clear communication between you and your design agency is one of the most important elements in creating a successful stand.

There are three key points to keep in mind:

  • The agency’s experience
  • Your brief i.e. your stand requirements and what you want the stand to achieve
  • Your budget
The agency selection process

Choosing an agency that has experience in your industry will help you reach your goals faster.

Through evolution, some design and build companies have greater knowledge in certain markets.  Pharmaceuticals, aeronautics, technology, food, fashion, and many others, have their build experts.

Agencies that you engage with should be able to demonstrate a good understanding of your brand and your customers.

Approach up to three different firms with your brief. Any more than that would be unnecessarily time-consuming.

Three as a maximum should give you a good idea of which agency would be the right fit for you.

Nailing your design brief

Once you’ve chosen an agency with relevant experience, focus on providing them with a well thought out brief and budget.

The brief should include a clear description of your objectives.

These should include a concise outline of your vision for the stand plus a realistic budget plan.

Most agencies will provide you with a comprehensive briefing document that will help you provide the information that they need.

Read: Attracting Stand Visitors: 12 Ways To Engineer Greater Visitor Engagement      

Cost differentials for different solutions

shell scheme stand is the display option for most first-time exhibitors and it’s usually the one that involves the least cost.

The booking contract issued by a show organiser will cover floor space occupied; carpet on the floor; walling; a fascia panel with name display. Shell scheme is charged at an inclusive square meterage rate.

The next step up from a shell scheme in cost is a modular stand.

Modular stands may be supplied by the show organiser or via their appointed contractor.

The exhibitor contract for this type of booking is described as Space-Only.

You will be supplied with floor space and charged a pre-set cost per square metre for the area your site occupies.

Stock components will be used to build your stand.

Custom build stands

With custom stands, there are lots of things to think about when it comes to managing the project but professional assistance and support from a design agency will make the process smoother.

The extra effort will be worth it. In my opinion, a custom build is ultimately the most rewarding stand option you can use.


Lavazza at the AVEX International vending show. A strong brand statement with multiple demonstration spaces.

Custom build more costly but definitely worth it

As far as costs go, custom build will usually be the highest of the choices exhibitors have open to them.

That’s because it’s a bespoke solution.

Your stand will be unlike any other in the show. It will be a unique environment created specifically for your products and for your brand.

There are certain stand elements that are often available on a rental basis.

These include stock walling and platforms, furniture and lighting. Owning the various elements of your stand which can be re-used, brings a familiar look and feel each time you exhibit.

This “look” helps to create solid brand awareness within your field. Re-usability increases the value gained from your stand investment.

Show services like electrics, plumbing and data are usually ordered directly from the show venue.

Booking will be organised by the design and build agency.

Exhibition carpets are often disposed of as they won’t usually last through more than one exhibition.

The importance of working with the right design agency

Working with the right design and build agency facilitates the creation of a design-driven exhibit. This should have a high specification finish and exacting standards of quality.

Not all design agencies have their own build team in-house.

When choosing a designer, ensure that you find one that works very closely with an experienced build contractor.

Alternatively, they may have their own build team as part of their company. If so, this will remove the stress of finding a separate organisation to handle the stand build side of your project.

You will be able to go and visit your stand being manufactured prior to it going to site. This is important if you’ve got a complicated product to be displayed or any research and development planned for the exhibition. Final tweaks and adjustments can be made prior to debut at the show.

Other services that might be needed

Complementing the project management, support, advice, design, and production services from your designer, you might also require;

  • Graphic design
  • Illustration
  • 3D visualisation and animation services.

In my company, we also encourage heightened connectivity through video production and digital solutions.

All of these things should be discussed and costed for you as part of your discussion with a prospective agency.

You can decide which elements you’ll need or want to include in the project.

Read: Strategy: 12 Things You’ll Be Very Glad You Didn’t Forget To Do In Advance Of Your Next Trade Show


Once your custom-build stand is in production, your design agency will discuss storage of your stand with you.

You have the option of either discarding elements of the stand that you now own or storing them at a storage facility for a fee.

It’s important to note that when items come out of storage they may need refurbishment and this will incur an additional cost.

Booking the blank canvas for your message

Moving to a custom-build solution requires you to make the correct type of stand booking.

Generally, there are just two options to choose from; shell scheme or a space-only site booking.

Shell scheme stands are identical structures with a uniform look and feel.

Often these stands have 3 enclosed sides and are small in area. Height restrictions within a shell scheme can also be limiting.


Custom build stands don’t have to be big. This stand for Vodafone at CGF in Tokyo is 12sqm in area.

In comparison, a space-only plot is a blank canvas.

It will provide so much more flexibility with regard to size, height, and ambiance. These are qualities that will enable you to create the “Wow factor” that so many exhibitors hope to achieve.

If you have been thinking about how to take your exhibiting to another level, don’t just admire other stands when you are next at a trade show.

Find out who designed and built those stands. Talk to the stand manage and find out how easy the designer/builder was to work with.

You will lose nothing by doing so and you may just find yourself a great event partner for the future.

Exhibitors Only contributor Alison Deverill

About The Author

Alison Deverill is the Creative Director and founder of Design Difference, an industry leading design agency based in Bledlow in Buckinghamshire. Alison believes that the core strength of any good creative director is the ability to listen, to fully understand the client’s needs; only then can you truly deliver effective stand out design solutions.

Allison is very hands-on in her work. She focuses on the design and realisation of 3D commercial spaces for exhibitions, events and permanent interior installations. Clients that Alison and her team work with include; Lavazza Coffee, Mitsubishi, Wimbledon LTA, and Investec Bank.

Posted in Design & Build  /  Stand Management  /  Trade show advice  /  Trade show marketing

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