Every Successful Auction Does These things...

  • A great Audio System is not a luxury.  It’s worth every penny you spend on it!  A surround-sound approach is best.  A speaker in each corner of the room will avoid blasting out the people near the stage, plus your guests in the back will be able to hear just as well.  Hotel and banquet hall sound systems are inadequate 99% of the time.  They are NEVER as good as a professional stand alone system.  You need sound where ever you will have bidders int eh building.  If your bidders can’t hear…they won’t bid.
  • A “cool” venue may not always be ideal for a Charity Auction.  Try to envision the room with tables, a stage and 400 people in it before committing to a room that looks awesome but may not be conducive to an effective auction.
  • Close the silent auction before dinner.  This remains a contentious issue at way too many auctions.  It’s simple - if your auction is run well; the money in a silent auction is made the last 5-10 minutes of bidding.  Close it before dinner and give your volunteers some time to get things recorded and ready for checkout before the end of the night.  The advent of Electronic bidding has given us a bit more time, so closing during dinner will work well for many groups.  But please don’t wait until 10pm to close things down.
  • Stop allowing donors to manipulate your auction.  Donors sometimes offer advice on where to place their items in the auction.  They willalways want it in the Live Auction.  Allowing politics or friendships to dictate how you run your auction is nothing but trouble.  Your auctioneer will advise you on where donations will perform best.  Trust their judgment.  Never promise a donor where their item will appear.  Don’t be afraid to walk away from a problem donation.  It will only be embarrassing to the donor when the item they think is worth $12,000 sells for $1200 in the live in front of 450 people. 
  • Leave no money on the table.  Ask every guest for an extra $25 before they leave.  It doesn’t matter how we do it,  just ask them before they leave.  It’s the majority of your crowd at most auctions that are not winning anything in the Silent/Live Auctions.  Give them the chance to donate any extra cash in their pocket.  Our job is to ask them for it.
  • Do not put your highest value items at the end of the live auction.  When arranging the order of your items, use a ‘bell curve’ approach.  Place your highest demand items just past mid way through the auction.  This way,  those unsuccessful bidders on your those high profile items still have something else to buy later in the auction. 
  • The first few items are Live Auction “pace setters.”  They should be of “medium” value with broad appeal to your group.  This will get everyone excited from the start.  Keep everyone involved by not focusing your Live Auction to only “big ticket items”.  A good auction item is anything we can get two people to fight over.  Not just things valued over $5000.  This will help your live auction avoid a reputation of being “only for the rich people in the room”
  •  Take every step possible to keep things moving and on schedule.
  • Auction yields seriously decline around 10:00 pm on a Friday/Saturday. (9pm on weeknights)  Start with this fact and work backwards with your event schedule.  Use realistic times when calculating serving times, speeches, any program elements & auction timing.  Will Mr. BIg Shot CEO really keep his speech to 2 minutes?  Respect your guest’s time.    
  • There is no perfect number of items fore Lie Auction.  I always recommend you go with your very best auction items for the Live.  Stick with your solid performers for the Big Stage.  If you have 6 GREAT items and 3 more that are so so.  Go with the Solid 6!   Remember, a good item, is a good item, is a good item.  Those fringe items will do great in your silent Auction...and if they don't, it's much less embarrassing than finding out in the Live Auction.
  • Reinvest in your auction.  Streamline.  Computerize.  Organize. Adjust. Listen to your volunteers. Track the data. Get honest feedback from guests.  Evaluate your successes and failures each year.

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