"Sound" Advice for Your Auction.

You must have a great sound system at your auction.

I stress its importance to clients every day.  It is one of the first things we talk about. Yet, it's one of the things many auction committees seem to chalk up as a minor detail.

The sound system at your auction is nothing less than critical in importance.  It will have a significant impact on your auction.  Whether its a good or bad impact is up to your committee.

I'm bringing this up AGAIN, as I recently had a group improperly plan for the sound needed at their auction. They had flush mounted ceiling speakers for the silent area, normally used to pipe in Muzak.  The end result was, once 400 people were in the hallway,  nobody could hear anything.  The main room, for the live auction, also had ceiling speakers.  These were 30 foot ceilings by the way.  Just terrible.  My honest, and somewhat conservative, opinion is it cost them $15,000 - $20,000 in lost bids, at a $175,000 fundraiser.

Here are some things to remember:

  • First.  I know this costs money.  Sometimes thousands of dollars.  It is worth every dollar, period.
  • Talkative crowd during your live auction?  A good sound system will help your auctioneer to control the room.
  • Can your bidders hear the closing of the silent auction? Good sound helps create a frenzy in the final moments.
     
  • Struggling to get everyone seated for dinner?  A solid sound system will get their attention.
  • If bidders cannot hear, they are not going to bid.  They may miss an item altogether when it comes up for bid.
  • 99.9% of banquet halls, hotels and conference centers have inadequate sound for use at an auction. I've seen maybe 3 in almost 20 years that can get the job done.  They will tell you "we do auctions all the time", "it works great", "we just added new speakers".  They are very likely not being truthful. 
     
  •  It's not mandatory that they provide great sound (although it would be a great business move IMHO) It is your responsibility to make sure it is up to par.  Always insist on hearing it in action...preferably with about 300 people in the room!
  • Your auction is not a Rotary Meeting with a guest speaker.  It is a dynamic event that will only be successful if you have the ability to overwhelm your audience with sound.
  • Speakers in the ceiling are NEVER good.  NEVER.   If a venue offers speakers that are free-standing and can be moved around to where you need them, that's a good sign. 
  • Wireless microphone are not some new fangled luxury anymore.  Any venue showing you a "wired or corded" microphone should be looked at with caution.  A professional quality wireless microphone can be purchased for around $300.  Hardly a wild expenditure given what you are paying to rent the venue.
  • Surround Sound is best for an auction.  Place speakers in each corner of the room where the live auction will be held.  This allows for universal coverage of the room.  If you only have 2 speakers at the front of the room, it will be very loud up front and difficult to hear in the back.
  • Using the band's sound is a good start, but I would recommend you ask them is they can provide a few more speakers for the back of the room.  (see above)  Plan on 2 speakers for every 100 people in the room.
     
  • You will need sound where ever you have people.  If your silent auction is in a room other than where the ive will take place, you will need sound in that room as well.


  • The best solution is to talk to a professional audio company.  Hire them and they will know exactly what you need.  They handle set up, tear down and manage it through the night.  Depending on the size of your room and where you live, you can expect to spend between $1000 - $10,000 for an appropriate system.  Figure it into your budget now and  you will never be sorry.