Silent Auctions: Wheat vs Chaff

Regardless of how hard you try, the average silent auction bidder is only interested in about 5 of the items you offer in your Silent Auction.  That's it.  Don't believe me?  Go through the bid sheets at the end of an event and count up how many items Bidder #36 bid on.  How many items did they take the time to place at least one bid on during the evening?   It's not a big number and that's fine.  We just need to stop pretending like every bidder is trying to win 30 things at your auction.  They are not that motivated.

We need to understand (and accept the fact) that bidders will be sorting through many items they DON'T WANT in order to find the 5 items they DO.  How many items will they be sorting through, and how painful that process has to be, is up to you.

  • Keep your Silent Auction at an appropriate size for the number of attendees.  4 to 1 ratio (guests to Items) is still a Best Practice.  
  • Be willing to adjust if you crowd is less amenable to a "large" Silent Auction.
  • Consider how much time you have set aside for the Silent Auction.  100 items may be fine if you have 120 minutes for your silent auction.  But if you only have 60 minutes in your schedule, adjust accordingly.  
  • Golf outings, after work events and any event where something other than the Silent Auction is the focus of peoples attention, should be scaled back.
  • Keep Item Descriptions Simple.  Bullet points are best.  Make the "bid or not to bid" decision a quick one.  If someone has to read 2 paragraphs to know if the item is of interest,  we've blown it.
  • Avoid "cute" titles for your items.  The bold title on the bid sheet should make it perfectly clear, in an instant, what the item is.  "4 Tickets for Cubs vs Yankees @ Wrigley Field" is always better than "Bronx Bombers Come to ChiTown".  "7 Days in @ Disney in Orlando, FL" is better than "A Week of Sunshine on Your Shoulders with Mickey"