I am always surprised when event planners take great care with all the cost centers of an event: hiring the band, hiring the caterer, and booking the venue. These same planners rarely consider hiring the auctioneer for the live auction.
As a professional auctioneer, I typically silent auction items ideas receive panicked calls a week or days before an auction from many organizations inquiring if I can help them out? A classic mistake many planners and organizations make is not understanding the potential the live auction has in driving revenues. According to the National Association of Auctioneers, approximately, $268.4 billion were sold at live-auction in 2008. Make no mistake, live auctions are viable revenue generators.
So here’s a short list of the things to avoid:
1. Treating the live auction like an AFTERTHOUGHT versus a key Revenue Generator.
Waiting until the last minute and hastily planning your live auction component of your event will cost your organization revenue and/or fundraising dollars.
2. Hiring a local celebrity auctioneer versus a professional auctioneer is not the best decision.
Auctioneers should always be HIRED not ACQUIRED. Let’s face it, your local meteorologist may be great at predicting the weather-but he, nor she is a professional auctioneer.
Auctioneering is both a profession and a skill set. The 15-30 minutes or more when a Professional Auctioneer takes the stage may look easy. However, the live auction is really intensive selling masked by a dash of entertainment.
Auctioneering requires commanding the attention of a crowd, and selling merchandise or experiences in such an enticing way that the audience is willing to bid top dollar for it. It may look like something the local Anchorperson or Meteorologist can do-but it’s not. Your neighbor may be a good cook, but I bet you didn’t hire him or her as the caterer of your event.
3. Having poorly crafted, generic descriptions or no information at all on the auction items.
Generic descriptions of items don’t drive up bidding or get you the top dollar. A skilled auctioneer will craft enticing descriptions of the items to get them sold. Always arm your auctioneer with the information they need about the items well in advance of your event.
4. Deciding the sequence of what is sold without consulting the professional auctioneer.
Organizations love to create programs and decide the order of what is sold. However, WHEN an item is sold is as important as the item itself. Professional auctioneers can assess the audience and line the auction items up to keep the crowd engaged and bidding.
Depending on the audience, trips and vacations may sell better at the end of the auction. Jewelry and merchandise in some cases, sell better at the beginning of the live auction. The professional auctioneer can read the room and tell you WHEN items should be sequenced for bid. Good auctioneers work the room prior to the event to find out what the crowd is interested in and he or she will open the auction with the item that has the highest interest.
Auctioneers will open bidding with a common item that will appeal to all audience members to include: Boomers, Millennials and Gen Xers.
5. Having too many standard retail items (i.e., TV, Stereo) versus an experience item, like a trip to Italy or a weekend at NASCAR makes it difficult to generate demand and a frenzy of bidding.
Buyers at a live auction rarely come to buy needs, so it is important to package the experience items with great descriptions to drive the bidding up and ultimately the sales price. This is particularly important at benefit auctions where some buyers will buy and bid high knowing that the purchase will also benefit and advance the mission of the organization.