Did you know a fundraising auctioneer is much like a power company? They both must watch and adjust their energy level output at all times.
For me, it starts prior to an auction during the cocktail reception. I take a good look at the audience prior to launching the live auction and try to get a sense of the energy in the room. I do that because when I come out I want my energy level to be 10 to 15% higher than the level of energy of the attendees.
If we start the live auction with the Fund-a-Need/Special Appeal, I reduce my energy to just 5% above the audience. I want to capture the somber feeling of the moment – and allow the attendees to recognize the good work they are about to do with their donations. Then once the gifts start to roll in, I increase my energy level up an additional 10% to entice the audience to participate by exhibiting my heart-felt gratitude for their generosity.
I don’t want to be a whole lot higher than that because I don’t want to come out looking like some crazy guy, which can set some people back, especially at first time events. I also don’t want to come out at their energy level because positive energy is contagious. When people see I’m energetic then they usually adjust themselves accordingly.
Energy levels during an auction fluctuate. The attendees can get more excited or less excited, depending on many variables including, but not limited to:
As the auctioneer, I’ve got to recognize the ebb and flow of the energy level in the room and adjust accordingly. If the energy level in the room goes up, I go up, maintaining that 10 to 15% higher level than the audience. If we’re all fired up – we’re really winning. Auctioneers want to do the best they can without becoming that “obnoxious host”, who is just so high energy he or she leaves everyone back in the dust. It’s all about audience analysis and being able to regulate one’s own energy level as the event continues forward. Remember, auctioneers should be entertaining – not the entertainment!
I find the key is to be able to adjust my energy level, and not be a robot on stage always staying at the same level. Adjusting my energy level during the auction is almost like a dance. You have to give your audience what they want. And what they want in an auctioneer is someone who is fun, energetic, enthusiastic, passionate about the cause, and understands where the money is going. All these components have to reflect in the auctioneer’s voice, body language and facial expressions. That’s what makes a good auctioneer great at what they do.
The energy level is all about relating to the crowd. If I’m too high, I’m going to lose the audience. If I’m too low, I’m not going to bring them up to the desired energy level. So, I want to start out with a 10 to 15% higher energy level than they are. Hopefully I’ll bring them up 10 to 15% within a few items, if not sooner. Than I’m going to go up another 10 to 15%, which means I will be at a 30% higher energy level than when I first started to analyze the room prior to making my entrance. How do I know this? Well, 20-plus-years’ experience as a professional benefit auctioneer helps. Of course, there’s always lessons learned through trial and error.
But, I’ve really been studying the human dynamics of speakers and presenters my entire life. I can even remember silently evaluating my 3rd grade teacher thinking, “She should have presented the lesson in another way to capture my classmates’ attention.” My classmates and I might have been more engaged in the lesson if she had been more engaging”. And that’s why one of the secrets to a successful fundraiser is to have an auctioneer that can accurately gage an audience – and truly understands and can manipulate the energy level at an event. It’s absolutely crucial to maximize revenue. Your auctioneer should be able to sense the energy level of the room prior to taking the stage and then adjust his or her level slightly higher than the crowds. As the audience’s energy level starts to climb, the auctioneer’s climbs as well, always staying that 10% to 15% higher.
It’s much like a professional mountain climber taking a party up a slope. He leads the way while the others follow closely behind. As he steps higher. They step higher. As they start getting close, he advances a little further upward, encouraging and enticing them to an even higher level. Eventually, everyone reaches the top and feels self-fulfilling accomplishment. As for the leader – he just smiles knowing he helped the climbers reach an incredible goal – at the top.
A highlight of the live auction was the martini glass signed by Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame. The glass was beautifully designed and once the bidding reached $20,000 for the glass, generous supporters Jay & Patty Baker stepped up and offered to donate 2 exclusive tickets to a Hamilton show on Broadway. The tickets increased the value of the package to $40,000 with the Bakers being the winning bidders. At that moment, Patty with a gleam in her eyes announced, “Scott I will donate the tickets to the auction if you sell them right now”. The bidding escalated to $15,000 for the pair of tickets, thus bringing the total value of the package to $55,000.
After 20-plus years as a Professional Benefit Auctioneer, I’ve seen charities and organizations make plenty of mistakes when it comes to the Live Auction portion of their fundraising event. Here’s one of the biggest:
Charities or organizations intentionally decide to have items in their live auction which they feel all attendees can afford.
You know the drill – putting three or four items up for bid, in the live auction, that will meet everyone’s price point. By doing this you probably feel better because now everyone can participate in the excitement and have the chance to take something home at the end of the night.
This sure sounds like a great idea. The problem is – come Monday morning – your bottom line will suffer.
You must remember, it takes as much time, effort and energy to auction low priced items as it does more expensive items – and for less money.
Here’s a great example –
You have a trip valued at $3,000 – $5,000 vs. an item in the $20,000 – $25,000 range. Even if the trip would get the top bid of $5,000 – the charity leaves potentially $20,000 on the table. Add that up three to four times during a live auction and you begin to see my point.
(For the record, at your event the “affordable items” may be $300-$500 with the “expensive items” going for $2,000. The percentages are still the same as will be your feelings on Monday morning following the auction.)
So, my recommendation is to put the high priced items in the live auction and place the lower to mid-priced donated items in the silent auction. This is a great way to appease your guests without deep pockets and get them involved.
Another way is to make sure the live auction is lively! Just because a guest is not a bidder doesn’t mean they can’t have fun cheering on the bidders and watching the action.
Time is money. So invest your Live Auction time wisely.
One of the questions I’m most frequently asked is; “What sells best at a fundraising auction? We’re looking at consignment companies and want to pick items that are going to sell really well to our audience.”
My answer is always the same. “It really depends on your attendees and the people you’re going to sell the items to.”
National trends, such as trips, don’t really help because they are specific to those who want to go. For instance, if it’s a trip to Hawaii and bidders have never been there they probably would love the opportunity. But if they have already been there on numerous occasions and don’t really care if they go back, they are more likely to bid on a trip to a different destination.
What was the number one selling auction item in 2015? Good tickets to see Taylor Swift. What are the hot trending items in 2016? The Broadway Musical Hamilton, Ticket to see an Adele concert and Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. What do all these items have in common…..scarcity and demand.
Here’s what I recommend you do. Ask your guests what kind of items they’d like to see. But be sure the attendees who you direct that question to will actually spend money at the auction. If someone suggests a trip to Ireland, but has no intention of bidding on the trip, don’t listen to them. It’s a waste of a your time and energy.
The people you do want to ask are those that have the financial resources and have historically been some of the best bidders and supporters of the charity over the years.
And don’t ask open-ended questions. They are too broad.
Rather than ask; “What kind of trips would you like to see in this year’s auction?”, be more specific. “If you had the opportunity to go, would you be more interested in a trip to Ireland, Italy, Greece or somewhere else?” That will get the conversation going. In fact, they might even give a clue where they’d like to go. “Those sound good, but I’ve always wanted to go to Mazatlan, Mexico to go sport fishing.” Bingo. Now you’re onto something.
A follow up question could be, “Does that sound like a $10,000 trip to you?” Their response will give you the opportunity to gauge what you might expect to raise during the live auction.
Here are two additional questions you can ask.
“Is there anything you’ve seen at another auction that really interested you – because we really want auction items that will resonate with our guest?”
“Do you know of someone attending that has something on their bucket list – something that we might be able to offer them? When have great resources we are simply trying to find the best items for our attendees”.
The bottom line is, when you’re selecting items for your live auction, do your homework. Don’t just pick an item and hope that it will sell well. Know going into it you believe it will sell well and you have the people to back that up and will have interest in it.
So, reject items that will merely take up space and present only items that will sell and that match your clientele. And don’t be afraid to ask the important questions to make that happen. That’s the #1 job when you’re producing a live auction.
What to learn more about how to best work with auction consignment companies and which companies you can trust? Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2017 Scott Robertson Auctioneers All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means.
Hi, Scott Robertson here and yes, I’m dressed in a tuxedo. I wear a tuxedo every day!
No, just kidding! But I do wear a tuxedo at almost every fundraising event. Why? Because I want people to know who’s in charge when the auction gets started.
See, that’s real important to establish a presence at an event. Not in a dictator manner. But rather just so that people have confidence and understand who’s in charge, who’s leading the event. That’s who you want leading your event is a true leader. And the tuxedo makes me stand out a little more, my voice takes over from there, and everybody wins. We’re all looking for leadership. At a fundraising auction, I consider that my job.
Today we’re gonna talk about “saying NO to status quo.”
You know, fundraising events need to be fun and they need to be fresh. And they need to be tweaked every year to make them fun and fresh and exciting for your guests to attend. You know 93% of people who attended fundraising events surveyed replied that the reason they attend is because of fun. And fun generally translates into “fun and fresh” which means saying no to status quo.
You know, fundraising events trend. And fundraising ideas trend. Where do you get these new ideas?
Today we’re gonna talk about the differences between a commercial auctioneer and a fundraising auctioneer. One of the main differences is the auction chant. See, a commercial auctioneer is selling product and a fundraising auctioneer is really selling to people. There’s a distinct difference.
At commercial auctions, people are generally auction savvy. They attend auctions on a regular basis and that commercial auctioneer is able to go much faster. In fact when I was selling at a commercial auction, I would generally sell 80 to 100 items an hour. That’s fast! At a fundraising auction, the rate is generally around 20 items per hour. Let me give you a difference in the chant. At a commercial auction it would sound more like:
(spoken in a rapid cadence)
“Two thousand dollars is bid, now three thousand, three thousand and four. Four now five. Five now six and seven thousand. Seven thousand now eight. Eight thousand? Sold! Seven thousand dollars!”
And at a fundraising auction it would go more along the line of…
Hi Scott Robertson here. Today we’re going to talk about momentum at your fundraising auction.
When you start the live auction you need to start with momentum and keep that momentum rolling all the way through to the conclusion of the live auction. Don’t interrupt it with pulling raffle tickets, speeches, or anything!
There is one exception to the rule and that is perhaps in the middle or at the end you can do what we call Fund a Need that’s okay as long as it fits in to the flow of the entire event. But once the live auction gets started, maintain that momentum and that will allow you to have success.
Do not interrupt the momentum. You’ll be disappointed if you do. Listen to your professional fundraising auctioneer. They’ll be singing the same song that I’m singing which is keep the momentum rolling.
If you’d like a consultation with a professional who can help you exceed your fundraising goals, I’d love to help. Please contact me to set up a meeting.
Quality Sound is an absolute key component to any and all fundraising events. People have to be able to hear to understand. But I’m going to take that a step further and I’m going to tell you that a sound check with your audio director prior to the event is absolutely critical to success.
Obviously the auctioneer needs to be there for the sound check because it’s going to be their voice who’s going to be heard throughout the evening. But who else should be there for the sound check is anyone who is going to speak. If you have anyone giving a presentation, anyone giving an award, they need to be comfortable with the microphone and the sound engineer needs to understand the nuances of the person’s speaking voice so that they can adjust accordingly.
People often say “It’s okay, I’m just gonna get up there and wing it!”