Fundraising Auctioneer - Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Fundraising Auctioneer

Scott Robertson Auctioneers Blog

Archive for March, 2013


scottIn the last blog I began to explain the importance of hiring a good sound technician for a fundraising event or live auction.  That blog ended with the question, “What’s the difference between a good and a bad sound tech?”


The answer: A good sound tech is at the scheduled sound check or rehearsal with the equipment set up and working – ready for the speakers and auctioneer to plug in their respective microphones to get the proper sound level.


A bad sound tech will show up – many times behind schedule – plug in the equipment and say, “I already did a sound check and it’s fine.”


The problem is, this is impossible.  Everyone has their own voice and the levels need to be balanced and tuned for maximum clarity.

For example, when the chairman of the event speaks he or she will have one level.  When I’m speaking it will most likely be on a different level. So a sound check without the participation of those who will be speaking is virtually useless.


For me, there are two sound levels.  The first is for when I am speaking as the Emcee (if requested) and the second is for when I am performing as the auctioneer as I tend to “push” the microphone due to my own personal volume and voice inflection.


Here are a few more examples of the differences between a good and a bad sound tech.



A good sound technician has a partner who walks around the room as needed and reports back to the sound tech the clarity and 68118_483797047472_589852472_5988965_835574_nvolume as well as the needed adjustments. Ideally the communication is done with wireless technology for faster, more efficient results. This exchange of information between the “sound partners” continues during the course of the auction due to the fact the volume level of the attendees ebbs and flows – gets louder at times and at times gets quieter.  The sound tech needs to constantly monitor the sound level coming from the room and make the subtle necessary adjustments.


On the other hand, a bad sound technician sits in his chair – staring at the soundboard – and has the attitude of a pitchman for Ron Popeil’s rotisserie oven – “Set it and forget it!”


The fact of the matter is, when I am the auctioneer the sound technician not only plays a key role at the event by providing quality audio – he plays a pivotal role when it comes to creating excitement by hitting predetermined musical cues on the button.


How is that done?  Well, during the live auction he must pay very close attention to what I’m saying and the second I say “SOLD” he must play a snippet of a song. Any delay on his part impedes the celebratory mood we’re trying to establish.


That’s why it’s so important to communicate with the sound technician or sound company prior to them being hired. They need to understand what will be required of them.  It’s also important for the sound technician or company to arrive at the venue at the scheduled time. I need to re-explain in detail the critical role they will be playing and we need to rehearse prior to the attendees arrival. As the old adage goes, “Practice makes perfect!”

Unfortunately, not all sound technicians want to practice.  They feel this is beneath them – they are professionals – and this is their life’s work.


All too often I hear them say, after explaining their role and the importance of the music cues, “Don’t worry.  I got it.” History has taught me they never do without practice – or the rehearsal. And when I suggest they write down the details of the cue they often reply, “Not necessary.  I’ll remember.”  Once again, they seldom do.


It’s important for me to have a good working relationship with the sound technician. And as I’ve stated at the beginning of this blog subject, I’ve worked with many great ones. I also enjoy the role of teacher.  Some sound technicians are eager to learn and want to do a good job so they are rehired at future events.  But then again, there are some that simply want to do it their way – make their money and run – not really caring about the charity or its great cause.


sound_technicianThe bottom line is this:  Your sound technician is a critical component of your fundraiser’s success.  In fact, I could easily make a case for him being the most important component.


Before you hire a sound technician be sure to communicate what exactly you expect from them.  Include in any contractual agreement specific obligations the sound tech must follow including the exact set up time the day of the event and mandatory attendance at rehearsal, to name a few.


Your professional benefit auctioneer can assist you in the selection of a quality sound engineer.  The two must work closely together to make your event exciting.


Remember, the sound at your event is not simply about volume. It’s also about quality – and timing – and pacing – and setting the mood. Put all five together and your event will resonate success.

sound 1About a year ago I wrote about the importance of having a quality sound system at fundraisers and live auctions. In this blog I want to take that concept one step further by discussing the importance of having a quality sound technician.


In the past 20 years I worked with many great sound technicians. They not only dress the role, but they also perform to the level of professionalism not only I expect, but the fundraising event deserves.


With that said up front, I’ve also had the misfortune of working – and I use that term lightly – with some sound techs that should have never been hired. They dress like a “roadie” for an over-the-hill 80’s rock band that’s out on tour.  They have little if any interest in the actual event.  And they are constantly looking at their watch wondering when the heck the night’s going to be over with.


sound2So why does this frustrate me so much?  Well, the auction chairman spends all year and countless hours planning the event.  The volunteers stream in from all over the area to make the event both pleasant and successful. The charity retains the services of a great auctioneer and/or consultant to maximize revenues, increase the entertainment value and reduce the stress level of all concerned. Attendees come prepared to support the cause with their presence and willing pocketbooks. And who is the key to a successful event – the engineer whose job it is to bring all these factions together on the same “wave length?”  The sound technician.

I know it sounds simple, but without quality sound – in every corner of the room – fundraising events and live auctions often fail to reach their goals.  If attendees can’t hear what’s taking place they quickly lose interest, begin talking to each other about the inability to understand what’s being said, and in many instances begin to exit the event early.


Don’t let this happen to you!


What does a good sound tech do?  They are at the scheduled sound check or rehearsal with the equipment set up and working – ready for the speakers and auctioneer to plug in their respective microphones to get the proper sound level.3


A bad sound tech will show up – many times behind schedule – plug in the equipment and say, “I already did a sound check and it’s fine.”


In the next blog I will discuss why that’s impossible and pinpoint more differences between a great sound technician and a bad sound technician.  After you read it you will be able to ask the right questions to the sound tech prior to hiring them for your important event.

Consider it my “Sound Advice” to you.

From $0 to $7,500,000 in Just One Afternoon

Posted by Scott On March 6th



Eight years ago, as the Benefit Auctioneer for the Southwest Florida Food and Wine Fest Auction, I helped to raise $70,000. At that

time, the organizers of the event were ecstatic in regards to the event’s success since it was the very first.

"This is why we are here today". Scott with child artist Ella who is an alumni of the Golisano Children's Hospital NICU

“This is why we are here today”. Scott with child artist Ella who is an alumni of the Golisano Children’s Hospital NICU

On Saturday, February 23, 2013, once again repeating my role as the Benefit Auctioneer, I was witness to an incredible and historic moment in the Food and Wine Fest’s fairly brief existence.

For the record – and to quote Walter Brennan’s character in the late 1960s TV series The Guns of Will Sonnett: “No brag – just fact!” I say that because at this year’s event a new fundraising record was set.  The total:  $2.5 million.  But that’s not where this story ends – nor the final total.

At the 2012 Food and Wine Fest $2 million was raised – which was a record at that time. So, two days prior to the event, Joe Anderson and Mary Dewane of Benovia Winery pledged to match the total if the upcoming event in 2013 achieved the same record of $2 million or better.

 At the end of the auction the tote board had amazing news!

At the end of the auction the tote board had amazing news!

Not to add any pressure on me and the organization, but four months prior to the event Tom Golisano had issued a separate challenge match as well. In fact, his offer – although presented earlier – matched the Anderson/Dewane pledge if the goal of $2 million was reached.

In other words, the raising of $6 million was a possibility.  We just had to cross the $2 mil mark first.

So, the “pressure-filled” afternoon was set.  And although the monies raised were going to assist the local Children’s Hospital Building Fund – the event got off to a bit of a slow start. The auction lots were selling well, but we were not on track to reach the magical number.


And then……the momentum kicked in.  Time flew by.  The crowd cheered.  Wine was consumed. I was doing everything but standing on my head.  And the next thing you know the final minutes of the auction were upon us as the last item sold for $150,000.  That brought our total up to $2,455,000.  We had exceeded our goal of $2 million. But, the crowd wanted to make a bigger impact for the Golisano’s Children’s Hospital.


Scott going through a tunnel of Raven’s Cheerleaders.

Supporters and bidders cheering on the bidding of each and every item

Supporters and bidders cheering on the bidding of each and every item

So, within 45 seconds we were able to raise another $45,000 – thanks to several generous guests who despised that odd number and wanted the event to reach the once unthinkable, unimaginable plateau of an even $2.5 million! We made it!  WOW!!

Take the auction’s $2.5 million.  Add the individual’s matching challenge gift of $2.5 million.  And add in the matching challenge gift of $2.5 million pledged by the couple and that gave us a final-final total of $7.5 million. Not bad for an afternoon which start at $0.

I cannot think of a profession more rewarding than the one I chose.  And thanks to all those wonderful, generous attendees and the unfathomable generosity of the two very special donors for their matching challenge gifts – February 23, 2013 was not only a day to remember.  It was a day to celebrate – for the children.