Have you ever been drawn into a sideshow at the circus thanks in part to that colorfully attired and somewhat boisterous guy standing on a raised platform just outside the sideshow tent entrance?
That barker plays a key role in the financial success of the circus. His main goal is to attract attention to the sideshow, describe what the people are going to see or experience, and then getting them to pony up the fee and get them through the gate. The barker’s whole performance is quite entertaining to say the least.
A benefit auctioneer is somewhat of a carnival barker – albeit one with a much more noble cause.
During the course of a fundraising event, our goal is to welcome guests, inform them about what will or is taking place within the venue and to get the guests to participate in things such as the silent auction – to pay the fee if you will.
Here’s where the benefit auctioneer must walk the tight rope. How many times does the auctioneer make announcements during the course of the evening and especially the silent auction? Well in short – as few as possible.
There are 6 words I absolutely do not want to hear and will never say as a Professional Benefit Auctioneer – and those words are, “May I Have Your Attention Please!” The other 4 words I do not want to hear are, “Everybody please be quiet!”
Not only do I refuse to say these phrases, I dread when I hear someone else ask for the attention of the audience at a fundraising auction. This is especially true during the social hour, the time when the silent auction and raffles are usually taking place. Guests are having fun – they’re having conversations with other attendees. Nothing shuts down the fun and the conversations more than a “May I Have Your Attention” interruption.
So what do you say and when do you say it to get your guests to head to their tables for instance? Well, first of all, you do it on schedule. Since the attendees are aware of the schedule they are anticipating when the different programs within an event will start.
As for the words to grab their attention, I recommend the soft, pat-them-on-the-back approach such as, “Ladies and gentlemen, it is so wonderful to have you here tonight. This evening is off to a great start and we so much appreciate your participation in this most worthy cause.”
By using this kind of language the guests become quiet and attentive on their own. And the best part is they don’t feel like they’ve been interrupted.
You must remember, auctions are all about emotions. And if you set the wrong tone at the beginning by consistently interrupting people they will start to take offense. That quickly changes the positive energy in the room into negative energy – and that’s the last thing you want to do.
I have a great deal more to say about this topic but it will have to wait until Part 2 of this blog.
Some of the questions I’ll be answering are: How many announcements should be made, what kind of announcements should be made and when should they be made during the duration of the social hour/silent auction?
My answers just might surprise you.
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