When hired as the professional auctioneer for an event there is one thing I create to assure the fundraiser is as successful as possible – a timeline. I cannot overstate its importance. From the minute the doors open every major program within the event must start and end on time. That includes the silent auction, the brief speeches, the dinner service and the live auction.
You may be asking, “So what if one event has to be delayed for a few minutes!” Well, experience tells me any swaying from the agreed upon timeline can have a major impact on the bottom line. Let me explain why.
I recently did two events. One was very successful and the other moderately successful. Both in the same town, with many of the same attendees, and only three days apart. The difference, I believe, was following the timeline vs. not following it.
For the record, both events had timelines. I looked at them, tweaked them, and then the event chairs and I agreed they were good timelines and we’d stick to them as the nights progressed.
Well, one did stick to the timeline and one did not. Let’s start with the one that didn’t.
This event started on time – as did the silent auction. However, prior to the silent auction’s scheduled closing a committee member runs up to me and states that we’d have to postpone the closing due to the fact some people had not yet arrived at the event due to an accident on the road. The committee member felt those who had not yet arrived should be able to bid on the silent auction items and suggested the closing of the silent auction be extended by 30 minutes.
I suggested we stick to the timeline, but was overruled by the committee. So, 30 minutes was added to the silent auction.
Here’s the problem. By postponing the closing of the silent auction by 30 minutes you are postponing the rest of the evening by 30 minutes. And a 30 minute delay can be devastating in several ways. Here’s a few examples.
- Guests already there drink another 30 minutes
- You’re penalizing those guests who arrived on time
- The timing of the food service is crucial since the Chef prepared the food to be delivered to the tables on a specific timeline. Any delay in that service reflects on the quality of the food and most professionally trained Chefs will take the delay personally
- You’re major money maker – the Live Auction – will suffer because your guests will begin to lose focus from being tired.
- You’re high-priced band could lose their “raring to go” attitude and will most likely be playing for fewer guests and have fewer couples on the dance floor since many will head home early due to the 30 minute delay at the start of the event.
Let me go into a little detail regarding two of the above mentioned. I’ll start with the expanded drinking time.
Live auctions are more successful when you catch your guests – most of whom have consumed alcohol – on their way up. The worst case scenario is if you catch them on the plateau. But you certainly do not want to catch them on the downward slide.
You’d be amazed as to the difference that 30 minute delay makes. It’s that tight a window. Tired guests don’t stay focused. They become less concerned about helping the cause and more concerned about what time they’ll be heading home. This greatly affects the fundraising effort as more and more bidders go quiet and winning bids stay low.
Now let’s talk about the food service. Your attendees paid for their tickets and are expecting a delicious, First Class meal. The Chef probably worked for days preparing the meal and has timed the delivery of the food to the tables – down to the minute – to assure it’s served fresh and hot. Again, the 30 minute delay was more harmful than helpful.
The bottom line for that event – which was delayed by 30 minutes – is that it was just moderately successful. Now it’s time for the other Timeline Tale.
It was the same scenario. The event started on time – as did the silent auction. But as the silent auction was about to close the event committee wanted me to extend the silent auction as a way to increase the bidding on the items.
I informed them you encourage your guests to bid on the silent auction items – not by extending the time of the silent auction – but by giving them a deadline. The committee thought it over and went with my recommendation.
I immediately started announcing the silent auction will shut down in 15 minutes and WHAM – the race was on. People suddenly stopped what they were doing and focused on the silent auction. And to the committee’s surprise – the winning bids for the silent auction items were much higher than they had been in the past.
The bidding frenzy continued into the Live Auction. By the end of the night a record amount of money was raised and it was all due to sticking to the timeline.
By the way, at this event the food was served on time – fresh and hot – and the band took the stage on time – and guests filled the dance floor. One couple even came up to me and said, “Wow, that’s the most fun we ever had at this particular event.”
Sticking to the timeline deserves all the credit. So be sure to stick to yours. And that includes the time you allotted for a speaker or a video presentation.
It’s easy to lose time at a fundraiser. It’s very difficult – if not impossible – to make it up. Timing is everything. And Time is Money.