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Silent Auction Tips, Tricks and Etiquette

ID-100213706Here are a few tips on how to throw a successful silent auction. First things first, get the guests to register for the event. By doing this you will be able to get back to your guests and let them know how successful the event was and thank them for taking part. You can also enter their information into a data base that will allow you to send out invitations to your next event.

Equip your registration table with all the necessary tools your guests will need. After they register they should receive a paddle and number from the people at the registration table. By handing out the paddles at the registration table it makes the attendees more likely to participate in the bidding process. The paddles should have the company logo embossed on them so the participants will enforce your mission and brand.

Have inexpensive items available at your auction to encourage timid bidders to take part in the energy of the auction.

Make sure your MC or Auctioneer has an engaging personality. Silent auctions might be places where people are looking for bargains, but in a live auction you can really educate about philanthropy. Your MC can make your event thrilling by helping to up the energy and prices on the items being auctioned off. You can use your live auction as a way to raise money for charity as well. Make this process fast and start high and work down to the lowest donations, say $50 or $25. You can do this also by putting some of your charities items up for sale in the auction.

Have multiple volunteers record the bids in strategic places around the room. The volunteers should have spreadsheets available to them with a list of items and sale prices that they can easily find and record the bids and buyers number on. Afterward your volunteers can compare their lists immediately after the live auction to make sure that there is agreement on who bid what amount and won.

Mark each item in the auction and create a catalogue of goods that the guests can carry around and decide what items they want to purchase. You can also make clear some of your auction rules in the handbook, such as the minimum bid required, this can be 20%-40% of the items total value. When cataloging items you should ensure that you are catering to your guests. Catering your items and packages to your audience will have a significant impact on how many attendees bid during your event. A casual women’s luncheon should have a silent auction that looks very different from a black tie gala for a hospital foundation. Tailoring your items to align with the demographics and lifestyles of your guests provides a good foundation for active bidding.

Be sure that you have plenty of pens available in case there are faulty pens that quit working. Not to mention the likelihood that he pens are going to disappear. It’s also a good idea to station volunteers at the tables during the silent auction. These volunteers should know about your organization and why you’re raising money and how the donations will be used. The volunteers can also encourage people by informing them whether an item is hot or not, and whether anybody has bid on the item yet.

Do not overwhelm your event with auctionable items. Too much merchandise can make decision making harder for guests to decide which items they want to put their money down on. You can organize items so that there are baskets or packages available. Fewer items can mean more bidding. Your packages should be fun and create buzz around them. For instance combine a hotel voucher with a coupon for a restaurant.  guests are purchasing much more than the experience; they are purchasing the convenience of having a weekend “staycation” planned just for them. This added convenience drives up the value, resulting in more competition and higher bids.

Another caution for you to consider is the items you auction. Style and personal tastes vary greatly from one person to the next. Artwork such as paintings and sculptures have a tendency to sell for much lower than their value, often due to lack of interest. This ties into knowing your target audience.

Make sure that the flow of traffic isn’t bottle necking to close to the auction items. Have the food and garbage bins placed for ease of movement and clean table tops.

Ensure that your time table is clear to guests so they know when closing time is and when to enter a last bid. It’s a good idea to close your silent auction in sections, with the highest-value items grouped and closed last. Make sure that you announce your countdown times clearly (10 minutes, 5 minutes etc). By closing your silent auction in a timely fashion you can ensure payments are processed and items are gathered by their new owners. Your guests will be frustrated if they have to hang around after the event to collect their goods. Many delayed bidding winners will leave early, causing you the headache of days or weeks of follow-up and auction item storage.

2 Comments

  1. cherise knapp says:

    Our school had a silent auction recently and I noticed some of the items did not receive any bids. What should we do with these? It seems so insulting to give them back to the artist.

    • admin says:

      You can reduce the asking price, or offer two-for-one deals to try to encourage bidding to continue. Or possibly try to sell them after the event is over. You could ask artists if they want their works back (in the case that they’re adults) because they can resell them on their own. If it’s children’s work you can hang them in the school halls and send them home with the students at the end of the year.

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