How to be an Effective Auctioneer

How to be an Effective Auctioneer

And the winner is…

Perhaps this has happened to you. A client reaches out and asks if you can do just one more thing for them while you are already at the event and my response 99.9 percent of the time is, “Sure.” This time my sure wasn’t as confident as usual so I turned to my NSA community for help.

I got my first ask to serve as an auctioneer. I literally googled the word as I replied, “SURE! I’d love to. Let’s talk about the details for that in more detail as we get closer to the event.” (Feel free to steal that line!) As I hung up the phone with one hand, I was pulling up NSA’s Facebook groups with the other.

After posting a call for tips and suggestions on auctioneering an event, within less than five minutes, I had so many great pieces of advice and people to connect with I thought I would share with everyone–after all, that is what NSA is all about, sharing a bigger pie.

Without further ado, here is all of the advice I got about serving as an auctioneer:

Details about the items being auctioned off
• The fewer you know, the better
• Know as much about last year as possible
• What were the big items last year and how much did they go for
• Is a past big winner in the room? Meet with them in advance to showcase how much fun they had
• Put full item descriptions in program, put highlights on the screen
• Give a brief overview of each item, just the highest highlights
• If the item is tangible, have it on stage not in the back of the room
• Ask for target prices for each item in advance

AV/Lighting/Sound best practices
• A slide should be created for each item
• Turn on the house lights so the audience can see everything
• Work the floor and full crowd
• Play sold music for a few seconds as screen switches to the next item
• Play transition music for items that don’t sell and as you move on to next item
• Fade music as new item description shows on screen

Additional staff or volunteers needed (called spotters)
• These folks (at least two) can’t be shy and must be very playful
• Have an agreed upon signal for the spotters to give you when they have a buyer
• Someone needs to keep track of the dollar amount as the bidding happens

Auction process
• Clearly explain the rules to participants
• Paraphrase this: “We are here to have fun and raise money for ___ and this impacts ___ by ___ and I need your help.”
• Once, Twice, Sold – don’t drag it out and move onto the next item
• Together everyone yells “Sold!” to keep energy up and so people know where we are in the process
• Never hand the microphone over to anyone ever
• If there is a tangible item, have the final bidders come up on stage to touch or feel the item, make the item part of them
• If donations or bids are tax deductible, remind participants
• Be very clear of the local and state laws regarding auctions
• Have an instant winner for an item when jumping to a large sum of money, like $500 to $1500
• If there are two of one item, have audience bid on one and then surprise them with a second one and have them split the difference of the higher bid
• Have a few pre-planned bidders for big items at the minimum bid to get things started

• Get specific people to tease and know who you shouldn’t tease
• Know in advance who the big donors are in the room
• Give a big thank you to all of the winners and those playing along
• This is worth repeating: Never hand the microphone over to anyone ever
• Make jokes and play while they think
• Bid for someone that isn’t bidding to get them involved
• Have no down time
• Be comfortable with silence as bidders think and calculate their bids
• Keep up a good pace

Jessica Pettitt

Jessica Pettitt

Diversity Consultant and Facilitator at I am… Social Justice
Jessica Pettitt, CSP, has stirred up conversations that matter for the past 15 years on topics that your grandmother recommended avoiding. She also challenges others to be Good Enough Now.
Jessica Pettitt
Jessica Pettitt
Jessica Pettitt