This is an excerpt from our comprehensive live auction guide, “26 Steps Your Nonprofit Can Take To Create the Most Profitable Live Auction Ever.”
Here’s how your live auction turns into a beg-a-thon.
You’ve got an item that you expect to sell for $5,000, but after starting at $1,000, the auction has stalled out at $2,500. Now the auctioneer is on the stage saying: “We’ve got $2,500 … how about $3,000? … $3,000? … anyone want to go to $3,000?”
Then the auctioneer accepts reality. The audience just isn’t interested in bidding any more, so he or she starts to count the item down for sale.
Suddenly an outraged board member leaps onto the stage, grabs the mic and starts haranguing the audience, explaining how great this item is and how it’s a shame that people aren’t bidding.
He hands the mic back to the auctioneer, who then proceeds into full beg-a-thon mode.
“Anyone at $3,000? Anyone? How about $2,750? Would you give $2,750? Do we have $2,750? Anyone? Any where? How about $2,600? Would you give $2,600?”
Don’t do this.
It destroys the mood in the room. It makes the charity look desperate, and it encourages lackluster bidding on all of your other items.
Don’t beg the audience to bid on an item when they’re clearly telling that they’re done bidding on it.
Maybe you thought this item would sell for more, but when the audience said through their lack of action that they weren’t interested, you have to accept that and move on.
If you move on, people in the audience think the item sold for exactly as much as it was supposed to fetch. However, if you turn it into a beg-a-thon, you draw the entire audience’s attention to the fact that this item is under-performing.
Creating that impression embarrasses the charity, embarrasses the person or organization that donated the item, and it creates an awkwardness that feels icky to the audience.
You need to have an auctioneer that you trust to accurately read the mood of the bidders.
If a husband is talking to his wife and is clearly considering a decision, then it’s okay for the auctioneer to stall on stage and wait for a moment. However, when the bidders have made it clear that they’re done bidding -- the auctioneer should count it down and sell the item.
When you do this, you’re training the audience that you’re not going to wait for them. If they want to bid, they should act quickly.
This prompts them to think quickly, place their bids quickly, and your whole auction goes faster, smoother and with much greater energy.