Four Tips for a Successful Live Auction

Live auctions take time and effort to ensure they are profitable. It might not seem like it, it just looks like a group of people raising paddles as a fast-talking person calls out numbers, but there is much more behind an auction than fast talking auctioneers. If you want your auction to be successful there are a few things that you should do to make sure you take home the highest profits you can.

1. Hire a Professional Auctioneer

Right of the bat you want to make sure that you hire someone who knows what they are doing. While you could ask your fast-talking friend to fill in, you would lose out on all the benefits that a professional auctioneer provides. Not only are they pros who won’t be overwhelmed with stage fright the moment they need to start, but they also act as a crucial team member in the planning process and on auction day.

 

A professional auctioneer will be able to help you as you set up for the auction. They will know the best order for the items that are being auctioned off to keep high bids flowing from the right bidders, have tips on how to market the auction both online and in person and can help determine the best setup for the space to keep everyone’s attention front and center for the course of the auction.

During the live auction a professional auctioneer will know how to read the room, keep people’s energy up, banter back and forth with bidders to drive up the bidding price and keep people entertained overall. They can roll with the punches and figure out how to save a dying room, talk up your items and act as a general MC throughout the course of the auction.

2. Find Your Perfect Auction Space

Figure out where and what your auction is going to be. Are you going to hold a black-tie dinner at the country club? A pig roast on the farm where all the machinery to be auctioned is located? Plan on transforming the school gymnasium into a carnival to fundraise for the next school year? Everything depends on what type of event you want your auction to be and who your bidders are.

 

Start by looking at your budget, evaluating the items you are selling, the customers you are expecting to draw in and (if a charity auction) the cause you are fundraising for. If you are auctioning off travel and culinary experiences, you will want to host the auction somewhere different than if you were selling industrial equipment.

Take a moment to consider who your bidders will be. It is important to make sure that you give your bidders a space they are comfortable in so that they have a sense of belonging and are confident when making a bid. You wouldn’t want to force farmers into suits for an evening dinner or take PTA parents to a construction site.

One last thing you may want to consider is if you are planning on having your auction items on site during the auction. Bidders like having the chance to see items in person as well as the choice to take their prizes home at the end of the auction, but you will have to make sure that you have space set aside to accommodate everything. After you evaluate these concepts you will be able to pull together a theme and space for your live auction.

3. Market Your Auction

Once you have an auctioneer, time and place you can start promoting your on-site auction. You have to make sure that you can get the word out in whatever ways you can – after all the more people who know about your auction the more potential bidders you have to drive the prices up. Here are a few things you can do to alert potential bidders of your live auction and create interest around your items.

Professional Photos and Auction Catalog

Create a catalog of professional photos of all of the goods that you are planning on auctioning along with informative descriptions. Make sure to photograph each item from every angle so that item quality is clear. Bidders will come to a live auction with an idea of what they want to bid on so it is important to make sure that you tell them exactly what an item is. Make both physical catalogs to drop off to companies or potential bidders in your area, as well as a digital version to be shared on social media platforms.

Social Media & Traditional Marketing

Social media is more important than ever when trying to publicize an event. Besides sharing your catalog, create an event on Facebook where you can post regular updates about the live auction, links to register, information about the location, feature spotlight auction items etc. Create graphics to post across all of your social media platforms and encourage friends, family and businesses in your community to share them on their own pages.

Make sure that you don’t forget to conduct traditional marketing by posting flyers around town, putting signs on street corners, or putting an announcement in the company, school, or city newsletter. Since most of your potential bidders will be local you want to make sure to promote your auction across your general area. You may want to choose different ways to market your live auction depending on the theme and status of your event.

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Create Live Auction Invitations

Send out invitations. This is something that you can do both in person and online. If your company, school, or organization has a mailing list of people that will most likely be those showing up at your live auction take advantage of it! Sending potential bidders an invitation will add a personal touch and will be another way to get your auction in front of them. These same invitations can be shared online and promoted along with your social media.

live auction invitation

Highlight the Cause

If you are conducting a charity auction, make sure that the cause is front and center. People want to know where their money is going and will be more inclined to come and participate if they care about the cause. It is important for all marketing materials to point towards the bigger purpose of the auction to tug on people’s heartstrings.

4. During the Live Auction

Your auction is finally here! You’ve planned everything leading up to your live auction and gotten bidders through the door and registered. Make sure that you don’t forget a few last things you can do to keep the bidding prices high throughout the auction.

Shut down everything that is going on before the live auction begins. Maybe you have a photo booth or games before the auction starts to keep people entertained. Or perhaps there are servers circling with hors d’oueveres while people are waiting. Clear away anything that doesn’t have to do directly with the auction so that people aren’t distracted once the auction starts and are in their places ready to bid.

Have a proper order of items for the auction as well as starting bids. This is something that you will want to ask your auctioneer about. They will know which of your items should sell early on and which ones should be held for later in the auction. Ask for their help when determining what the initial bidding price should be. They should have insight on what items will shoot up in price regardless of where they start, and which ones may need a higher or lower starting price than others.

Again, make sure that the charity or cause is the focus of the event, especially during the auction itself. Your auctioneer will know how to pull on the bidder’s heartstrings so they loosen the strings on their purse. People will be expecting to spend money but reminding them of the cause may make them spend more than they were intending. You could even include a short slideshow or video of the impact that bidder’s donations will have for those that the charity aids or assign each item to a different part of the cause. For example, an auction for a local animal shelter might pair the profits of each item with one of their current animals. After all, who can say no to a face like this? Not only will it give bidders a break so that they can refocus before the auction begins again, but it will drive up bids because bidders will have become more emotionally invested in the charity.

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And there you have it! You are on your way to having a great live auction. We hope that these tips have given you more insight into the world of live auctions and that you will see their impact on your highest final bids!

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