Here’s one of the most common questions you’ll hear from auction guests:
“How will I know if I won anything in the silent auction? If I didn’t win anything, I don’t want to stand in the check-out line.”
How can you easily let bidders know they won?
Relaying winning bidder information should become part of your silent auction checkout process.
One option is to invest hundreds to thousands of dollars into technology so you can text or otherwise alert your winners, but that’s a big jump to take, especially if you’re otherwise happy running a manual silent auction checkout process.
The simplest way to let winning bidders know is to incorporate some signage into your process.
We call this signage a silent auction bid board.
Four styles of silent auction bid boards
- Reusable bid boards are made of a material (a chalkboard or white board) that allows winning bid numbers to be circled and erased each year
- One-time-use bid boards are used once and thrown away. They are constructed of posterboard or foamcore. Winning bid numbers are circled in a marker.
- Handwritten bid boards are just as effective as reusable or one-time-use bid boards, but they might lack the clean look desired by some planners.
- Electronic bid boards are simply a slide or set of slides. For this style, a volunteer will need to create the slide once the high bidders are known. Save the file to a zip drive and ask the individual handling the A/V equipment to upload it onto a screen. While guests enjoy their meal, the slide is projected in the ballroom area and guests can search for their number.
In addition to these four styles, you can create variations.
For instance, one nonprofit used stickers, creating a hybrid between a one-time-use and a handwritten bid board. (See this variation in one of the photos.)
Large stickers of each bid number were printed prior to the auction. Once silent auction winners were known, the bid numbers of the winners were transferred to a flip chart, ordered numerically.
Best practices in auction bid boards
1. Signage should list winning bid numbers in numerical order.
This allows a bidder to quickly scan the list and see if he’s a winner.
2. The signage SHOULD NOT list the names of the winners nor specify items won.
That information is unnecessary to the purpose of the winning bid board.
In fact, the only reason a guest’s name would be listed is if the organization isn’t using bid numbers. (And if your group isn’t using bid numbers, why not? The benefits of using bid numbers are well established.)
Furthermore, for the purposes of a fast silent auction checkout process, it’s irrelevant whether a guest won item #1, item #40, or both. Guests simply need to know they won something.
3. Place the auction signage in areas easily seen by guests.
If guests must exit the main area from a common door (such as guests leaving from a single ballroom door), the signage can be displayed just outside those doors. Guests will view the sign as they walk through the door on their way to coat check and check-out.
Station a volunteer or two next to the sign to draw attention to it, just as an airline stations a representative outside of the jet way to alert offloading passengers of gate changes.
The signage can also be posted near the check-out area itself. Put the sign on a easel so it’s at eye-level or a little higher for easy viewing and reading.
I’ve noticed a lot of misinformation on the Web about the silent auction checkout process.
Checkout isn’t hard, but there are a lot of steps. To learn a straightforward, easy checkout process, here’s your tool: Simple Auction Checkout.
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