When budgets are tight, a common question posed by clients is what audio-visual (A/V) equipment is essential for their live auction. “What can we live without?” they’ll query.
Here’s my opinion:
- A good auction sound system is a must-have for your live auction.
- A large screen projecting visuals of the live auction items as the auctioneer sells them is a nice-to-have.
Audio is critical for a charity auction. Guests won’t bid unless they can understand the numbers being called by the auctioneer.
In contrast, visuals projected onto a large screen will support the sale, but it’s not often a make-or-break deal. When push comes to shove, I can get that item sold without a visual by inspiring the guest’s imagination.
Sure, it’s more compelling to have a slick graphic or photo tempting guests to bid. But from a financial perspective, how much more compelling?
I don’t know. It might increase bids by 1%, 10%, or … who knows.
That said, there are some groups which need to think twice before they eliminate using a large screen and projector.
By virtue of the event’s design, these events rely on the screens heavily. These include benefit auctions which …
- …didn’t advertise the live auction items prior to or at the gala.
- …did display the live items during the silent auction / cocktail hour, but the crowd is so large (or the schedule is so frenetic) that not everyone will have a chance to see the items up close.
- … have unfamiliar, but nice, items. For instance, most people can visualize an apartment in Paris. Of those Americans who have traveled overseas, Paris is a popular destination. But if your auction includes the sale of a week stay in a Budapest apartment, you might have hesitant bidders. Alleviate their concerns about an unfamiliar location by showing them a photo of the condo’s living room and showcase that gorgeous view straight out the balcony doors.
- … are using an auctioneer who is good at calling bids, but isn’t strong at describing items (I’ve observed a number of these).
Now to be clear, I’m not writing that I don’t like visuals. I love visuals! Many of us prefer to look at a graphic or photo rather than read text. And the screens can be used in other ways, such as giving sponsors recognition, reminding your guests of event procedures (e.g. “Check-out opens at 7:30 PM”), and offering general announcements (e.g. “Congratulations to our raffle winner, John Smith.”).
But when your auction budget absolutely, positively dictates that you get audio OR visuals, opt for the former.