First, watch this video showing a challenging school auction venue.
This elegant country club has hosted many PGA tournaments and serves as an attractive venue. But as you can see in the video, the set-up could present some problems for an auction, depending on the size of the crowd.
In this case, the school auction had an enormous — and unexpected — rise in attendance this year. Nearly 60 additional tickets were sold! Figuring out how to manage the overflow was one of those “good problems to have.”
But what should you do when you’ve got too many auction guests to fit in the space?
BEFORE you start selling tickets, this is an easier challenge to manage. Once you’ve sold the tickets, it’s a bit trickier. (I’ll cover ideas on how to manage the problem before you sell tickets in a future post.)
If your venue resembles what you’ve seen in the video, here are three ideas to mitigate problems:
1. Be judicious.
Your best bidders should be in the space nearest the auction stage … or at least in the same room as the auctioneer. Anyone seated far away should be non-bidders.
Non-bidders might be non-paying guests, such as teachers or students at a school auction, or clients at a nonprofit event.
For instance, a few years ago I worked with a mental health facility. Clients were invited to attend the gala (for free) and were seated in the far back corner of the room to reserve space for the expected bidders near the front.
2. Add staff
If it’s impossible to keep your best bidders near the stage — or perhaps you don’t know who those people are — add staff.
Put enthusiastic spotters in the troublesome area. They can keep a watchful eye on guests and can heartily shout out when a guest bids. Even if the auctioneer can’t make personal eye contact with the guest, he can hear the spotter shouting out acceptance of a bid.
3. Use audio-visual tools
I recall a friend telling me about an auction that had seated guests in two separate rooms. The overflow room had a large video screen showing the action taking place on stage in the other room. During the live auction, staff ran back and forth relaying bids.
A better solution? Keep the screen, but fit the auctioneer and his team with a wireless system that enables them to communicate bids remotely. It’s more seamless and elegant.
None of these are perfect solutions, but auctions are rarely perfect, anyway! Do what you can to reduce problems.